This content first appeared in my email newsletter, The Executive’s Guide to the Content Galaxy. Subscribe to the EGCG.


A gallon of gas, a cup of coffee, a dozen eggs — everything has gotten more expensive. “The economy” has raised the price of a good breakfast — and the cost of doing business.


So that means the costs of producing content have followed suit, right? Right?


Curious, I dug back through old content pricing guides to compare production costs. We’ll use the press release as a point of comparison since it’s one of the few content types that have survived the 21st-century digital revolution relatively intact.


Here’s a page from a guide using sales data collected from members of over 20 professional writing groups in 2006 (when Daniel Powter serenaded us about our Bad Days over the airwaves):

Apologies for the tiny text, but this guide suggests a typical higher-end range of $479-1,500 per press release.


Now, here’s a page from AWAI’s Copywriting Guide for 2024 (a time when Taylor Swift rules a wholly digital music world):

Smack dab between long-form VSLs, podcast scripts, and e-book copy, our humble press release will cost you $500-1,000.


Eighteen years. Zero change in the pay range.

Content is truly doing more with less

Why the lack of movement on production costs? Many factors could be at play. Perhaps:

  • The press release’s value has decreased since 2006, as they don’t reach receptive audiences as well as they used to. (I see static prices across multiple content types, so I’m not totally buying in on this theory.)
  • Writers, in the aggregate, haven’t figured out how to charge more for their work. (I could believe this since many writers are scared to talk about money, and 2006’s content mills are giving way to 2024’s ChatGPTs for producing cheap content, forcing prices down. And with increasing layoffs, a larger supply of writers to meet softening demand leads to lower prices for everyone.)
  • Marketing leaders struggle to sell the value of content internally, and lower prices reflect the discount this places on content. (If finance has ever grilled you on “marketing’s ROI,” you know this pain intimately.)

Whenever companies hop on the cost-cutting train, budget line items anywhere near “marketing and communications” get slashed. With a mandate to “do more with less,” marketing heads fight tooth and claw for every scrap of available capital and have to show returns on that money faster.


This makes the potential struggle to sell content on its value truly fascinating because content is one of the best value drivers in marketing. Research shows that while content marketing is 62% less expensive overall than other forms of marketing, it generates three times the leads.


Plus, content is how companies establish their thought leadership, define the industry landscape, position their brands as go-to options, and be seen as the experts. Brand goodwill is hard to calculate but is a key part of this equation.


Yet, marketing still struggles for that seat at the table. And writers (freelance, contract, full-time, whatever) typically love the craft of writing — not selling. The sheer volume of “learn to sell and become a six-figure freelancer” BS courses bolster this point. They don’t feel comfortable selling on value, only on a per word or per hour basis. And in choppy economic waters, any project could be mighty fine, no matter how low the price.


Ergo, our pricing stalemate.

What do we do about valuing content better?

As leaders in agencies and marketing departments, you’re in a tough spot. You shouldn’t necessarily be pushing freelancers to charge you more (lest you incur the wrath of a finance team). But stagnant prices are warping our perception of content’s value in a marketing program — which, if you’re an agency selling content to your clients, affects your final sale prices.


Sometimes, we’re simply operating with tight budgets. My Wednesday Word video on this topic dives into specific options for producing content on tighter budgets. The tactics I explore in the video can help you accomplish the “doing more with less” mandate.


Other times, however, we still need to establish content’s value proposition and position it well to clients. How much of the production pipeline are you supporting? What headaches does that alleviate for your client? What time and energy costs are you reducing? What new opportunities are this content creating? And can you quantify those answers?


Once we’ve better defined the opportunities content unlocks, we can lead sales conversations from a place of value to command premiums. Moreover, you can involve, instruct, and empower team leaders throughout your agency to recognize sales opportunities and sell on value.


What does that look like?

  • Assess your current salable opportunities and broader market trends for context. Are more people needing case studies to close deals but struggling to find people to handle interviews, drafts, and edits?
  • Create 2-3 semi-customizable content options and give those to your account team leads. Focus on selling just those 2-3 options to current clients for the next 90 days.
  • Provide a video or mock selling opportunity to walk account leads through the signal gathering, discovery, offer, and close processes. Help leads understand why they’re selling, how they should do it, and know who to involve from open to close.
  • Reassess your list after 90 days and adjust as needed.

Increase billing and retain top talent with higher content valuations

You can still sell your full suite of upsell options, but this laser-focused selling process keeps your people from getting overwhelmed amid the hundreds of other tasks they balance. Plus, you can empower leaders to lead and feel like they’re contributing to your agency’s success.


Then, if you need help finding the right talent to produce content, you have looser margins you can use to attract them. You want great writers? Look over AWAI’s list and slap 15-25% on the high-end price. Now you’re offering above-market rates and can attract writers who command higher rates. And thanks to higher client contract values, you’re still getting a slice of a bigger pie.


You make more money and retain higher-quality talent. Your writers work with an agency that appreciates their value. And clients gain all the great value content provides.


That’s how we break the pricing stalemate: by making it better for everybody.

If you’re an agency that wants to understand valuing content programs more effectively, let’s chat!


And if you’re ready to improve your content operations, I recommend you learn more about my Content Needs Benchmark Report offer.