To gate or not to gate? Data from an ebook offer

I write about strategies to turn fans into customers and customers into fans. I also share ways to use real-time strategies to spread ideas, influence minds, and build business.

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Aiimlogo At my keynote speeches, one of the most frequent questions I get is around 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.

The essence of this raging debate is that with a gate, each person downloading becomes a valuable sales lead, however making the content totally free with no registration required means many more people will download and spread your content via email, Twitter, blogs, and the like.

Frequent readers of this blog know that I write about this topic from time to time, most recently in a post called Say NO to squeezing your buyers.

I'm always interested in metrics to support the various positions in this debate and am excited that John Mancini, President of AIIM has agreed to share his experience with us. AIIM is a non-profit organization representing the users and suppliers of document, content and records management technologies.

8reasonsebook On October 1, 2009 Mancini released the organization's first e-book 8 Reasons You Need a Strategy for Managing Information -- Before It's Too Late. They made the ebook totally free, with no registration required.

In just one month (October 2009) the ebook was downloaded 5,138 times. In addition, AIIM also created a presentation version of the book and posted that, also with no registration, on SlideShare. This version has had 3,353 downloads for a total of 8,491 downloads in the month. Pretty darned good result, for the first month of an ebook, I’d say.

"Making the e-book available for free and totally without registration was a new approach for us," Mancini says. "These results for unfettered access are particularly impressive when considered against a couple of more traditional examples (i.e., content requiring a registration on our web site)."

Mancini says one of the most popular pieces of content are AIIM Industry Watch research papers. "We require registration for these papers because they are also used as a lead generation program for the sponsors," he says. "During roughly the same period as the e-book, there were 1,282 page views of the research, which translated into 513 actual downloads."

So this data suggests that unlocking content at AIIM means more than a sixteen-fold increase in the number of downloads.

Mancini is convinced that the more forward looking of their sponsors will start to realize that the future lies in creating as much visibility as possible for their content rather than viewing this through the prism of name acquisition and lead generation.

"We have learned some production things along the way," Mancini says. "For example, it is not an easy process to simply produce the book in multiple formats. We learned that most people seem to want PDF. And we learned that to get a screen-readable version that also minimizes page count, it is better to format horizontally (landscape) than vertically so we'll be republishing in a landscape format in the next few weeks."

The actual content of AIIM's e-book was built in an unconventional fashion, tapping into its network of experts to solicit contributions for the book through its Digital Landfill blog and through Twitter rather than through a more traditional authoring process.

"Based on the success of the past month, we plan to launch 3 more e-books in the next few months," Mancini says. "We are convinced that providing easy access to content like this is key to our evangelical mission."

Thanks for sharing your experience John!

How about you? Do you have any gate vs. no gate metrics to share?