Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Free Chris Anderson!

No he’s not in jail. At least not that I know of...
Chris Anderson, author of “The Long Tail” is working on his next book “Free” – due out in 2009.

As is usual for most authors, a second book is going to be a continuation of their first in some form and Anderson follows this path.

The Long Tail (see Book Rapper Issue 1) showed that the economics of the web and digital products extends the potential for profit from mega-hits to micro-niches.
The previously unprofitable is now viable and there is virtually a market for everything.

‘Free’ zeroes in (sic!) on the web dynamics of digital distribution. If a product costs nothing to distribute then it can be given away to entice an audience.

The obvious question is… “If your product becomes ‘free’ then how do you make money?”

Here's four FREE strategies for you to consider...
  1. The typical model is to provide a basic service for free and charge for the premium one. For instance, Skype offers free web calls and charges for calls to mobiles or landlines. The power and weakness of this approach is the ability to build a huge market through the free offer and have enough scale to earn a living from the 1% who do pay. If you don’t get sufficient scale you go broke.
  2. The alternative is to presume that content is free and become a distributor instead. Think iTunes and call yourself an aggregator of content.
  3. Google has a third strategy – that old favourite, advertising. Whilst searching is free people pay for more prominence in the hope of attracting more eyeballs.
  4. A fourth model is shareware. Let people use your product and then they can pay if they want to. The web is a disruptive tool and ‘Free’ needs to be considered in your web strategy today. It may even change your entire business model. What are you giving away?
PS: No, I don’t think Anderson's book will be free, although it should be to prove his point. Seth Godin’s first book showed that ‘free’ works. Seth built a huge following by giving away his book in digital form and was still able to make some good sales when the book when physical some time later.

Some Resources

“Free” article as published in Wired Magazine
3 minutes of Chris Anderson on YouTube (video)

Cory Doctorow connects ‘Free’ and ‘The Long Tail’

Chris Anderson's blog

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