filizefe's blog

The Cost of “FREE”

Posted in Uncategorized by filizefe on July 12, 2009

I grow up in a very different communication environment than today’s. “Watching TV” was an important family action. There was only one channel, ran by the government. TV was like a theater stage where we were the audience. We used to sit, watch and listen. Broadcasting was expensive and ran by professionals. Talking to a multinational group of people was expensive and difficult. Expressing opinions, publishing to the public was far beyond our everyday life, far beyond from “FREE”.

The digital age has been a stage to numerous debates regarding the different aspects of “What is FREE?” in content creation and distribution. Creating and distributing content does not belong to professionals only.  This created infinitive movements at the same time and economic effects. One of the recent debates on “FREE” took place in between Chris Anderson, Malcolm Gladwell, Seth Godin, and Mark Cuban.

Free: the Future of a Radical Price by Chris Anderson

Free: the Future of a Radical Price by Chris Anderson

Chris Anderson in his book “Free: the Future of a Radical Price” argues that the digital age is making a downward pressure on the prices of all things “made of ideas”. He argues that this situation is not a trend but an iron law.

Malcolm Gladwell argues that the digital age transformed everything about content creation and distribution and that’s why it is not possible to define something as “iron law” during this dramatic transformation. I agree that communication is in flux and changing so fast that the only thing is not changing right now is “things are changing so fast”. (Priced to Sell, Is free the future?)

Seth Godin, who is also one of my favorite marketing gurus, contributes to this debate in his aggressive tone I love. He argues that talking about whether we want free or not, it is happening right now. It doesn’t matter if the business models will support it or not, there is no choice, the world will change around “free”. He points out that there are two forces at work:

1-      Marketers struggle for attention and free is a relatively cheap way.

2-      The price will be lowered until it meets the incremental cost of making one more unit.

Seth Godin's blog

Seth Godin's blog

Seth Godin claims that in the near future there are going to be huge opportunities for every content creator to grab attention on digital communication market. (Malcolm is wrong). I agree with Seth Godin that attention is the most precious asset in this age. Practicing alternative ways of effective storytelling and distributing is getting important every day.

Mark Cuban also contributes this “FREE” debate with his ideas. He seems more on the Seth Godin’s side that content creators should make their content stand out from this messy environment in order to survive. But also includes that people should avoid free distribution of the content when there is no return.(Free vs. Freely Distributed)

I believe that we are very lucky experiencing this incredibly “FREE” communication environment. We are creating and distributing our content almost for free. We are sharing our ideas, opinions, suggestions, instructions… But also we are rising to a challenge to grab attention in this messy communication environment: There is a cost for free!


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