I have been listening to a free ebook (also available in print..at a small cost.. but more about that later) from the Chris Anderson called “Free” via podcast on my iPhone over the last few days.
He mentions in his eBook the declining cost of information due to what he calls the “Triple Play” of the digital age.
- Processor power doubling every 12 months
- Bandwidth increasing at an even faster rate every year due to technology moving Terabits (they are a 1000 times larger than a Megabit) over the same optical fibre instead of just “mere” Megabits
- Storage costs dropping at an even faster rate, so that every time January one passes, you can have more storage on our iPhone than our PC had 5 years ago at a fraction of the price
The essence of his book reminded me of an article I had read 12 months ago by Kevin Kelly called “Better Than Free” where he discussed what he believes, are the types of experiences, services and products that people will be willing to “pay for” in the digital age where the price of information is dropping to Zero, due to the capability of the Web as a ” Copying Machine” to create, package and deliver information anywhere, anytime for so close to no cost, that it might as well be free.
He said “When copies are super abundant, they become worthless, stuff which can’t be copied becomes scarce and valuable..When copies are free, you need to sell things which cannot be copied”
So what are we giving away for free in Social Media?
- Unique content on your blog, website and other digital mediums
- YouTube Videos on how to peel a banana.. or maybe how to use a new “Twitter App”
- eBooks that tell you how to tune a 1969 Jaguar
- Podcast on how to Use LinkedIn for networking
- Webinars in Video, Audio and Text formats that instruct us how to almost do anything
- Images on Flickr under “Creative Commons Licence” that I use on my blog posts.. for free
- Powerpoint presentations on “Slideshare” that reveal valuable “IP” (Intellectual Property) that has been developed over decades of blood sweat and tears
- Whitepapers on how to create an online marketing strategy.
Why are these given away and for what purpose? Well may be to
- Create trust
- Attract some “attention”
- Gain credibility
- Display you and your company as a “thought leader”
- Position yourself as an authority in your market
- To be “benevolent”
- Because you can
- You like to share
So, what can’t be copied and can be perceived to be valuable that people are willing to pay for ?
Here is Kevin Kelly’s take on what people are willing to pay for and why.. he calls them “Generatives”
” A generative value is a quality or attribute that must be generated, grown, cultivated, nurtured. A generative thing can not be copied, cloned, faked, replicated, counterfeited, or reproduced. It is generated uniquely, in place, over time. In the digital arena, generative qualities add value to free copies, and therefore are something that can be sold”.
So he lists 8 Generatives that can be sold and monetized because they can’t be copied,cloned or faked.
- Immediacy — Sooner or later you can find a free copy of whatever you want, but getting a copy delivered to your inbox the moment it is released — or even better, produced — by its creators is a generative asset.
- Personalization — A generic version of a concert recording may be free, but if you want a copy that has been tweaked to sound perfect in your particular living room — as if it were preformed in your room — you may be willing to pay a lot.
- Interpretation — As the old joke goes: software, free. The manual, $10,000. But it’s no joke. A couple of high profile companies, like Red Hat, Apache, and others make their living doing exactly that. They provide paid support for free software.
- Authenticity — You might be able to grab a key software application for free, but even if you don’t need a manual, you might like to be sure it is bug free, reliable, and warranted. You’ll pay for authenticity. There are nearly an infinite number of variations of the Grateful Dead jams around; buying an authentic version from the band itself will ensure you get the one you wanted.
- Accessibility — Ownership often sucks. You have to keep your things tidy, up-to-date, and in the case of digital material, backed up. And in this mobile world, you have to carry it along with you. Many people, me included, will be happy to have others tend our “possessions” by subscribing to them.
- Embodiment — At its core the digital copy is without a body. You can take a free copy of a work and throw it on a screen. But perhaps you’d like to see it in hi-res on a huge screen? Maybe in 3D? PDFs are fine, but sometimes it is delicious to have the same words printed on bright white cottony paper, bound in leather. Feels so good. And nothing gets embodied as much as music in a live performance, with real bodies. The music is free; the bodily performance expensive. This formula is quickly becoming a common one for not only musicians, but even authors. The book is free; the bodily talk is expensive.
- Patronage — It is my belief that audiences WANT to pay creators. Fans like to reward artists, musicians, authors and the like with the tokens of their appreciation, because it allows them to connect. But they will only pay if it is very easy to do, a reasonable amount, and they feel certain the money will directly benefit the creators. Radiohead’s recent high-profile experiment in letting fans pay them whatever they wished for a free copy is an excellent illustration of the power of patronage. The elusive, intangible connection that flows between appreciative fans and the artist is worth something. In Radiohead’s case it was about $5 per download. There are many other examples of the audience paying simply because it feels good.
- Findability — Where as the previous generative qualities reside within creative digital works, findability is an asset that occurs at a higher level in the aggregate of many works. A zero price does not help direct attention to a work, and in fact may sometimes hinder it. But no matter what its price, a work has no value unless it is seen; unfound masterpieces are worthless. When there are millions of books, millions of songs, millions of films, millions of applications, millions of everything requesting our attention — and most of it free — being found is valuable. The giant aggregators such as Amazon and Netflix make their living in part by helping the audience find works they love.
So how does Chris Anderson make money using this “Freemium Model”? He will gain trust, attention, credibility and knowledge leadership via “Free” that will allow him to be highly paid for
- Personalised consulting to corporations
- “Embodied” Public speaking
- “Embodied” copies of his book
So how are you converting “Free” into cash ?