Gated vs.Ungated Content: What Works Best in Today’s Market?

Gated vs.Ungated Content: What Works Best in Today’s Market? written by Tosin Jerugba read more at Duct Tape Marketing

The Duct Tape Marketing Podcast with John Jantsch

In this episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast, I interviewed Jonathan Gandolf, the founder and CEO of The Juice, a B2B content platform aimed at solving marketers’ biggest pain points in distribution, reach, and audience engagement. Jonathan Gandolf’s career has spanned craft beer to digital marketing, leading to his current venture which is often described as the “Spotify for B2B content.”

During our insightful conversation, we delved into the ever-evolving landscape of content marketing, focusing on the contentious debate between gated and ungated content. He shared valuable insights from his extensive experience, providing actionable strategies for how businesses can effectively use content to engage their audience and drive conversions.

Key Takeaways

Jonathan Gandolf emphasizes that content must educate and entertain to build trust and engagement, noting that ungated content is 26% more engaging than gated content. He highlights AI’s role in enhancing content creation and distribution efficiencies, while also underscoring the irreplaceable value of human experience and wisdom. Although he sees strategic value in occasionally gating content to provide customized experiences, he advocates primarily for ungated content to attract genuine audience interaction.


Questions I ask Jonathan Gandolf:

[02:50] What’s the state of content today?

[04:33] Tell us about the impact of AI and content creation?

[07:54] What’s your take on the most effective way to distribute content?

[12:12] Where is generative search leading us?

[13:13] How do you approach attribution?

[15:52] Is there someplace you’d like people to connect with you find out more about your work?



More About Jonathan Gandolf:



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Connect with John Jantsch on LinkedIn


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(01:03): Hello and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. This is John Jantsch. My guest today is Jonathan Gandolf. He’s the founder and CEO of the Juice, a B2B content platform on a career path that has wandered through digital marketing, craft beer, and content marketing. He and the team at the Juice are now solving marketers biggest pain points when it comes to distribution, reach, and audience engagement. So Jonathan, welcome to the show.

Jonathan Gandolf (01:30): John, thanks so much for having me. I’m excited to be here.

John Jantsch (01:33): So I don’t always start with this question, but I think in your case, I’d better start with if somebody came up and you said, so Jonathan, what do you do for a living? How would you describe what you do? Or more specifically maybe what the juice is?

Jonathan Gandolf (01:46): Yeah, at our core, we sell marketing to marketers, which is, I always try to tiptoe around the question of what do you do, but maybe a slightly longer explanation. Everything we do as consumers is curated for us, whether you’re looking for news, music, movies, home fashion, traveling, there’s a website that connects buyer and seller based on the buyer’s information or what they are interested in, or maybe it connects creator and consumer. I was a B2B marketer and I was just sitting here, man, we create a piece of content, we put it on our website, create a piece of content, put it on our website. It’s like, why are we all fighting each other to send traffic to our own website? Let’s get all of the content in one place and then let’s let software play matchmaker between the creator and consumer, buyer and seller. And so that’s what we’ve built. So long answer, probably long answer to a short question, but I try to say we’re like Spotify for B2B content,

John Jantsch (02:42): So you’ve always got to use the We’re like Airbnb, but for Exactly,

Jonathan Gandolf (02:46): Exactly.

John Jantsch (02:47): Very cliche

Jonathan Gandolf (02:48): To do that, but yeah, guilty of charged.

John Jantsch (02:50): So if somebody were to ask you, what’s the state of content today? I know that’s a giant question, but what are we going through? We had the point where content is king. No, no, no. Contest air. That’s what I mean. Again, when you talk about the biggest pain point of solving it, what’s the state of content today and we’ll into, we’ll have to get into AI and things like that, but just generally speaking, what’s the state

Jonathan Gandolf (03:15): Evolving, I would say would be the one word. I think how I sometimes summarize it up, HubSpot created inbound marketing movement around 20 10, 20 12, somewhere in there. And it was really novel when it first started to create a piece of content, drive inbound traffic, get information, and it worked really well, but it worked so well that everybody started doing it, and it feels like that’s ran its course now. And now different channels are emerging. I think different content formats are emerging as well as emerging technologies. So I just think it’s all changing very quickly, but I think the punchline is that good content, and I think I define that as content that educates or entertains still resonates and still works. How you deliver it might be changing how somebody consumes it might be changing, but good content still works.

John Jantsch (04:01): Yeah, I think unfortunately the message that a lot of people hear is, oh, I just need more. And I think that sort of goes against what you just stated, isn’t it?

Jonathan Gandolf (04:09): I totally agree. I think more for the sake of more, there’s a lot of people caught on that content hamster wheel. I call it create just because it’s status quo and I think that’s not the right motion to be stuck in.

John Jantsch (04:21): I’m only four minutes into the show and we’ll start talking about AI just because it has such impact. It has impact on many areas of business, but it clearly on content is a place that is impacted. How do you talk about the role of AI and content creation?

Jonathan Gandolf (04:35): There are so many different ways you can use it. I view it more as an operational efficiency as opposed to a creator, right? There are ways you can use it to create SEO content at scale. There are ways you can use it to create blogs at scale, but I view it more as an operational efficiency. I think you might be doing this, taking this podcast recording and turning it into a transcript and then atomizing that transcript into newsletter copy, ad copy, social copy, whatever, that kind of operational efficiency. I think there’s a ton of opportunity there, but I almost view that as that’s almost like as much a technology as it is a CMO technology, but that’s a operational activity. The one that I think goes under discussed or isn’t being discussed enough is how consumers, how marketing consumers of content are using ai. I think it’s going to have some search implications and we’re starting to see some of that come to life.

(05:30): I think the other thing is, and this is something we talk a lot about at the juice, is if somebody comes across a 20 page ebook, are they going to sit down and read that or are they going to drop that link into their favorite GPT and say, Hey, give me the five takeaways, give me the key insights from this, and so then does the type of content we should be producing that still is human created change altogether? I think there’s still some level setting to happen there on how consumers are using AI in their day-to-day.

John Jantsch (05:58): Yeah, I think that’s a really great point. So maybe the five key points I was going to write about are now on one page, right?

Jonathan Gandolf (06:05): Exactly. Yeah.

John Jantsch (06:07): So let me flip that. I asked about the role of ai. What’s the role of humans? Now,

Jonathan Gandolf (06:12): That’s a loaded question. I’ll share with you what I share with some of our customers. I always say share what I think your own knowledge, your own wisdom that you’ve gained over lived experience. I think sometimes we discount that as humans because it can’t be put in a spreadsheet. We’ll say, oh, I made that decision off of gut instinct and it’s got instinct, but it’s gut instinct derived from years of experiences and years of similar decisions that you’ve made. So I think that should carry just as much weight as sometimes what you can put in a spreadsheet. And I think taking that experience, that wisdom and knowledge and sharing it is always really good. As well as templates we see on our platform templates outperform any other type of content by a factor of about three x. So I think a lot of times people are, they want to learn from each other and the ability to share that knowledge is really powerful. And then the last one I’ll mention is proprietary data. That’s still the one thing that AI can’t replicate, at least not yet. If your platform or your product or your service creates this proprietary data set that you can look at and analyze and create unique insights that can’t be replicated. And so we’re always trying to coach customers on sharing content that has data in it like

John Jantsch (07:22): That, just don’t share it with the GPT.

Jonathan Gandolf (07:25): It’s true. Once that’s going to all get

John Jantsch (07:28): Aggregated,

Jonathan Gandolf (07:29): It’s going to be interesting to see. Yeah, we’re all going to learn.

John Jantsch (07:33): So one of the challenges I think for a lot of marketers today is that people are consuming content in there the way they want to, the journey. They want to go on the format they want to consume it in. And so it really makes, it’s almost like you can’t produce a piece of content. You have to produce a piece of content that is repackaged into 40 pieces of content or different formats at least. What’s your take on the most effective way to maybe do that, particularly when it comes to distribution, which is a big part of what you do?

Jonathan Gandolf (08:02): I would say great content doesn’t convert. If you’re creating content to convert, it is become very trendy to say great content converts. And I think if conversion is your goal with a piece of content, I think you’re going into it with the wrong intent. I say great content educates and entertains, and you’re right. So much of what is happening, how buyers buy right now is changing so much and so much of it happens in that dark funnel or in that dark social or just outside of your periphery that you just have to create quality content and then have an immense amount of trust in your team and your product to convert to them when they are ready to be converted. I think the days of pushing literally, maybe not literally, but figuratively pushing somebody through a pipeline or through a funnel with content, I think that’s an old school way to think about how buyers are interacting with content nowadays.

John Jantsch (08:56): Yeah, I don’t think the customer journey is very linear. That’s very darn sure. I always say that you talked about great content converts. What I always say is trust converts, and that’s really what great content does. Build

Jonathan Gandolf (09:08): Trust. I be stealing that one.

John Jantsch (09:09): You go for it. Let’s talk about for years it was so novel to actually make somebody opt in to get a piece of content, and we would do it by the millions. Now we see it when we test it that people will turn away from a form today. However, as marketers, there’s always that, but if I don’t capture the lead, I can’t continue to market it to them. Where do you fall on gated versus non?

Jonathan Gandolf (09:33): We published a 23 page ebook in the fall about gated versus ung gated content. So what’s interesting

John Jantsch (09:38): About Wait, did you have opt in for it or not?

Jonathan Gandolf (09:40): So that’s the punchline. That’s the punchline. I’m going to get there. I’ll get there. So the unique thing about our platform is you sign up for it once and everything’s gated. And we have what? We have resources that were originally gated or ungated on our platform. So it’s a level playing field, over 300,000 resources. We saw that ungated content actually is 26% more engaging than gated content. So we as marketers were making this decision to put what we thought was more engaging content behind a form, on a level playing field. It’s actually not the more engaging content, it is just content that we have arbitrarily decided to gate. And I think what’s happened, I mentioned this a little bit earlier, is when gated content is novel, it worked. I think it became so ubiquitous that now content consumers know what’s happening When they put their data in a form, they’re going to get a call, they’re going to get an email, they’re going to be in a drip.

(10:33): And I’ve done it, I’ve seen it in our own forms where you get things like Daffy Duck, James Bond, mark Zuckerberg filled out on the form, and then you end up passing that spreadsheet to the sales team. The sales team says this is low quality and it actually, it’s diminishing trust between sales and marketing. So we found the content that was ungated was actually more engaging. And I still think there’s a time and place to gate content if you’re adding value with that information. So if you’re getting something like job function and that allows you to pass along a piece of content to that person that’s specific to that job function, compensation reports are a great example of that. I think that’s a way to do it if it’s actually customizing their web experience on your website. So if you’re getting something about them that allows the rest of the experience to be custom, I think that’s good.

(11:22): But if you’re just getting the information and passing it to your sales team, I would not gate content. So we had this interesting, we were really proud of this report. It’s something we’re still really proud of, and we were like a week and a half out from launching it, and somebody on our team asked, wait, are we gating this? And we all just looked around the room, wait a second, are we gating this? We had spent all this time and energy on this report and we hadn’t even thought ourselves, and we said, the data says the ungated content’s more engaging, so it’s an ungated report and that’s where we fall on it. But I was actually really impressed by the nuance of the conversations we had with marketers on it, and I am more of the belief now that there is a time to gate content and a time to ungate content for us. We’ve made the decision to have most of our content.

John Jantsch (12:07): I don’t know if we can call this a bullet point or if this is a whole nother topic, where’s this evolving thing called generative search going to lead us if I never have to actually visit a piece of content? Does it exist?

Jonathan Gandolf (12:21): Yeah. What is it? I think it’s 67% of Google searches end without a click. Now, not an SEO expert, and I’m not an AI expert. What I’ve said is that the SEO game is changing. If I had limited resources as a marketer in terms of financial, I would not be increasing my investment in SEO right now. But the behavior of search from our consumers will never go away. They’re always going to be searching. I don’t know where or where the results they’re going to be getting or coding to come from three years from now, two years from now, one year from now. But the behavior of search isn’t going away. I would just be cautious about investing in the current model of search.

John Jantsch (13:00): Yeah, so one of the things that’s always been a challenge, like if you run an ad, somebody clicks on the ad and buys something, attribution’s pretty simple content. I went here, then I went here, then I went and got lunch, then I came back and did this. It’s like, how do you approach attribution, especially when we are trying to get through that ultimate conversion.

Jonathan Gandolf (13:19): I’m going to give a super unsophisticated answer here, but to me, and this wouldn’t have been my answer probably two years ago, but we’ve learned a lot of the juice. Just ask, I think set up the system so that you can have a good educated guess at where that should be attributed, but whether it’s in a form or whether it’s in a conversation or in an onboarding call, just ask and let them tell you. And it’s still going to be an exact, they might’ve seen a display ad that they don’t remember that led them to LinkedIn that led them to following somebody on your team. But self-reported attribution, I’ve become a really big fan of and just taking the time and asking,

John Jantsch (13:59): And with traditional marketers, this is a bit controversial, but I sometimes wonder if we’re trying too hard to get attribution when maybe it doesn’t matter if we’re doing all the right things, if we’re actually putting ourselves in the path of where we think people are going, do we actually have to know exactly how they got there? Because I think sometimes just what you said, if the first thing on the dropdown menu is a Google ad, most people are going to choose that. And does that actually lead us to making wrong decisions as opposed to saying, let’s cover the journey as thoroughly as we can in the best way we think we can and then hope it converts.

Jonathan Gandolf (14:39): I’m biased, but I think that’s part of the magic of marketing is that it is a gray science, and I think if you try to over-engineer the attribution too much to make it black and white, you’re going to end up with really boring results and boring outputs from that. I think, like you said, you have to have the trust that this blend of everything that you’re doing is going to give you the results that your team needs.

John Jantsch (15:02): So I’m a content marketer or an agency. Pitch me on what I would get if I came to the Juice and had you help me with my marketing.

Jonathan Gandolf (15:10): Absolutely. So the juice is going to sync with where you’re already publishing content. We don’t host your content, we’re just pulling in the metadata and then presenting it to our audience. We’ve got almost a hundred thousand sales and marketing leaders on our platform who’ve come to our platform because they’re looking for content, right? But they might not know your brand exists. They might not find it in search, but what we do is we play matchmaker between a high quality engaged audience and brands trying to reach that audience, and we’ve got insight into both sides, and then we just play matchmaker and we’re going to distribute your content for you that you’re already doing without changing your behavior. You’re going to get access to an engaged audience, and we’re going to play Matchmaker for you.

John Jantsch (15:48): Awesome. Jonathan, I appreciate you taking a moment to stop by the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. Is there anywhere you’d invite people to find out more or connect with you?

Jonathan Gandolf (15:55): Sure. Reach out to me on LinkedIn and then you can visit our platform as a user and start receiving content recommendations. It’s free, it’s

John Jantsch (16:04): Awesome. Again, I appreciate you taking a moment to stop by, and hopefully we’ll run into you one of these days out there on the road.