The question of whether or not to gate content has largely been settled within the digital marketing world with some widely-accepted general guidelines:
Making the trade: It's common to gate high value content
Encountering a request for some basic contact information before gaining access to someone's high value content like eBooks or webinars is something people have generally come to expect.
The rule of thumb when determining whether something is good enough to be gated is to ask yourself: Is this a worthwhile trade? The contact information of a qualified lead is extremely valuable to you, so ensuring that you are providing something of value in return is critical. Does the content you're offering help them improve their business? Make their lives easier? Save time or money? Learn a valuable skill or approach?
In most cases, self-promotional content should be left ungated
Typically, self-promotional, sales-y or informational content about your products and services should be readily accessible to your audience for a couple reasons. When someone is interested in your stuff, you shouldn't make them work for more details. Also, if you ask yourself the questions from the section above, the answers are likely "no".
However if there's complexity, a larger price tag, longer sales cycle, or a custom solution involved, it's generally acceptable to gate this information (Think, a modular enterprise software solution with a gated price sheet. It's important for the sales team to be able to reach out to help a prospect navigate the document and make sure their needs are understood).
So is there ever a case where you should leave high value content ungated?
Absolutely. What some would fear is a free giveaway of your team's hard work can actually be an excellent strategy for building qualified leads, stronger SEO, and raising your company's profile in the eyes of your audience.
It can be a great SEO play
Search engines want to see that your website has rich and relevant content. By making a comprehensive eBook readily accessible rather than housed in a gated PDF download, you're inviting Google to index a wealth of relevant search terms. And, as a user interacts with the piece (perhaps reading each chapter on a different page), they'll spend more time on site and visit more pages per session than a user that quickly visits a landing page to sign up for a downloadable piece.
It makes you look good
The fewer obstacles that stand between your audience and your content, the more eyeballs you'll have on it. Sharing your expertise without requiring anything in return is a great way to get in front of a larger audience while building some goodwill. With easier access, you'll get to show an even larger group of people how well you know your stuff and how helpful you are.
What about my leads?
The rumors aren't true - you can still build qualified leads with open access content. The gating process only ensures that you are capturing their contact information. It doesn't guarantee a reply to your email or an answered call. If your content is good (helpful, insightful), people will want to talk to you anyway. Plus, bonus points because you weren't all pushy by demanding their email address.
But what if they still don't bite?
Now it's time to get creative. Think of other ways you can potentially capture that email address after you have delivered value. If your eBook is a comprehensive living document that you plan to update, you could prompt readers to sign up to be notified as you add to it. Or, now that you have started to build a "know, like, and trust" relationship, perhaps the audience is better primed for a webinar signup where they can learn more about your products. Put yourself in the mind of one of your prospects, and think about a logical next step they'd be interested in taking.
So how do you decide whether or not to gate? Think through your goals: your short term goals for this specific piece, as well as your long term goals for everything from SEO to perception of your organization. Maybe trying out an ungated content campaign is for you.