The Cost of Content: “Not Free but Effective”

in Blogging, Content Marketing

Last week I wrote a post about what we’d learned from the launch of – our site devoted to innovative business ideas.

In that post I noted that we hadn’t spent a dime on it as yet. However, Newt Barrett (co-author of Get Content. Get Customers.) commented that, where we’ve been able to use existing resources and knowledge to help get the site off to a good start, other businesses may not be in the same position.

I think it’s a very valid point.

So, I thought it would be worthwhile to run through some of the costs associated with developing a content project like Iddictive – both the financial costs and opportunity costs.

The Cost of Developing a Content Strategy

The first cost worth considering is the cost of developing a content marketing strategy.

It is perfectly possible to gain a good understanding of content marketing by reading sites like this, Junta42, ContentMarketingToday and WebInkNow for example.

Add to that, a few good books on the subject and time spent reading and researching other effective content-led sites and you should have a good handling of the basics.

However, the time spent doing those things in an opportunity cost in itself. As an alternative, you may choose to bring in expert help to help you devise your strategy – again at a cost.

A well-planned content strategy however, is certainly worth the investment – and may well save you money going forward.

The Costs of Developing Your ‘Delivery Mechanism’

Once you’ve devised the strategy, there will no doubt be costs incurred in developing the website or print publication at the center of that strategy. In our case we chose a blog format as a cost-effective way to deliver our content.

To elaborate a little:

  • We chose the Thesis wordpress theme - a personal license runs at about $87 (we already had a developer version).
  • We use a few different designers for installing and tweaking themes – none of whom charge more than £200 to customize a site. By basing the design on our existing site we were able to do this without cost.
  • The domain name and hosting fees are nominal.

All together the setup for a similar site wouldn’t be more than a few hundred dollars – less if you used a standard theme, integrated the concept into an existing site or had existing design knowledge you could draw on.

The Cost of Developing Content

Good content takes time to develop. If you adopt a DIY approach you’ll need to be able to devote regular, consistent effort to creating it.

If we take a blog as an example then researching, writing and formating could easily run to an hour per post. On that basis, a post per day adds up to around 20 hours per month – a sizable investment for any small business.

Of course, you could choose to outsource some or all of your content creation. Again, if we take a blog as an example, freelance bloggers can charge anything from $15 to $50 or more per post.

As a rough guideline, 3 or 4 posts per week would certainly cost in the region of $500 a month.

The Cost of Promoting Your Content

If you already have a solid network of contacts (ideally online) then promotion of your content needn’t be expensive. Our promotional efforts for the new site have been largely via social media and a handful of news releases – and have therefore been free of any direct financial cost.

However, developing a ‘readership’ from scratch takes time so it’s important that either (a) that time is factored into the strategy or, (b) a budget is devoted to promoting your content.


If a potential client knocked on our door in search of a similar project to Iddictive, a full quote would have to take account of the time and financial costs involved in planning, development, content creation and marketing.

That said, the ongoing project costs could compare favorably to an ad or two in the trade press or local papers. Indeed, there’s an awful lot that could be accomplished on a budget well below $1000 a month.

And if you wanted to take the DIY approach, a few hundred to get you started would be sufficient – but you’ll need to be prepared to make a serious investment of your time.

A combination of outsourcing and in-house development is usually the approach we take with clients.

Certainly anyone considering a similar project needs to view it as a long term investment but where traditional advertising methods are becoming less effective for small businesses, a site like Iddictive provides an alternative – a content asset as opposed to an advertising cost.

Thanks Newt for raising a valuable point.


Joe Pulizzi 01.26.09 at 3:05 pm

Mark…this is an excellent point. Since we are “in the business”, sometimes we discount how truly difficult it is to first develop a content strategy, then to execute that strategy like you did with Iddictive.

Most organizations can develop content, but they have trouble creating content that makes sense as part of the overall marketing plan.

Content marketing is too important to leave to just the marketing department alone (unless they understand content strategy and can take their “sales” hats off). Outsourcing is key!

Of course I’d say that though…we built our business around it. ;)

Tom Lindstrom 01.29.09 at 12:24 pm

A business that is built around quality content cannot fail in my opinion.As long as there are search engines and people searching for information and you can provide it, you will make money.

The problem for many people is that they cannot write quality content.

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