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November 05, 2009


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You are right David. I decided not to "squeeze" when I published The Social Web Analytics eBook 2008, and the creative commons license allowed others to mirror and upload to services like Scribd. With 35,000 downloads in the first 12 months, I get two or three enquiries a month about helping organisations procure the right service. I'd rather have that than extract the permission to email all and sundry.

Wintress Odom

Hi David,

GREAT data. I have actually had this conversation with several clients. And I've never had any numbers to give them.

One question though: Am I reading it correctly that they think landscape formatting is going to work better? I'd really like to know the data on how that works for them.

I personally have downloaded many ebooks, and I have never read a single one online. I just don't like to read that amount of data online. Also, if the ebooks are good, I often put them in a spiral and put them on the company resource shelf. So, I always print them out; I'm not sure how I'd do that with a landscape format.

Wintress Odom
The Writers For Hire, Inc.

David Meerman Scott

Wintress - I do not have any data on portrait vs. landscape orientation/ However all of my ebooks are landscape and my ebooks, collectively, have been downloaded nearly 2 million times. Landscape fits onto a screen much better.

Here is an example.
Lose Control of your Marketing! Why marketing ROI measures lead to failure (2009)
Give this one to your boss, board, or investors

Best, David

Tony Faustino

Holy Cow! If I'm doing my percentage increase math correctly to examine the downloads, the ungated eBook was downloaded 7978 more times versus the gated eBook which equals a 1,555% increase! Calculation: ((8491-513)/513)*100; Note: Someone please inform me if I'm performing this calculation incorrectly.

That's compelling fact-based evidence. I also appreciate @Philip's insights that using the ungated method yields him two to three inquiries per month. Those are well-qualified leads because they are coming to him (versus @Philip following up with each registrant if he used a gated form). That's another key benefit of ungated content: significant time savings are achieved in lead qualification and prioritization.

Many thanks for this great content and to John Mancini and AIIM for generously sharing the results/outcomes of their eBook promotion process.


Hi David,

Thanks for the response. Well I printed out a few pages on the landscape version, and thankfully, it looks like the printers are smart enough to figure it out -- doesn't cut half your page off. :-)

So us can't-read-on-the-screen people are safe!

Wintress Odom
The Writers For Hire, Inc.

kenny madden

Yep, yep and yep. Can't agree more with this. Tony also comes up with a few great points.
Especailly this one - significant time savings are achieved in lead qualification and prioritization.

VENDOR SCENARIO and how they work out investments view the world of “lead generation”:(READ : Name acquisition it ain't lead gen)
1000 leads = 1 deal = $50,000
2000 leads = 2 deal = $100,000

This may be of interest. Instead of giving my opinion ( which is irrelevant) We asked 800,000 SMB IT pro’s about registering for Whitepapers and the fact they are FORCED to give info.

Registration free whitepaper’s????



Not sure if this is the appropriate forum but I am also looking to understand how much money and time vendors waste on chasing " leads" whitepaper downloads.

Anyone ever studied this?

Victor Kippes

I am still having a hard time grasping this concept for a b2b company. It you are looking for leads, I truly believe you are doing the respondant a favor by allowing them to control how they are treated. You’ll be amazed how many people will complete a well thought out form when given an opportunity to tell you they are just curious and don’t want to be bothered. This does make sense for AIIM though as their intent might have been different. Dave, I read your book World Wide Rave. Thanks. Lots of good tidbits.

Vince Giorgi

Great post as always, Dave. You've done a tremendous amount to advance awareness around the concept of non-gated content. Here's a question for you, and others. Would appreciate your thoughts and further insights:

I'm working with a B2B client right now who is going to need to make the decision to gate/not gate a piece of value-adding content soon. I'll explain the non-gated concept to them. I'm pretty sure they'll be surprised and maybe incredulous. Then I'll share some of the data from your post.

I'm almost certain they're going say this: "That's great. But if we don't gate this thing, we won't have any phone numbers or e-mail addresses to follow up on. I've got a team of inside sales people here. I'd rather have them following up on some 'leads' than none at all, just waiting for inbound inquiries."

Any thoughts on an effective response to that fraction-of-a-loaf is better than none mindset?


I have a white paper discussing wasted money and time vendors waste chasing " leads" whitepaper downloads. Try this.

Susan Fantle

I'm in the B2B world as well and my experience and philosophy on this issue is to have some content that has a gate to generate identifiable qualified leads and other content with no gate that boosts the exposure of a company to a greater audience. However, as Victor says, buyers who are seriously looking for a solution are willing to register and this registration fills the pipeline and leads to sales. Attention and high volume downloads are nice but sales and revenue are better.

David Meerman Scott

Many thanks for all of your comments.

I still come out on the side of making things totally free. Your content spreads faster. Blogger and people on Twitter are more likely to spread ungated information (because there is no risk).

For those who want to collect "leads" 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.


John Mancini

Hi there. Thanks everyone for all the comments.

My take on this is that lead gen and visibility and awareness are two very separate things, especially on line. I agree with some of the comments in David's book (to give credit where credit is due, the inspiration for this) about how our pre-occupation with lead gen is a carryover from the physical world and traditional marketing.

My conclusion is step one -- awareness and visibility and as broad a consciousness of the issue/product in question. And I am convinced the leads and business will follow. But to cut the funnel way down via reg before the awareness is even raised seems shortsighted. I am convinced that a lot of the companies that do advertising/sponsorships on our site would be better served by starting with openness.

Re the landscape comments, the current version was published portrait and formatted so that an entire page could be read all at once on the screen. This probably reflects my personal bias against scrolling through partial pages on long PDFs and how unsatisfying an experience this is as a reader. However in doing this, it drove the page length (95) way up, and people said that wasn't great because it made such a big print job. I think landscape with two columns is more readable and keeps the page count down. I'll be replacing the current PDF with this next week.

I'm going to do a blog post on my site (Digital Landfill, http://www.aiim.typepad.com) next week on some of my "how-to" observations having stumbled through this whole process. I'll ping back re that once I get it done. The other thing I will report on is the impact that the entire guest columnist concept structured around 8 things has had on my blog traffic. It has been profound.

Thanks to DMS for starting this discussion; I think it's an important one.

Omar Halabieh

Hi David,

Thank you for the great post. I agree with you on the latest comment you posted about have a multi-tier approach. Some component could be offered totally free (and ungated) to ensure it spreads around and quickly and there can be a secondary offering that can be used to generate leads. These two offerings can co-exist and I do not see them as mutually exclusive.


Amelia Vargo

This is a tough one - though I always think it's better to give as much as you can because the more you give the more you receive.


David (and anyone else who would like to chime in),

I was wondering what you're thoughts were on this subject, when it comes to eBooks that are not of a business related nature.

I am looking now into publishing my first sports humor book, based on an award winning column that I've been writing for 2 years. Since the column has been for an online site, it makes sense to me to do an eBook versus traditional publication.

However, I'm struggling whether to make this for free (my first book) in order to really get my name out there; then make any subsequent books for pay. However, I don't want to set up a bad expectation for further books I might write.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated from you and the community.



David Meerman Scott


My ebook "The New Rules of PR" directly led to a publishing deal from Wiley for my hardcover book "The New Rules of Marketing & PR".

When you show a publisher that you have an audience, they will get interested.

Of course, your ebook needs to be interesting and well-designed to get a lot of views.

Good luck


Rick Braddy

I'll have to give the totally free vs. opt-in to download a try and see what happens.

It's great from a thought leadership standpoint to get the word out by making information free and, but at the end of the day, to make money, we all need those dreaded "leads" - and a way to communicate with our subscribers.

It would be most insightful to see a study that measures the tangible "value" of each approach. My guess is that all the free downloads results in more mindshare and website traffic (which would have to tracked back to the free download). My concern is how to turn that into revenue without a lead.

Account Deleted

I am a bit suspicious when people say " Don't worry. Give away your best work. You'll have more future business."

There are many musicians who are famous for only a single song, or many writers known for a single book. How do you know the song or the book you advise him/her to give away is not that kind?

I would be very careful and think hard to decide which one (or a part of it) to give away. To give up a little bit is necessary for a content business, but the key is which one. And that's hard. Generalization seems too fast.

kenny Madden

The bottom line is our opinions are all irrelevant. I decidied to ask 800,000 of my buyers what they think. The resounding answer is do NOT force me to register for your whitepaper.

Most IT vendors that insist on gated whitepapers are getting name acqusition and not doing lead generation at all.

Do you know the SMB IT community call IT Vendor whitepapers that require e mail and name" sign up for a FREE sales call" :) :)

Registration free whitepaper’s????


Chris @ Rizzo Tees

I generally find squeeze pages to be somewhat sleazy. Every time I land one one, it just feels like an Internet huckster is talking to me. I'm sure that's not always the case, but I can't shake the feeling that I'm going to hear a pitch about diet pills made of cat litter.

I hear folks say that "email is currency." You have a base of email addresses, you can market to them and cash in. David talks about a completely different tact - I will have to give it a try.


GREAT post and discussion. I came here looking for data--I know that David has floated some rough numbers in the past. Delighted to see some data emerging, that BTW, support our point of view that you should forget the gate unless you are e.g. Harvard business Review, and can afford to set terms for access--including charge for it.

Thanks especially to John Mancini for his data, Vince for a great paper, Kenny for his discussion forum and David for keeping the issue in the limelight.

Over the past few months, several of our outbound links to material we have written for clients have broken because the papers have been moved behind gates. I will go back to those clients with renewed confidence and tell them they are making a mistake.

One anecdote I can contribute; an article on our website got 500 page views yesterday because a global consulting firm put a link to it on their intranet (on a typical day it would get around 20). If there were a gate on the material, I can't imagine they would have bothered to link to it (and subject their consultants to a load of hassle to reach it), and if they had, a minority of these famously-pressured and secretive strategy consultants wouldn't have taken the time to negotiate the barriers anyway. (I wasn't running a control of course; I'll just posit that it's inconceivable.)

I’m sold.

David Meerman Scott

Tdparker - thanks for jumping in and for providing some additional data.

I would argue that no organization should gate when using web content to reach potential buyers. Harvard Business Review is no exception. However it is just those sort of organizations that deem their stuff special and gate too much.



David; I think HBR is an exception, because selling content is their business. They don't sell speaking engagements or consulting off the back of their reputation, they sell content which they have gone to great trouble and expense to make sure is world class. (We write for them - whatever you might think of their content, they have higher editorial standards than any other business publication.)

Put another way, I think they are in the same category as JKRowling--if she gave away her content she'd still be writing in that coffee shop...

But whatever the case, I don't think it detracts from the main point, that for most of us, if we want the world to know how good we are, we need to make it as easy as possible for people to sample our wares.


(now I'm off to find out why I appear as Tdparker - it's my name, just not a very personable version of it...)

David Meerman Scott


We disagree then.

I am in the content business too. I sell books and speaking engagements. (I am not a consultant). Using your logic, I should stop writing this blog.




That's neither my point nor my logic.

You gate (and charge for) your core content, books and speaking engagements--it's presumably how you survive and prosper. HBR gates their core content--their articles--for the same reason. You give away samples in blog posts, free chapters etc. So do they, here: http://hbr.harvardbusiness.org/

I can't see any fundamental difference between what they do and what you (or we) do.

Perhaps I sowed confusion by saying they have earned the right to gate their online content. They have; their core content, not the samples intended to reach potential customers.


David Meerman Scott

Tim -

I think we are confusing one another.

My point on gates in this blog post is simple. For MARKETING purposes, gates (requiring email addresses) to get at FREE content are bad. I do not believe in them. That's what this post is about.

I do not think anyone (such as HBS) earns the right to demand an email address on free content. I do not believe in trading contact information for white papers for example. I am an advocate of removing barriers.

However, if an organization chooses to SELL content, gates are fine.




Great, we agree. And HBR probably does too since they have ungated material.

You may be right that they gate too much, but that discussion, about how much is the right amount, could occupy many more hours of debate (though it might get us an answer people could use).

Anyhow, if this conversation did one thing for me, it was clarify the difference between what you should gate (the stuff you sell) and what you shouldn't (the stuff you intend to give away).

I think I have another exception, but I'll leave it for another time!


David Meerman Scott

Tim - good, glad we cleared that one up.

Chris @ Rizzo Tees

Interesting discussion between you guys. I think David is generally right when he says "Don't put your content behind a gate." HBR is an interesting example though - what would they monetize if it were not their incredible content? Books, perhaps. Maybe consulting. Any thoughts?

Rennell Garrett

One great post with good discussion going. I had no knowledge about to gate or not to gate but I am happy that I am leaving this blog with some valuable information.

White Paper Writers

As everyone has said, great post! That's a very interesting question: to gate online content or to not gate?

Of course, is can be beneficial to gate, i.e. require a sign in/email, that way the website owner has potentially generated a good list of leads, and the number of downloads can easily be tracked. However, allowing people to download/take what they want from your site no questions asked will most likely get your content more publicity. Very tricky.

I'd say make content easily accessible and at most, ask for an email address in return.

round my position that it is almost always best to make valuable content (such as white papers and ebooks) totally free vs requiring an email address to download.


Seems like the E-book is the perfect free sample like the little pieces of chicken that Chick-Filet gives out in the food court in the mall.


My name is Dorian and I am writing to express my gratitude for all the effort you have put in to your career and it has influenced me in creating a blog about you. Thanks for all your hard work, please visit and comment if you wish on my blog at http://twymand29.wordpress.com.

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.

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