Saturday, March 01, 2008

The Business of Free-conomics

He's done it again. Fresh off the press is Chris Anderson's "Free" in Wired Magazine. In 2004, Anderson changed the way business and the Web was conducted through his visionary Long Tail. Two years later, Anderson's back with the idea of "free." While the long tail proved the staple for Web 2.0, please put "free" into your lexicon for the upcoming Web 3.0.

Giving away things for free has been around for a long time. Think Gillette. In fact, the open source software movement is not unlike the shareware movement a decade earlier. (Remember that first game of Wolfenstein?) Like the long tail, Anderson synthesizes "Free" according to six principles:

(1) "Freemium" - Another percent principle: the 1% rule. For every user who pays for the premium version of the site, 99 others get the basic free version.

(2) Advertising - What's free? How about content, services, and software, just to name a few. Who's it free to? How about everyone.

(3) Cross-subsidies - It's not piracy even though it appears like piracy. The fact is, any product that entices you to pay for something else. In the end, everyone will to pay will eventually pay, one way or another.

(4) Zero Marginal Cost - Anything that can be distributed without an appreciable cost to anyone.

(5) Labour Exchange - The act of using sites and services actually creates something of value, either improving the service itself or creating information that can be useful somewhere else.

(6) Gift Economy - Money isn't everything in the new Web. In the monetary economy, this free-ness looks like madness; but that it's only shortsightedness when measuring value about the worth of what's created.

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