e-newsletter content: gated or freely shared?

As the internet and traditional media worlds have changed and intermingled, the conventional routes to market for B2B services and products has evolved. With many trade publications dwindling in size and/or frequency (or ceasing hard copy publication altogether), many businesses find it next to impossible to get pure editorial coverage and their opportunities to reach the publication’s readers diminish. They can, of course, advertise or sponsor events with the publisher, but some businesses are realising that they can bypass the publisher altogether and reach out to potential readers direct.

A company may already have 100s or 1000s of email addresses of customers, end-users and influencers with whom it’s communicated. These contact details, once the list is cleaned-up and the recipients have given permission to receive communications, prove invaluable. Instead of hoping that a company’s news and views might be regurgitated by a publication, the business can publish its own content and distribute regular e-newsletters linking to that content.

Anchor Beam 1Dialogue or dangling?

But when we send out an e-newsletter, are we genuinely communicating and sharing information, or are we simply dangling a tempting morsel just out of reach of the potentially inquisitive reader?

For example, I was recently forwarded a copy of an e-newsletter, The Anchor Beam, disseminated by the Australian office of Viewpoint Construction Software. The content looked interesting, but every “Learn more” or “Read now” link simply opened up a page where I had to enter my name, company, email address and telephone number in order to download a PDF copy of the content. In short, this e-newsletter seemed all about harvesting my details rather than actually sharing information with me.

OK, it was relatively painless to me, but some people are reluctant to provide such personal information as they expect – probably correctly – that they will then start receiving calls or other emails from the companies employing such tactics.

Should we regard every interaction as an excuse to capture data about the reader? Why not share some content freely? I have produced numerous client newsletters with items linked direct to website news releases and/or blog posts, and the click-through from these is consistently higher than any download links requiring data entry.

Keep the gates open

Erecting a gate in front of a piece of content immediately makes it less attractive to many prospective customers. David Meerman Scott, author of The New Rules of Marketing and PR, says a white paper or eBook will be downloaded 20 times and up to 50 times more without a gate in front of it. If that’s not sufficient reason alone, consider how people might then share that content (and remember: gated content won’t be search engine friendly).

Let’s say Viewpoint gets 100 leads from a white paper download; taking the lower of David’s numbers, the company could get 2000 downloads if it was ungated. And, in each case, if the content is then shared by just 2% of those readers (in reality, social media will extend the reach considerably further), that would mean a further two and 40 readers respectively. Would you rather have 102 or 2,040 potential customers reading your content? And this ignores the impact of organic search traffic to the same content.

In my view, the opportunity to harvest leads is stimulated by first freely sharing content that people find of interest and value. People then sign up to receive further updates: they voluntarily opt-in of their own free will rather than doing so grudgingly. And if they find the information so interesting and valuable they want to do business with you, that’s when you provide them with an easy call to action.


  1. Paul, I agree with you 100 percent. Often to download a whitepaper, the mailer first ask for your email address and details, even with out knowing the contents or value of the white paper. After downloading the white paper, it is often just a useless promotional material.
    Eric CL Gan
    Architect turned Cloud Entrepreneur

    1. Thanks, Eric. To me, putting a white paper where it can be easily read – and, importantly, easily shared – is vital. Not only do you extend the reach to many more potential readers, but readers can also use the social signals from earlier readers to learn more about the content and if it is worth reading.
      Regards – Paul

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