When You Should Ask Your Users to Pay for Premium Content

By 2020, the global spending on digital media will reach $3.4 trillion according to a new forecast from International Data Corporation. While that might sound like the best news ever, there’s even better news for the online publishing industry and content creators, as consumer spending on online media will grow by healthy 12.6 percent from 2015 to 2020.

However, selling information in the modern landscape of extensive content marketing isn’t simple. The question a lot of content creators are often asking is which content to give away for free and which content to make premium? Let’s get deeper into the subject.

What Free Content Can Do For Your Business

Giving out information for free clearly works. After all, content marketing has gained massive traction in the past few years for some good reasons, including the fact that relevant free content attracts your target audience, it helps to spread brand awareness and to build up your authority online, and it positions you against the competition. Plus, free content can build up your credibility and trustworthiness, and it delivers a “free taste” of your service and channels conversions.

The costs of creating a blog are relatively low, yet maintaining it, in the long run, requires a lot of investment. Think of your personal time and the costs of hiring regular contributors, paying for online tools and software, and budgets for promoting that content when making this decision.

As an online publisher, you should be giving away a lot of content to build the initial audience. Yet you should also think for the long term and reserve some information strictly for paying customers.

What People Are Willing To Pay For

The Sterling Woods Group has recently researched the attitude of consumers towards paid digital content and uncovered some interesting patterns:

The key factors influencing the purchase decision for digital content are the following ones:

  • High quality (82% of respondents)
  • Content comes from a brand a consumer knows and trusts (70%)
  • The content is curated and targets the consumer needs and wants (61%)
  • Added functionality comes in tow (55%)
  • Access to achieves (23%)

Chris Garrett from Copyblogger, a company selling informational products, lists the following cases when people feel ready to chip in for your content. First, users tend to pay for in-depth, step-by-step guidance. They'll also pay for access and personalized advice or an exclusive, insider access to information. And of course, your expertise is worth the payment.

Types of Premium Content Worth Creating

Taking the outlined reasoning, there are certain types of premium content that are worth paying for. Check out a few below and make the right call when asking for a credit card:


While your blog may constantly teach readers new stuff, the information is presented in a nonlinear manner and often lacks step-by-step clarity. That's exactly what you can deliver in an eBook – clear, actionable guidance. Even if your ideas in the book aren’t brand new, a lot of people will still feel delighted to pay for the well-structured information. To get started, check out Amazon’s extensive guidelines for self-publishing both physical and Kindle-only editions.

Premium community & memberships

People are prone to paying premium for exclusive or VIP access to something. You can create an exclusive private mastermind with a selected number of seats; a certification program and membership website with additional subscriber-only content and training available. Again, all you need is a few membership website plugins or a comprehensive online platform like Rainmaker.


The online education industry have been witnessing a steady growth over the past few years with $51.5 billion generated in revenues in 2016. Just as eBooks, online courses offer users more guidance, keep them more motivated to learn and deliver tangible value. You can use Teachable to create, publish and manage your eCourses.

Tips for Creating Pay-Worthy Content

Deciding whether or not you can implement a premium content package is one thing. But if you've decided to take on this endeavor, you are going to need a few tips for how to put some together:

Work on Your Sales Pitch

Most consumers will not pay for premium content that is too generic or does not deliver tangible extra benefits. You need to clearly communicate the value, which goes within the premium offer. Mark Manson has a witty and friendly gated content message on his blog:

Outline the Perks

Again make the value of paying premium crystal clear. You are not charging them for reading content, but for the sweet extra perks that come in tow. Otherwise, people are going to wonder what the few extra bucks are even going towards.

Keep the Price Reasonable

This seems like a no-brainer, yet a lot of publishers still try to charge for digital goods just as much as for printed deliverables. Your price should align with the extras you are delivering. Scope the landscape competition as well to get a feel of how much others charge for similar products – ebooks, courses or memberships.

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Written by:
Dianna is a former ESL teacher and World Teach volunteer, currently living in France. She's slightly addicted to apps and viral media trends and helps different companies with product localization and content strategies. You can tweet her at @dilabrien
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