Behold, the power of free

Sarah O'Keefe / Opinion, Webinars4 Comments

Lately, our webcasts are getting great participation. The December event had 100 people in attendance (the registered number was even higher), and the numbers for the next few months are strong, as well. Previous webcasts had attendance of A Lot Less than 100. What changed? The webcasts are now free. (Missing an event? Check our archives.)

We’re going in a similar direction with white papers. We charge for some content, but we also offer a ton of free information.

The idea is that free (and high-quality) information raises our profile and therefore later brings in new projects. I’m not so sure, though, that we have any evidence that supports this theory yet.

So, I thought I’d ask my readers. Do you evaluate potential vendors based on offerings such as webcasts and white papers? Are there other, more important factors?

PS Upcoming events, including several DITA webcasts, are listed on our events page.

About the Author

Sarah O'Keefe


Content strategy consultant and founder of Scriptorium Publishing. Bilingual English-German, voracious reader, water sports, knitting, and college basketball (go Blue Devils!). Aversions to raw tomatoes, eggplant, and checked baggage.

4 Comments on “Behold, the power of free”

  1. I do evaluate vendors based on webcasts and white papers, but more importantly, I evaluate them based on the value of their offerings. A recent white paper making the rounds from an unnamed vendor was a content-free zone. The vendor lost points for wasting my time. Your white papers and webcasts, on the other hand, are content rich. It makes me think if this is what they’re giving away, the stuff they charge for must really be great. It’s the difference between demonstrating that one is a thought leader and going through the motions for the checklist.

    Thanks, Sarah. You guys do good work and I appreciate that you’re willing to share.

  2. I evaluate vendors on the quality of their offerings such as webcasts and white papers. If I see multiple offerings that are consistently good, then I know the first good one I saw wasn’t just a fluke and it establishes a good reputation. A seminar *in person* with valuable information that is presented well really makes a strong impression on me too. (You do both of these!)

    Thank you, Sarah, for providing this valuable information for free–especially in this economy.

  3. Hi Sarah,

    Yes, I do evaluate potential vendors, based on what they give away for free. I am active in the blogosphere and social networking, and during this down-turn, I have been participating in free webinars and whitepapers to professionally develop. In the process, I’ve become incredibly loyal to the organizations that have shared such quality content with me, and I have been just as generous recommending their services and sharing their content, through my blog, tweets, and in-person recommendations.

    Over the last year, as a result of the free content I’ve consumed, I have also invested in a conference, professional membership, forum membership, numerous books, and a WordPress theme, which I would otherwise not have purchased. The irony is, until recently, as a technical communicator, I have had to turn to the marketing discipline (not my first discipline) to find this free content.

    Until recently, I’ve been disappointed overall how little the technical communication profession shares with its community, as compared to our marketing colleagues. I think that the model you are following is more in the spirit of the social web, and that we can learn a lot from the model that our marketing cousins are following.

    As more folks follow your webcasts, they will begin to look to you as trusted mentors, link to you more often in the blogoshere, and help raise your search engine ranking as well.

    Having personally participated in your free session yesterday on Flare’s DITA support, I was floored by how many DITA sessions of yours that I found on You Tube and SlideShare. This is just the information I have been looking for. Though I had previously participated in a paid session (which was also excellent), I was not as likely to scour through all your additional resources at the time because of the cost factor…(if I look, I’ll buy…and being cost-conscious, esp right now, I don’t want to look)…But seeing all that great free content, you got me looking, you further established your already high regard in my mind, and you won over an advocate and someone who will promote your content, for free, on her own site, pointing back to you, to potential customers who will buy…and I think I’m more likely to use your services or at least recommend your services as well, because I’ve engaged with you vicariously again through the webcast…

    I also felt more inclined to comment on your blog as a result, out of gratitude for the service, and again, the kind of vicarious familiarity and engagement that the free webcast instilled.

    I am no expert on these matters, but I think yours is the path of the future. I wish you very well in your endeavors and will follow your webcasts with interest. I hope more technical communication services and organizations follow your example.

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