Thursday, July 02, 2009

Born Free

I've been waiting for next Tuesday for a long time. That's the day that Chris Anderson's new book Free comes out.

You'll remember Anderson. His book The Long Tail was a best-seller during the summer of 2006. I wrote about the upcoming book for the first time on June 10, 2007 here.

I became interested in Anderson's whole concept of product wanting to be free and did a follow-up blog on the subject on February 13, 2008 here.

Finally, on February 27, 2008, I talked about an interview Anderson did with Advertising Age here.

Okay, it's been two years and the wait is finally over. Free hits bookstands next Tuesday, the 7th.


Peter L. Winkler said...

Maya Reynolds said...

Hi, Peter: Thanks!! I saw Malcolm's post.

Did you see Seth Godin's response on Tuesday?



Peter L. Winkler said...

A few years ago, I read something of Godin's after reading about him on the web. I found it to be a bunch of nebulous, pie-in-the-sky marketing nonsense that appeals to people in marketing whose efforts are rarely judged by empirical standards.

I just read Godin's response to Gladwell, and I could spend a lot of time riffing on it, but this jumped out at me:

"This is huge. When there are thousands of people writing about something, many will be willing to do it for free (like poets) and some of them might even be really good (like some poets). There is no poetry shortage."

So what? There have always been amateurs and hobbyists. Most poets could never make a living by being a full-time writer, so they don't lose anything by publishing some of their work online for free.

If Godin gives away his books, then he's charging for something else, unless he lives off an inheritance. Just once, I'd like one of these marketing gurus propose a business model embodying thir ideas and apply it in the real world. Chris Anderson's not giving his book away.

The fact remains that whether you're baking donuts or making widgets or writing, you can only afford to give away samples for a limited time before you require some compensaton for your efforts. The internet hasn't changed that.

I remember during the dot com boom of the '90s that there were companies trying to succeed by offering computers for free that would constantly run ads onscreen, or ad-supported ISPs that provided free intrnet access - NetZero.

They failed. NetZero is hanging on as a conventional ISP and the free computer company never even got past the start-up phase.

I think the phrase "information wants to be free" is utopian inanity.

Maya Reynolds said...

Peter: I'm probably halfway between his position and yours.

I think there are industries, which the Internet has changed forever. I subscribed to two newspapers a day for a whole lot of years. I don't any more. Why should I? I can get news much faster by clicking on Yahoo.

On the other hand, I pay $20 a month for Publishers Lunch because I get specialized information online every morning that I could not get any other way.

I suspect there are LOTS of niches out there where people would be happy to pay for information. Look at all the cable sports networks.

The key issue is not whether ALL information should be free. It is WHICH information should be free. For this reason, I am looking forward to reading Anderson's book.