Offering freebies as incentives to join an email list is standard practice in internet marketing. Most marketers focus on getting as many signups as possible by focusing on the freebie and downplaying the email subscription. But is that the best approach?

Amanda Gagnon wrote:

Mentioning email first weeds out people who are only interested in freebies. If they'll unsubscribe immediately or report spam, the sign-up would be worthless.

For those on the fence, though, the download might tip the balance in favor of subscription. And people who sign up for the sake of the emails receive an instant thank-you gift.

Granted, someone who unsubscribes as soon as they've downloaded was never really a subscriber, but I can think of a few advantages to going for more subscribers, even if they're not all golden prospects:

1) Some of the marginal prospects who you lose by emphasizing the subscription might have become buyers, especially if your follow-up is good.

2) If the freebie itself promotes your products or reminds them of your brand, getting it into the hands of marginal prospects can lead to more sales, even if they do unsubscribe immediately.

What do you think? What advantages are there to having a smaller list with only good prospects vs. a larger list with both good and bad? What do you have to do to take capitalize on those advantages? When might a bigger list be better, even if the quality is lower?