If you want to be out in front of the next Chris Anderson book every marketing consultant — and worse, your boss — will be quoting in a few months, go ahead and read this Wired magazine article from the March issue that was posted this morning: Free! Why $0.00 Is the Future of Business. Those of us who read Chris’s Long Tail blog have been following along the book’s (and article’s) development (at least mentions of it) for quite a while, but this article is the first step in its public roll-out. And it’s a clever one.
For example, if you are one of the first 10,000 who sign up, Wired will send you a copy of its March issue for free. And not as a part of a subscription offer (but you’ll be trading them you e-mail address for it). In one of those weird magazine things, however, it will probably be April before you receive the copy of the magazine, according to the fine print.
And then, there is the How to Make Money Around Free Content wiki entry on Wired’s How-to Wiki that features a Hugh MacLeod cartoon and a Fred Wilson headline quote (what, no Robert Scoble?)
The topic may seem a bit dated for those among us who are online community, marketing and media obsessed — those who, for example, check in with Seth Godin on an hourly basis. Seth has provided us (beautifully) for years with the parable version of the value of free phenomena. Seth is the Mother Goose of marketing gurus — he explains things in ways even a marketing director can grasp them. And on the other end of the spectrum, a few brilliant academics have explored in deep, scholarly ways, other avenues in the village of the Economics of Free: for example, anything written by Yochai Benkler.
However, I predict that Anderson’s article — and subsequent book — will get the topic out of the marketing department and academia into the hands of finance and executive types. I’m hoping the book will — like The Long Tail — get into the hands of people who can not only get it, but do something about it.
“But free is not quite as simple â€” or as stupid â€” as it sounds. Just because products are free doesn’t mean that someone, somewhere, isn’t making huge gobs of money. Google is the prime example of this. The monetary benefits of craigslist are enormous as well, but they’re distributed among its tens of thousands of users rather than funneled straight to Craig Newmark Inc. To follow the money, you have to shift from a basic view of a market as a matching of two parties â€” buyers and sellers â€” to a broader sense of an ecosystem with many parties, only some of which exchange cash.”
No matter, you have several months before you have to read the book. (I’m sure there will be a free downloadable version.) And even a few more months after that before its title becomes a square on buzzword bingo cards. In the meantime, I suggest you read the free article and write down some notes on a 3X5 card.