SPI 013: Is Giving Away Free Information Bad? Here Are Some Answers

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Note: Cliff also joined me on AskPat 0237 to talk about paid premium podcasts. Click the links or scroll to the Related Podcasts section below to listen to those episodes.

In this session of the Smart Passive Income Podcast, I bring back a topic of a recent post I wrote, Is Giving Away Free Information Bad, and respond to some of the 200+ comments with the help of a special guest, Cliff from PodcastAnswerMan.com, who was a guest in session 5 of the SPI podcast.

To be honest, there really is no right or wrong answer here, but Cliff and I share exactly what free information (and the extend to which we provide free information) has done for our own businesses, and what it could do for yours too.

Thank you for all of you who posted comments on that post. All of them were extremely thought-provoking and I read and respond to a number of them during the recording, with credit to the commenter, of course.

During this episode, we cover:

  • How I respond to “giving away free information is bad!
  • How an email list of less than 200 can be extremely profitable.
  • How to get people to want to pay you for the information you already provide.
  • Cliff’s idea to make even more money by giving away his premium content for free.
  • The “mindset” of free to the consumer.
  • What we think about just giving away a “little bit” of free information.
  • The importance of making it easy to let people give back to you.
  • Plus a whole lot more…

I hope you enjoy this session! Be sure to check out what my voice sounds like when I’m sick.


Right click here to download the MP3

Items Mentioned in this Session:


Click here to download the transcript for session 13 (PDF)

Related Podcasts

  • http://www.youngprepro.com Onibalusi Bamidele

    This is awesome Pat and I could remember that post causing some debate so I will be listening to this podcast right away.

  • http://www.tacticalcashflow.com Howie


    Since I began playing around with Aweber, I’ve discovered quite a few things that can be used in conjunction with free information in order to foster relationships. Namely, rather than charge for my product, I crunched ALOT of numbers and determined that it was actually in my best interest to give the course away…and, thanks to Aweber, that can actually be automatically delivered over several days.

    I noticed that Alex, from blogussion does this with his course. He’s ONLY 17 (he was 16 when I joined his mailing list), and, with each day, he delivers alot of free information. Honestly, he delivered so much free information that I’ll probably forever remain his name and his “brand”. It’s ingenious planning and execution….sometimes, my only regret in IM, is not beginning more soon. Had I known about all this cool stuff, I would have, for sure.

  • http://www.investparttime.com Brett

    Hey Pat,
    Looking forward to checking this one out! I have been listening through some of the older ones, and have been impressed with what I’ve seen. Thanks!


  • TrafficColeman

    I think you can give away info up to the point where they will come back for more. This is the way the internet has been for years and continue to progress to.

    “Black Seo Guy “Signing Off””

  • http://www.journeytopeak.com Jia Jun

    It really does provoke our thought of should we share everything free or to monetize the information we share. In our blogging industry, this is a question we always ask ourself.
    But for me, I believe in the more values we provide to people, the higher value we ourself become. πŸ˜€
    It will pay off.

    Downloading the mp3 and listen. :)

  • http://wilsonusman.com wilson

    I don’t think it’s bad, I think there should be a ratio or some personal belief of how much free info you should give away.

    If you’re fine and you’re doing good with whatever you’re offering FREE then rock on, keep doing it. I am reading PREDICTABLY IRRATIONAL and it’s crazy how we humans respond to FREE. I recommend you read it Pat, you’ll like it.

  • http://bizhax.com Keith

    Everything should be free!

    That is the mindset of way too many people trying to make their way into the realm of online business, it should be free until they want to make money is the reality LOL.

    Personally, I think you, Pat, have given away some really great info on this site, info most would want to charge for. But, because you did that, you could put out a product on using flypaper to get readers to stick around and charge $77 for it and people would buy it. Because they TRUST you now!

  • http://www.megabizflakes.com samuel

    Awesome! I will check it out! I guess you want to pick a winner on this topic? I hope you get what I’m saying?

    PS: Try to convert it into transcript, for people with slow internet connect. Though I’m on mobile at the moment. I will definitely check it out! Thanks so much!

  • http://www.my4hrworkweek.com Eric | My 4-Hour Workweek

    Great podcast, Pat. Cliff is a great guest, so it was nice to hear from him again on your show.

    As for being sick, I don’t think your voice sounded too bad. Hopefully you’re feeling better!

    – Eric

    • http://PodcastAnswerMan.com Cliff Ravenscraft

      Thank you for the kind words Eric! I always enjoy a conversation with Pat, recorded or not! :)

  • http://affiliatestartingline.com Claude Pelanne

    Both your success and Cliff’s speak for themselves. Give and get back more if the giving is from the heart. You both are on my itunes podcast playlist. Get better and be well.

    • http://PodcastAnswerMan.com Cliff Ravenscraft

      Claud, I’m so glad that you emphasized the main message of this story.

      So many only hear “Give & Get Back More.” However, not enough people hear the “If The Giving Is From The Heart.”

      It’s an honor to be on your podcast playlist! Thank You!

  • http://www.hectorjcuevas.com Hector Cuevas

    That’s so weird.. I just got off the phone, leaving Cliff a question on his listener line and I head over here and see he’s on your show again.

    I totally agree with you both that ‘Free isn’t a business model’. This is why I’m making this year product development focused. The only problem now is figuring out which product to work on first. :)

    Annabel made a good point in her comment, that people appreciate paid information much more than they do free – I’ve written posts that get read thousands of times, but only a handful of people actually take action, do the work and get results.

    The reason hardcore internet marketers (you know the PPC guys that don’t have a blog, just a sales funnel) don’t have a problem answering this question is because: if it doesn’t have a price tag attached to it, they won’t do it.

    I just don’t know how long they can keep up that up as I’m seeing that branding and likability is becoming much more important for business.

    – Hec

    • http://PodcastAnswerMan.com Cliff Ravenscraft

      Hector, thanks for the voicemail for my show. Be sure to listen to PAM 192 as that is where I will be playing your question and responding to it. :)

  • http://increasingworkplaceproductivity.net Bojan

    Awesome new podcast! This motivates me to try out the same. What program are you using to record the conversation? And are you talking over Skype or?

  • http://thesisready.com Dave Grimes II

    I agree with the majority of the above posts… the question in this post’s title “Is giving away free information bad?” is far too broad. The question should be “how much free information is too much?” If you look around the Internet, it becomes apparent that giving away free content is great! Look at Tim Ferriss, at least half of his newest book is already on his blog for free! It certainly didn’t hurt his book sales did it?

  • http://unlockthedoor.net Stuart

    Nah, ‘sick Pat’ sounds fine πŸ˜‰

    I think we should always be giving away free information, even when we’re big business. But we have to draw a balance between helping others and crawling under others. It’s important to draw a line :-)

  • http://www.creating-passive-income-streams.com/ Cory

    I can personally attest to the fact that Pat has gotten more money from giving me free information than any internet marketer ever has by asking me to pay them for that same kind of info.

    The internet is filled with Yanik Silver-type internet marketers that slap a horrible, one-page advertisement page online for an affiliate product. The page is always just a narrow column with all of the text centered on the page, along the lines of, “OMG! This is the greatest thing ever! It’s worth at LEAST $1499, but for an extremely limited time only, you can get it for just $49.99! (Copyright 2007)” Let me hit the old Back button and send your bounce rate up a notch, buddy…

    Pat, though? I found this blog through a search engine, and landed on the Niche Site Challenge posts. I read post after post of incredibly detailed, valuable information. The entire time, I was bracing for the inevitable sales pitch. It just never came. I’ve been following the blog for about a month and a half, and Pat has sent out only one product offer. (I didn’t buy it. It was beyond my means, being a broke college student.)

    What I did do, though, was to make sure I went through Pat’s affiliate links for Market Samurai and BlueHost. I’m still on the trial for MS, but Pat got $65 in affiliate revenue from me for my BlueHost purchase. I have NEVER purchased anything from the Yanik Silver-style sites, but Pat got an easy $65 out of me just for giving me free info.

    Is giving information away free a good idea? If you do it like Pat, you’ll hand out freebies all the way to the bank! Thanks, Pat. You’re the man!

  • http://clickclackmom.com Amy

    Great podcast!! I really enjoyed the discussion and loved hearing it played out. I thought it was interesting that people think that others don’t value information if it’s free. Because I do! Although there is a psychological effect which makes me feel like I should do something in return for the person who is helping me for free–like purchase from their affiliates, send an email, comment, and spread the word about the person. So there is an exchange of value.

    Anyway, I couldn’t help but think Cliff is “leaving money on the table” with his current model. Perhaps he would consider offering half of the content for free, then charging a premium free for a membership site?? Probably a lot of effort to start, but would most likely generate a ton of income. Just a thought…

    Onward and Upward!!


    • http://PodcastAnswerMan.com Cliff Ravenscraft


      I made just over $27,000 last year from doing exactly what you just mentioned.

      Yes, all 192 episodes of Podcast Answer Man are free. However, that single podcast earned me more than $10,000 in a single month from the audience of that single podcast alone. The more content I produce, FOR FREE, of Podcast Answer Man, the more money I will make through consulting, equipment sales, webinars, coaching courses, affiliate commissions of only products I believe in, and my own digital product sales.

      However, for the past three years, I’ve had something called “Plus Membership.” You can read more at http://gspn.tv/plus. You see, on most of my other shows, that don’t have sponsors and that are not directly tied to my podcasting & consulting/coaching business, have it set up where anyone can get one episode per week for free on the feeds that you can find on my site and in directories like iTunes.

      At the end of each of those free episodes, we let folks know that we actually produce “this show” and many others like every single week. We tell them that they can get every episode of every podcast that we produce at http://gspn.tv by becoming a gspn.tv Plus Member, which is $10 per month.

      We produce between 7 to 15 podcast episodes a week by the way and all are at the same level of quality, both in audio quality and content quality, as Podcast Answer Man and Smart Passive Income.

      As I said, in starting out this comment, I made more than $27,000 last from charging for the episodes I held back from the public.

      But get this… In light of what we discussed in this episode.. I’m actually putting my money where my mouth is. I’m willing to RISK ONE THIRD OF MY INCOME on the truths that I shared in this episode.

      Effective today, I will be announcing that 100% of EVERY SHOW THAT WE PRODUCE will be 100% Free from this point forward. That’s right, all 7 to 15 episodes a week!

      The original idea was to switch the benefits of Plus Membership (Our $10/mo monthly subscribers) to a different set of benefits. I pulled an amazing team of advisors and we came up with some very compelling benefits that would likely help us keep a majority of these paid subscribers and likely help us to attract more.

      However, in that advisory group, it became clear that I should not only make all my content available for free, but that we should indeed add all these other amazing benefits of Plus Membership and actually make Plus Membership FREE AS WELL, with the “option” to be contribute monthly to the content and community of gspn.tv.

      The content will be free, regardless, to everyone! The additional benefits of Plus Membership will be made available to anyone who wants them, with the “optional” financial contribution.” There will be a suggested monthly contribution, though folks can choose to contribute any amount they choose, they will have the option to simply do a one time contribution of any amount, or they actually would have the option to become a Plus Member with no contribution at all.

      I know it makes little sense. However, in my mind, there is no doubt that I’ll see a short term dip in my income from Plus Membership. Though my prediction, right now, is that when 2011 is done and over, I would not be surprised if I double the amount of income that comes in from our FREE gspn.tv Plus Membership Program.

      What to hear a full hour long podcast episode about how this all got started and why I’m making this decision? You can listen to it here: http://goo.gl/rYhe0

      For me… I don’t create content and build community with my audience “for the money.” My heart is in helping people. I’ve hated the fact that 3/4 of some of our greatest content that is Entertaining, Educational, Encouraging, and Inspirational has only been heard by several hundred people when it could have been heard by 10’s of 1000’s of people on a weekly basis.

      I’ll admit that I’m a little nervous about the short term ramifications of what I’m about to do. However, I’m confident that it is the “right thing” to do.

      Time will tell. πŸ˜‰

      Thanks for the comment Amy.

      ps… I didn’t proof read this before submitting. Please forgive me for typos. :)

  • http://www.newsuperaffiliate.com/blog Alex Neill

    Hi Pat

    I am all for the free information giveaway method, but I do believe people can get used to receiving everything for free then when you try to sell they think, what the heck???

    I cant wait to listen to the podcast, the small list profits sounds is something that I a highly interested in as my list is growing steadily but only 1 or 2 per day and right now I only have 50 people.

    Onwards and upwards so they say!


  • http://diyblogger.net Dino Dogan

    I love the way you do your podcasts dude…strictly from the production perspective…great GREAT job. Useful content too…

  • http://elevationlife.com Bryan Thompson

    Pat, I will have to listen to the actual podcast later (I’m at work now), but I am torn on giving away free stuff or not. I do give away an ebook, but I have no idea what its end result is. I have subscribed to sites and gotten tons of free ebooks and half of them I haven’t read. The half that I have read is definitely useful info. I just wonder if there’s too much in the marketplace of free ideas. Maybe that’s a stupid question. Thanks for the debate! Can’t wait to hear it!

  • http://www.explosiveincomecode.com Stanislav Lem

    Hey, Pat.

    Thanks for the post. I really enjoy this recording.

    It’s my first comment, I found your blog few days ago. And I juts like your posts for quality. Especially your Income reports.

    Great job, man!

  • http://www.fitnessbusinessinterviews.com Erik R

    For a long time I struggled with the free vs. paid idea. Honestly I still do. But I noticed that if I didn’t give anything, then it was a struggle to see anything in return. I’ve also realized that it is part of a scarcity mindset. If your not afraid to give for free then you will receive more in return.

    As for paid information. I know many successful business people who give away their best info and then actually sell the same information. They Just re-package it and format it in a better way. This was huge for me to learn.

    Pat, if I’m not mistaken, I believe that is what you did with your first e-book. You just took the info off your site and formatted it out differently. Then sold it.

    But then on the other hand, there will always be people who are upset that your selling something. Especially if most of the info you give away is free.

  • http://www.dubai-information-site.com Sunil from The Extra Money Blog

    this works in various aspects of life, family, friends, relationships, non online business, business, religion, you name it. it’s one of the unspoken/unwritten laws of the universe it seems

  • http://homebasedfreelancer.com/ Lee Cole

    Great podcast! I seems to me that the more we give, the more it forces us to dig even deeper into our given niche to find material that people will pay us for. Not only does the giving set up a great connection (reciprocity) between us and our visitors, but it also sets us up as the go-to-place for whatever information folks are looking for. By giving away the more obvious content and digging deep for the not so obvious content to sell, we end up doing our visitors a much greater service, creating much better products, and making a lot more money. Less competition, too!

  • Brent

    To me this question really is a no-brainer, especially for you.
    There are so many internet marketing membership sites charging for (almost all content), yet you get the crowd uninterested in those and more interested in actually creating value + making money online (not just finding every $ possible)
    Your income has transitioned from mostly ebook sales to architects to mostly affiliate income from selling products to people interested in internet marketing. The only reason you have that later audience is because you were succesful in the former and you are so OPEN (and Free!) with teaching people the same.
    I can say that I’ve given you affiliate revenue from Market Samauri and Blue Host (and you’ll probably get others from me in the future) yet all the membership sites have had me signup and cancel during my free trial period. You would be the same.
    So, my revenue is because your content is free, and I want to follow your teachings so I buy the products through your links since I want to support you. I’m sure most of your affiliate revenue comes by people similar to me.
    Thank you.

  • http://www.zylun.com Bryan Canon

    Giving away too much can be bad for a business point of view, but giving away strategically is maybe good for it. We only give informations that be advantageous for us and for our customers esp those that may talk about our strengths and etc.

  • http://www.blogsetuplab.com Steve

    Hi Pat,

    Another twist on the free give away is using a social payment system such as Pay With A Tweet.

    People still get free access to the give away but they have to send a tweet or make a Facebook post to get to it so each person that wants the free stuff effectively passes your message on to their network of friends and followers (and if they want the free stuff they tweet to their friends and so on) so it can spread virally and only takes 10 minutes to setup.

  • http://www.ConnieandSheilaTalk.com Connie Williams

    Great show with Cliff Ravenscraft. We truly adore Cliff. If it weren’t for Cliff we might still be trying to figure out how to do our own podcast. Thanks for all the great content you give away and a great big THANKS to Cliff as well. You guys are awesome.
    Connie Williams

    • Pat

      Thanks for stopping by Connie! Hi to Sheila for me and keep rockin’ your show! Cheers!

  • http://www.embark-lovethelifeyoulive.com/ Kala

    Pat thanks I am a new reader following a recommendation from another site. But I found this interview with Cliff to be so self serving for HIM. It was a constant barrage of #’s of how many and how much money in a way that was really off putting for me anyway. It felt like a lot of hype and less helpful content, the content was there but it got buried under the “DJ” type manic energy.

  • Aaron


    Great podcast.
    Could you please add the transcript?

    Take care


  • http://buy-expired-domains.com/ Thomas Hoi

    Hi Pat,

    Thanks for this interesting podcast with Cliff. I have done the same thing like giving free ebook in exchange for people’s email in the past. But at that time, my purpose was only to make money and therefore always hold back the good stuff so that I can sell it to my list.

    Of course, I did not see much success. I have long suspected that high quality content given out free will build credibility, trust and relationship in the long term, just like what you and Cliff had. I like the part where Cliff said his audience actually want to pay him for his podcasts, without Cliff himself wanting to charge. This is an amazing model that has proven once again that giving free high quality content really works.

    I have started giving out high quality video content for free to my visitors since January this year and your podcast have certainly inspired and motivate me to put out even more free content. Thanks!

  • http://www.queasystomach.com/ Tommy Hardin

    Giving away information is not bad. That is why I love your blog. However, the more you give away, the more people want to purchase things from you. I know I made a special effort to make sure I used one of your affiliate links to purchase something from you.


  • http://www.streetstyles4all.co.uk Rob

    I was/am still having trouble with this, and this interview really has helped. Give content for free/build a fan base, or market as paid from day 1. There are arguments from both sides of this, however it definitely seems that having a big fan base and then monetizing later on in a different way, as Cliff said from consultancy work has other advantages like affiliate marketing and selling other products to a large list. So then it seems the key is to have SOME strategy so that you don’t back track. EG – here are ALL of my street dance courses… for free…YAY! Then a year later, now you have to pay for them. You could grandfather the current customers in I suppose. What would you say is the best starting step at this point in time if you have content you COULD sell?

  • http://www.the-webdesign.net/ Tobias Gebauer

    That’s really impressive and inspirting to give away so much for free and be so positive about it. Great guy.

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