Years ago, savvy entrepreneurs learned there was an opportunity to make a lot of money selling information online.  While that opportunity still exists, many top marketers have chosen to make their information available to the masses for free... and have profited wildly as a result.

Online information comes in many forms.  There are blog articles, social media posts, white papers, videos, webinars, and e-books.  Just as the marketers of the past learned how to turn this information into dollars, a new wave of marketers have learned to offer their information in exchange for something more valuable: authority.

Being an authority figure in your niche comes with many perks.  One such perk is media attention.  When a journalist is writing an article on a particular subject, he or she often looks for the leading authority in that subject to interview or even just mention in the piece.  This can create a snowball effect.  The more media mentions a marketer gets, the more media want to quote or interview him.  This is the type of brand recognition that money simply cannot buy.

Another perk is loyalty.  Consumers have long looked to authority figures for answers. Those who give away quality information build a fan base of grateful followers. It's not difficult to convert these followers into paying customers.

Gary Vaynerchuk is one such marketer who has been wildly successful with this game plan.  While working in his father's wine store, Vaynerchuk learned the art of exchanging valuable content for more sales.  He spent the better part of a year in online chat forums, answering thousands of questions about wine buying.  Eventually, he took to YouTube and created an online wine TV show, where he tasted and described several different wines on each episode.  

As the show grew in popularity, so did Vaynerchuk's public profile.  This eventually led to an appearance on Late Night With Conan O'Brien, further boosting his recognition as a wine authority and growing the family business into a $60 million-per-year enterprise.

In 2008, E. Brian Rose was selling hearing aids online.  He discovered that nobody was filling the role of an authority figure in that marketplace, so he took it upon himself to occupy the position.  A series of free videos and e-books on the subject quickly catapulted him to the role of the go-to person.  This led to a significant increase in sales.  

After selling the hearing aid business, Rose (or EBR, as he is known to his friends and followers) began teaching the art of marketing to entrepreneurs wanting to make a living online. Using the same blueprint he used in the hearing aid sector, EBR published a series of free e-books, webinars, and videos that were shared throughout the marketing community.  When it came time for EBR and his partners to launch, an online platform for buying and selling digital goods, the following he'd built came along for the ride, quickly turning the startup into a multi-million-dollar business.

Today, EBR continues to follow the path of swapping free information for authority. His series of free training videos give online entrepreneurs valuable tips and tricks of the trade.

Grant Cardone has long been a staple in the automobile industry, teaching thousands of car salesmen how to increase their conversions.  Now, thanks to the internet, Cardone has taken his sales training and motivational messages to a much broader audience. He utilizes Facebook to deliver truckloads of free videos, inspirational posts, and memes that get shared hundreds of times by those who follow him.  The more he delivers for free, the more his messages get viewed and shared.  

Recently, Cardone began using FaceBook Live as a new way to engage with his audience and deliver free content.  His work has paid off, as he is now selling millions of dollars' worth of training to an audience that far surpasses just the auto industry.

With the online tools widely available to everyone, becoming the go-to person in your industry is not as difficult as it used to be.  Gone are the days when you had to spend thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars in advertising to get your brand recognized.  Today, free content is proving an effective way to build authority.