The Future is Free?

Wired.com’s  Chris Anderson wrote a piece in 2008 entitled Free! Why $0.00 is the Future of Business.

In the article he makes some great points, but at times his ideas seem wild and impossible.  While I realize that most content on the internet is currently free, I do not see how that is going to be possible in the future. With newspapers and magazines trying to be online only, how will they turn a profit if they do not charge for their content?

Right now advertising online is not making the profit newspapers wish it was. Thus, newspapers cannot rely on that alone to keep a publication afloat.

Perhaps the most interesting Anderson discusses is “Freemium”,  where:

 The traditional free sample is the promotional candy bar handout or the diapers mailed to a new mother. Since these samples have real costs, the manufacturer gives away only a tiny quantity — hoping to hook consumers and stimulate demand for many more.

In the freemium model, that means for every user who pays for the premium version of the site, 99 others get the basic free version. The reason this works is that the cost of serving the 99 percent is close enough to zero to call it nothing.

The example Anderson gives is Flickr and Flickr Pro. Users do not have to pay for Flickr but Flickr Pro costs roughly $25 a year. I understand this business model but how is that  going to work for newspapers or magazines, when the mere thought of paying for an online subscription makes people livid?

As Anderson states in his article, information wants to be free and free is what we want information to be, so soon it will all be free online. This is a bold statement, one that I’m not ready to admit to working  just yet.

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