At Scribewise, we’re really fortunate to be able to deliver a service that people are craving – high quality, audience-focused content. We tell people that we’re an outsourced newsroom that helps them execute their content strategy, and they’re all ears.
And then they ask how much we charge.
And we say, “It depends.”
Which is a completely unsatisfying answer, but also the complete truth.
Because, honestly, what should content cost? Figuring out how to price content is incredibly difficult if your goal is to come up with an equation that is fair for both client and provider (which, honestly, is our goal – we want to be paid fairly for the work we do, but we’re not interested in scamming our clients into overpaying. We want them to be thrilled).
A significant problem is the historic way that organizations have paid for content; typically, they’re focused on the quantity of something – words, hours, something. They are giving the content creators the wrong incentive – ostensibly telling them to spend more time writing or to write longer. Any good content creator knows that less is more.
More importantly, content is not one size fits all. Every client engagement is unique. Every situation requires a specialized approach. Customization requires an understanding of the needs of a particular client, an awareness of what will work best for the client’s audience, and then how best to proceed.
So, with that in mind, here are the factors we’re weighing when trying to figure out our pricing.
You’re probably very aware that you can pay some service $8 per article to write blog posts for you. Seems too good to be true, right? Guess what? It is. These articles are dreadful, often written in a rush by people that don’t know your business, or who will stuff keywords into those articles. They deliver no positive impact to your business. In fact, because of the way Google has updated its algorithms, those articles provide a net negative. Avoid! Quality content – content that actual human beings actually want to consume – is what you’re looking for.
Ultimately, this is the biggest factor for most organizations. They want to know how much are we getting. Obviously that’s a legitimate question, and to a very real extent the most important question. Certainly, non-marketers are going to base a decision on a very pure what-do-I-get-for-what-I-pay measure. You can’t just brush this under the rug.
Here are the typical units of measure for quantifying content, and the problems with each:
By the word
Historically, this is how writers have charged for their services. However, it’s the wrong incentive for the content creator. Fewer words generally equals better writing. Ask Hemingway. So why would you incentivize your content creator to write longer, i.e., less effectively? And then, what happens when the writer submits an article, and you edit out 100 words because you’re trying to make it better? Do you still have to pay for those 100 words?
By the hour
This a very traditional approach used to hiring consultants, but when you stop and look at it, it’s ludicrous. You’re paying someone who works more slowly? This may have made sense once upon a time, but in the crazy fast Internet era, slow is bad. Fast is good. Again, this is the wrong incentive for content creators.
By the article
Big question: What is an article? Is it 400 words? Is it 2000 words? If a content creator delivers you a 2000 word article and you legitimately decide that the best way to deliver it to your audience is in five 400-word chunks, how will you reconcile the payment to the content creator? Did they deliver one article? Or five? Does your head hurt? I know mine does.
One blog post a week? One whitepaper a month? A three-minute video every week? The pace of content matters. From an audience standpoint, more content equals more success … provided that it’s quality content. When coming to an agreement with a content provider, how much is a budgetary question – typically you can dial it up or down, depending upon what you can afford and what you believe the audience wants.
Look, some things are complex and some things are pretty straightforward. Accounting and tax law? Complex. ERP systems? Complex. Health and wellness? Easier. The subject matter matters. If you’re asking to create content around tax law (which, by the way, we’ve had real success doing), it’s going to cost more than the article about stretching before exercising. It just is. One requires a higher level of knowledge and, very likely, significantly more time to complete. So, a 500-word article for an accounting firm is going to cost more than a 500-word article for a fitness center.
So, what does content cost? It depends. Every client is different. Every engagement is customized.
There’s an art to this science.