Someone always pays

Posted by Robert Celaschi on 5/18/09 7:12 AM

By Robert Celaschi

By now almost everybody has heard the Internet mantra that “information wants to be free.” What it really means is, “I want someone else to foot the bill.”

Advertisers paid for most distribution…

There’s nothing new about that. It’s how radio and television have always worked in the United States. The audience never paid for the broadcasts. Advertisers did. The model wasn’t much different for newspapers and magazines. The subscription price covered only a small fraction of the cost of making and delivering the product. Advertisers paid the bulk of it.

The same principal drove the press release and the story pitch. You tried to coax an editor into assigning a story that featured your business or executives. Advertisers covered the cost of getting it out to the world.

The difference on the Internet is that advertisers aren’t nearly as willing to pick up the tab. It’s true that they are starting to support some video sites. If you want to watch shows on Hulu, for instance, you have to sit through commercials. But you probably haven’t been using TV sitcoms as a conduit for your business-to-business marketing.

Selling content gets tougher

Newspapers and magazines are having a tougher time convincing advertisers to pay big bucks online. Most don’t even charge a subscription fee from online readers. And those that do are still working out the bugs.

Businesses are in a slightly better position for getting the word out. There’s already a structure in place for selling content such as whitepapers (see examples). People recognize that it’s worth paying money for. Most businesses also are used to footing the bill for straight marketing materials and press releases, and build it into their budgets.

DIY-ers can flourish

Now it’s time to apply that thinking to areas where you used to rely on coaxing an editor or reporter into telling your story.  As that platform shrinks, other opportunities arise for a do-it-yourself approach.

First, the Internet has made distribution relatively cheap and easy.  Today you can make information available to millions of people around the world without having to own a printing press or a broadcast tower. The White House, for instance, is going straight to the public by posting candid photos straight to a Flickr account.

The lower cost also has inspired the creation of new ways to pass information around, including blogs, Twitter, business networking sites such as LinkedIn, and social networking sites such as Facebook.

Who pays to build the audience?

But now you’ll get stuck with the bill for some of the functions you used to hand off to the print or broadcast media: gathering useful information, organizing it, and presenting it in an attractive way to an audience. You need people to write the profiles and cases studies, others to provide photos, still others to make the material easy for search engines to find on your Web site, and to bring items to the attention of bloggers and people seeking information through social media.

Information has never been free. All that’s happening now is a shift in who pays for it. Don’t let that chase you away from opportunities.

Do you have some tips to share about how you are getting someone else to foot the bill for your marketing efforts? For instance, maybe you’ve made presentations at a conference. Who paid to gather the audience? Not you.

How are you beefing up your marketing budget to deal with the changing media landscape?

How are you getting somebody else to foot the bill for your B2B marketing efforts?

NOTE: This post is Robert Celaschi’s first bylined contribution to the B2B Communications Red On Marketing blog.

Topics: Performance, Lead Generation