Free

Wired is one of those magazines that I always mean to read but never seem to get around to. Not sure why — other stuff always seems to be slightly more pressing, I suppose.

A friend put me onto an article by Wired’s Editor-in-Chief Chris Anderson (who you might remember as the author of The Long Tail, which is essential reading in my opinion). This guy’s smart. Listen to what he has to say.

The article, “Free! Why $0.00 is the Future of Business“, talks about why giving stuff away for free is good for business. And it’s not referring to the calender you get from your local real estate agent each year.

The article opens with Gillette’s impact on the marketplace (he gave away razor handles and made a fortune on disposable blades). We’ve seen a similar phenomenon with computer printers that are nearly free while the ink cartridges cost a fortune.

The last half of the article outlines a taxonomy of 6 categories of free offers. The article is long-ish, but you need to read this part. It’s gold. Read it and think about how a free offer might impact your business. You might be surprised.

(On a side-note, my favorite line comes from off-beat genius Stewart Brand in 1984: “Information wants to be free. Information also wants to be expensive … That tension will not go away.“… Brilliant!).

This is interesting, particularly because of an article in The Guardian in which the Financial Times editor said that “almost all” news sites will charge for content within the year. It might happen as a desperate move by some but as long as we have citizen journalists, Twitter, and a competitive environment where content is offered free as a way to attract eyeballs, we’ll have free content. The only way that the media can charge for their content is if they can prove that they deliver more insight (or some other kind of value) than bloggers/tweeters/free news sites. The Economist does this well right now, and so does Harvard Business Review. But there aren’t a lot of others, I think.

To bring this back to the Business Diamond Framework: Traditional Newsmedia isn’t delivering enough on the Value-Add Diamond to be able to sell anything on the To-Market Diamond; and their Support Diamond is so bloated that their costs are way too high.

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