Strategic Decision

Ungated content can often feel like a missed opportunity. Advertisers typically determine when to gate content based on the value of the content versus the behavior or sentiment of the target audience. Advertisers can take the perspective of their clients or target audience when valuing content, but there is bias inherent in being the creator of the content. Brand reputation, content quality, and context (placement) all must be considered when evaluating the value of specific content. Irrespective of the value, “to gate or not to gate” is a strategic decision.

Chris Walker, CEO of Refine Labs, in an online post, offers the following in favor of ungated content:

  • Ungated content is higher quality because it is developed for impact beyond simply selling a product.
  • Ungated content offers the opportunity for wider distribution, creating more opportunities for purchase because it’s “free,” and casting a wider net to gather more prospective customers.

Responses to Chris’s post recognized the impact of ungated content to marketers who use gated content as part of a lead generation strategy. When you eliminate gates, you risk losing the contact information for high-value marketing qualified leads (MQL). Flipping to strictly ungated content is a significant strategic decision and should not be taken lightly. If the ungated content doesn’t create the groundswell of uptake as expected, you will experience  a drop in MQLs and a stream of concerned emails from your sales and management teams.

It’s also important to consider where you are in your company lifecycle. Mature companies with well established brands can gate more content because the developer community understands the quality of the offering and is willing to maintain the relationship through information exchange. Less-established brands will have to give more content away to establish their reputation and build trusting relationships.

The Middle Ground

As with any marketing strategy, there is a middle ground which offers compromises beyond the extremes of an exclusive gating strategy, but it goes back to the value of the content. As part of your strategy, consider gating high-value content and offering ungated lower-value content. This strategy can actually be employed in the same piece of content. For example, a white paper that is ungated may contain a link to a piece of higher-value content that is gated. Depending on the platform and sophistication of your website, you can also consider offering a taste of your gated content with an on-site preview or trial. This is especially powerful for content that is perishable or has an expiration date, such as a live event, or for content that involves use of the product, such as a limited trial of a software tool.

The Cost of Admission

For technical information, the “gate” to your developer content should simply be name, email, and possibly company name. Requesting a phone number or credit card is beyond the value of most content and into the realm of an e-commerce transaction, such as for a product trial. As described in our post, “Info-gating Principles”, developers are skeptical, and predatory gating practices don’t go over well. Not only will you lose the interaction, but you could turn the developer against your brand. Hanging in the balance is the relationship with the developer versus the cost of admission.

Ultimately, while you want to generate revenue, you also want to create sustaining relationships with your developer communities. Your content strategy plays a big role in how developers view your brand, and your content gating strategy will change as you grow and your brand matures.


Content is more than a valuable commodity. While it’s a prime competitive differentiator, it’s also the communication bridge to new customers.  It also serves as the foundation for building and maintaining trusting relationships. Judicious use of gates will help your audience gauge the value of your offering, and help establish a level of trust with your company. Gating does not have to be a zero-sum game — it can be a win-win strategy if your expectations are aligned with the value of your content. The DeveloperMedia Advertising Guide can be a good resource in helping you develop or evaluate your gating strategy.