And I'm not talking about pay walls, or paying for news. Instead, I'd like you to consider initiatives such as what Taylor Davidson has been doing with his premium newsletter. He charges for it, you pay for it.
Yet, it's not about the money. It's about taking the exchange seriously.
I should know. I gave away thousands of hours of free business consulting when I built the social network associated with Fast Company magazine over 8 years.
All 100+ events and discussions were free to attend thanks to the generosity of sponsoring business schools — most of them in Philadelphia contributed, although Villanova University gets kudos for giving the most.
The free part meant that it was a struggle to get people to honor their RSVP commitments.
In some cases, it precluded me from getting speakers who wanted a guaranteed minimum attendance. And eventually it led to me abandoning the effort before my own credibility with venues, food sponsors, and speakers would be impacted.
So I like what Taylor is doing, making the commitment go both ways.
Today, I would have a completely different approach to building the community. We also didn't have Facebook, Twitter, and many other emerging tools we use daily. That was a great learning experience for social behavioral patterns.
That's also how I got to the 10,000 hours in using content to get the right people in the room. Just like Italians use food as an excuse to be social.
Pay for content
It doesn't have to be a newsletter. It could be a high value Webinar training series, manuals that help you maximize or double your productivity using a certain product, or become a power user of something, analysis, special or deeper research, beyond the free sample.
You get the idea. Businesses have been doing that profitably already. Analysts, consultants, think tanks, and so on. Think about what knowledge and insights *you* bring to the conversation from experience — from doing what you do with other customers, or over time.
What have you learned? You would give that information in a briefing, and often not get the same visibility or rapport with your own base. Go direct.
Another great example is what Chris Guillebeau is doing with the Unconventional Guides [affiliate link]. Tons of value from his experience that can save you serious money for travel, get you on your "pay for" way as an artist, and get you going as an entrepreneur.
Last week, I talked about content as business asset from the demand creation strategy angle. Incidentally, I got a couple of emails from people who were looking for advice on how to maximize their earnings off their sites.
Use the comment form to engage with the community and further the discussion. Take advantage of this free resource for questions, and your take on topics. All this great content here is free — 1,475 posts. Anything else is called billable work. Simonides of Keos had the right technique to say that.
I look forward to seeing those of you who will be at Confab2011 next week.