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October 01, 2009


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Daryle Dickens

Very timely post for me as I've been going back and forth on this one with something I am about to launch. And when I think about my highest goals it makes sense to not have a squeeze page. I really do want to help people with the information I have and I know I can reach more people without asking for registration.

Peter Eggleston

I agree completely on the hybrid approach with the qualification that the totally free content should have real value, not just be fluff which requires the reader to get squeezed to get anything with substance.


David, I'm a big believer in registration, but mostly for sales-oriented pages rather than free downloads.

However, I do agree with you, but I'm becoming more and more a big believer in the "reverse optin process," where you offer sequential or layered content, either over a period of time or immediately after registration.

The reverse optin process is such that you offer your main, self-contained, or partial content upfront, for free, without any registration. But if people want to get more, such as getting additional content, sequential content (parts two, three, etc), and/or notification on future giveaways, they must register.

This tackles the two sides:

The front-end is free and freely distributable. But if people want more, and if the content is enticing and valuable enough, they are invited to subscribe/register to get them.

This is particularly useful is the content spreads virally, bringing more fresh traffic to you and to register with you.

I recently blogged about this, if you're interested. Here's the link (please remove if you feel this is inappropriate):


Thank you for the discussion.

John R. Sedivy

Your approach of not requiring registration makes perfect sense. Seth Godin in his book Permission Marketing compares this to dating - trust is built gradually over time.

Personally I have arrived to the point where I no longer register for information. Individuals and companies who receive the most value from my contact information receive it over time as my either being a fan or repeat customer. I volunteer the information freely and sincerely and therefore am receptive to their message.

Sure there are others who may trick me into providing information, or obtain it via a purchased list - however I am not receptive to their message.

Tony Darrick Baker


I reformatted my entire ebook based on your recommendations, so I may as well try your un-squeezed free distribution method as well. I'll let you know how it goes.

Here I have made it clear that subscribing is available and recommended, but absolutely optional. Now readers wanting The Recession Marketing Guide can receive it without any barriers.

This book is especially important with the upcoming recovery, so I hope it starts to really take off.


- Tony Darrick Baker

David Meerman Scott

Michel - Good post. I had never heard the term "reverse opt-in" before.

Tony, John, and others. If anyone can do A/B testing on registration vs. no registration, I would love to know what the data shows.

Others who have shared this information suggest it is between 20x and 50x the number of downloads without registration.

Arthur Charles Van Wyk

I stumbled on this blog via Google. I was looking to start an emarketing agency and was looking to "work" the term "new marketing" to define what i do, i.e. marketing via new media. A Google search sent me to David's keynote at #IMS08 and then brought me to this blog where i downloaded the ebooks. After reading them all I called up my bookstore and ordered "The New Rules.."

I have to bring to your attention that I hate only 2 things in life: crowds and queues. I might not have bought his book if I had to complete a form to get those ebooks and thereby be exposed to his brilliant mind.

Those registration forms are a serious obstacle. I have referred numerous people to Hubspot for "education" in SEO and SEM. Most of them gave up once faced with completing those lengthy forms. sadly, my evangelism was rendered valueless. I stopped evangelising Hubspot.

Michael Camp

I like the third option of having a way of capturing leads at the end of the ebook in a secondary offer. This is working well for us.

Jamie Favreau

I think the hybrid approach is best. I also think you should make it simple and just have a name and email. You don't need to have to write down your entire story for a registration form. @unmarketing spoke about that a couple of months ago.

David Meerman Scott

Arthur - I love your story about how you found me. Thanks for sharing. David



My partner said something to me a while ago and it just stuck for me. He says "NOONE wants another user name and password. It is akin to opening up a drivethrough burger joint and requiring people to drive under a thousand pigeons with diareah to get to the window and place an order. One look at those birds and the majority of your customer base will turn around and drive away."

btw - I read your New Rules of Marketing & PR book for my MBA Marketing course and loved it!


I believe David is right: his position is propped up by substantial experience and just makes sense.

When we put giving at the heart of we do, wonderful things happen seemingly by themselves. This is, I gather, a universal law.

Amelia Vargo

I agree with you, David. The initial ebook should be free - how else can you grab a large following for something? Also people will be more likely to trust in you if they've invested their time and effort in reading what you have to say so your second offering to them can come with a registration. It makes perfect sense to me.

Anne Holland

David - I just posted an on-demand webinar with Case Studies of two ways you can set your content free BUT still collect loads of registrations. It includes the creative samples and the data, plus a sales funnel chart showing where in the buying cycle your content can be free, vs barriered. My co-speaker was sales lead expert Mac McIntosh. You can download this webinar - without registering! - at http://whichtestwon.com/?p=1778

Final historic note: In 2002, Bitpipe (now part of techtarget) revealed white paper viral handoff data and were the first to tell marketers to set content free, via a MarketingSherpa report. Next, in 2004, RedHat actually tested it extensively and then revealed their results at a MarketingSherpa Summit at my request (I founded MarketingSherpa prior to selling it and launching WhichTestWon.com). So the debate's been around for half a decade... but it's only now I see marketers really paying attention to it. I thank you for that!

David Meerman Scott

Hi Anne

So good to have you stop by. As you know, I am a fan of your stuff. Mac and I have discussed this before (we both spoke at the Capterra event last month for example) so I will have to check out the Webinar.

Some of the things I learned from you in the early days of MarketingSherpa helped me make the decision to make my first ebook "The New Rules of PR" (published in 2006) totally free. And you know what happened next -- MarketingSherpa named it to the 2006 Viral Marketing Hall of Fame!

Thanks again for all you do.


David Gordon Schmidt

Given that I'm now blogging about how non-promotional ideas/perspective papers accelerate awareness via social media activity, I obviously vote for the free content.

Squeezing is outdated in many BtoB (and BtoC) marketing situations because it's not appropriate to "push" newsletter or other information to an interested party until after they see the value of your thinking/offering. First time requests for a Perspective Paper shouldn't be abused.

Thanks for good forum on this.

David Gordon Schmidt

Justice Marshall

Timely post. As the "free line" keeps moving, I get the sense that content requiring an email address to access is not actually perceived as "free" anymore.

My next free offering will be a "click for immediate download." Your post clinched it for me.

Susan Fantle

The logical conclusion here is to provide some free content and some that is not. That way you get the viral advantage and also add prospects to the pipeline at the same time. But do remember that, although the gate reduces downloads, those who are willing to forge the gate are more seriously researching solutions and are probably qualified leads. However, I do advocate keeping the reg. page to a minimum number of fields.

Darren Lai

David, your hybrid approach is the one for me. I love free and everyone does. And i love money too and everyone does.

Make it almost all free to reach largest audience and spread like crazy + upsell for niche, should be the most powerful approach. Good for internet growth as well.

Chrıs Anton

But do remember that, although the gate reduces downloads, those who are willing to forge the gate are more seriously researching solutions and are probably qualified leads....?

David Meerman Scott

Darren - I strongly believe, based on research, that free can generate money. It is not either / or.

Chris - I disagree. I think the opposite. When people are REALLY interested, many do not want to signal intent to the salespeople of a company by giving away their info.

Ian Brodie

I think it's worth remembering that capturing an email address can help make the ongoing relationship building process more interactive and personal.

I find that I get more in-depth feedback and discussion when I ask questions to the subscribers to my newsletter than I do via blog comments - despite the fact that there are thousands more blog readers. There seems to be something more personal about an article in your email inbox than a blog post on someone else's site.


Stacey Holleran

I've incorporated a "we don't sell or spam" statement with my squeeze pages and it has helped garner a higher number of leads.

David Meerman Scott

Ian and Stacey -- both good points. Thanks for adding to the discussion. David

Tony Faustino

What a fantastic discussion! Wanted to contribute a point about @Darren's comment about "being almost free."

"Totally Free" can and will generate revenue. I'm a huge fan of Chris Anderson (author of Free and The Long Tail). Anderson brilliantly executed a multi-channel marketing strategy that provided complimentary versions of "Free" (all without any form of gatekeeping or buyer squeezing). This success story is a perfect example of why DMScott is challenging our conventional ways of thinking re: relinquishing control.

I downloaded the following versions of Free gratis without providing any personal information: Scribd eBook, iTunes unabridged audio book, and iTunes multi-chapter podcast. I've enjoyed listening to the audiobook 1.5x and all the podcast chapters 1x. More importantly, I paid for the hardcover version of Free so I can take extensive notes on the insights I learned from the free audio versions.

Chris Anderson's success with Free is all the evidence I need to prove David's points covered in his post. The book, Free, generated quite a bit of revenue, and I'm sure even more lucrative consulting & speaking revenues for Anderson. I'm convinced the consumer exposure he generated is why Free was a New York Times Best Seller: http://www.longtail.com/the_long_tail/2009/07/a-new-york-times-bestseller.html

Nice work David (as always).

Alex Lim

The decision will generally depend on the blogger's purpose. Weather he wants to generate an email list or just want to spread the love. Personally, I usually have a second thought when I encounter a registration before download. I prefer a direct download, as I fairly evaluate the blogger's genuine motives. Yet, the third option is also a good idea- as this give consumer a chance to assess what the blogger offers.

Karen Goldfarb

I come from a direct marketing world. But it's not DM 101 anymore. It's Web 2.0. I think giving something of value away free is the right strategy more often than not.


The notion that all content should be free is seeming to hit a brick wall as of late. When YouTube is $500 million upside down and Rupert Murdoch is barking that he will start to charge for content, it is clear the model has room to evolve.

What is clear is the current form of advertising is not enough to support the financials needs of creating quality content.

First of all maybe we all need to focus on creating better and more targeted advertising and collectively come to the realization that quality costs.

How long can we go on thinking that Twitter feeds talking about breakfast and YouTube videos of kittens playing with yarn is attracting monetized eyeballs.

Social Media has created wonderful opportunities to share but has also exposed an enormous amount of chatter that is hardly worth sharing.

Whether you want it for free or willing to pay for it quality content is where it all needs to head.

Becky Blackler


Great post and discussion topic. I agree with and have used the hybrid approach in the past by implementing an open resource center that contains case studies, articles, etc. The sidebar of the page included links to 'request information' or 'request a meeting' forms. Net net, the content is out there, and the web leads are more qualified as they took the extra step to engage the company for more information.

David Meerman Scott

I love the continued discussions here. Thank you all for taking the time to comment. This is a lively topic.

Phil Lauterjung

I have read your book "The New Rules of Marketing & PR" and found lots of good, actionable info. I also agree that free will result in a greater chance of material going viral. But, I wonder what your thoughts are on asking for 'registration-type' information - strictly optional - after they have already received their download of the free material. What do you think of that? Too much of a bait-and-switch maybe?

David Meerman Scott

Phil - I think that is a good approach. I recommend having a secondary offer (at the end of a white paper or ebook) that does have registration. Maybe a webinar. The people who sign up are more of a warm lead because they have already read your paper.


So require an email, but no registration is what I'm getting out of this?


Great article, I couldn't agree more.

"Squeezing" the buyer is on it's way out. People are catching on to this type of "marketing" and resent it. The people who fall for it and will buy from people who engage in this type of activity are members of a shrinking market.

vitamin b12

All the options given in the article are really great. Those registration forms are a serious obstacle. I have referred numerous people to Hubspot for "education" in SEO and SEM.


I have to agree with a hybrid method - although most traditional gating is antiquated, limited gating can be effective to drive test-marketing in uncharted waters.

The purpose of gating can be replaced with other methods to capture customer data, naming the "need" that we're all trying to uncover for that truly qualified lead.

The next post on my blog is going to take strategies about using subtle methods to uncover needs without gating.

Joseph Ratliff

Well, I have to admit, before reading the first edition of "New Rules" I was of an "old school" direct marketer's mindset (build the list first, then give the content).

Now, I have bought the 2nd edition...and I'm a believer based on the results of several tests of my own.


I like the third option of having a way of capturing leads at the end of the ebook in a secondary offer

kenny madden

so, after a few months of researching and studying this stuff. (MORE importantly asking nearly 920,000 buyers.) The resounding answer is DO NOT FORCE ME TO Register.


Also IT tech vendors selling to IT buyers roughly spend between $50 - %75k CHASING 1000 leads.

I had one VP OF SALES tell me they spent about $200K of inside sales/sales time/effort to qualify 1600 trade show leads. WOW! Quantity over quality.

Mark Delfeld

This debate will gradually become moot as users change their email viewing behavior due to marketing worst practices that likely will prevail. Most emails I get from vendors are not relevant or personalized.

The most important reason to request an email is for lead nurturing. First, an email enables the marketer to learn more about them (by setting a cookie to learn where they have been...and where the will go). Second, it provides a vehicle to reach out to the customer with relevant content that maps to what has been learned.

Unfortunately I see very little evidence of companies effectively employing this strategy. The reasons are many:

No budget and no trained resourced to deploy marketing automation

Poor CRM databases that don't have important data such as roles (functional and/or buyer influence).

Product oriented companies (still dominant) push product content.

No segmentation strategy - most marcom department speak with one voice to the customer.

Lastly, the most important reason is that those that know anything about the customer (many times product marketing and senior management) are not connected to the marketing programs (that's just lead generation; tactical not strategic.)

Mark Delfeld

David Meerman Scott

Mark, I really appreciate you jumping in. Very thoughtful comments which I totally agree with!



I think its horses for courses - if your business deals with long sales cycles, registration pages are essential to capture researchers early in the buying cycle


How refreshing, I recently spent an hour "unsubscribing", talk about a time waster!

I agree, "totally free" is the new "opt-in"! I feel the registration for freebies concept has quickly been losing its impact, so, as usual, you are at the forefront of new thinking online.

Thank you, I'm a big fan of yours, but Seth Godin just recommended your blog as 1 of the Top 10 MUST READS!

I agree!

David Spark

Ah, so you recognize it’s quite a debate. I actually agree with you on it, but what I don’t agree with is that you’re not allowed to gatekeep “some” content. And that’s what I’m doing. Almost all of my content is non-gatekeeped. Every once in a while I do gatekeep content.

Heck, you’re doing it yourself. When you charge people to buy your book, you’re gatekeeping content. I’m asking for a value exchange. Give me your email address and I’ll give you this content you want. Unfortunately when you don’t gatekeep content people see less value in it. Of course, I don’t get nearly as many people seeing it, but honestly, if people take the time to give me their email address and download the PDF, then that’s a HIGHLY QUALIFIED audience. I don’t care if they’re small. I care who they are though. They’re a target audience to market to later using the information that I know they’re interested in this topic.

I actually think there is a right and wrong time to gatekeep content. Here’s an article I wrote about that a year ago: http://www.sparkminute.com/2010/04/19/when-is-the-right-time-to-gatekeep-content-to-generate-leads/

David Meerman Scott

Thanks David. This is a debate similar to evolution vs creationism or republican vs. democrat. It has no winners. Everyone is right and everyone is wrong.

But personally, I rarely pass on links to content that has a gate.

SEO Companies

I can see where your point is as I also believe that as a smart business minded person you should always prioritized the needs of your buyers/customers.


I think that there should be registration when you are buying something, and that you do not need to register for free downloads. I would have registration completed for paid downloads though. I also like it when people use car wraps to advertise because it is not forceful and annoying to customers. I would also give the people who are using a free download the option to sign up. If people are actually interested, they will sign up and you will gain a valuable customer lead.


I like the hybrid option because it allows people who only want that particular product to get what they want, but it also allows an opt-in if that person wants more.

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