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Free isn’t easy

A superb review of Chris Anderson’s book Free by Malcolm Gladwell of Tipping Point fame:

The only problem is that in the middle of laying out what he sees as the new business model of the digital age Anderson is forced to admit that one of his main case studies, YouTube, “has so far failed to make any money for Google.” Why is that? Because of the very principles of Free that Anderson so energetically celebrates. When you let people upload and download as many videos as they want, lots of them will take you up on the offer. That’s the magic of Free psychology: an estimated seventy-five billion videos will be served up by YouTube this year. Although the magic of Free technology means that the cost of serving up each video is “close enough to free to round down,” “close enough to free” multiplied by seventy-five billion is still a very large number.

[The New Yorker, via Jack Schofield]

5 replies on “Free isn’t easy”

I know. There’s an entire industry of people charging extremely large sums of money for books on, or talks about, how everybody should be giving everything away for nothing. Step three, profit.

Chris Anderson’s new book, “Free: The Future of a Radical Price” (Hyperion; $26.99)

Said it all, I thought.

To be fair, Anderson is giving away free versions (online and audiobook) for a while, although IIRC that wasn’t his original plan. But there’s a great deal of hypocrisy in this field, with new media pundits charging huge sums to write articles and deliver seminars to newspapers telling them all their content should be free. And there’s the fans of free at The Pirate Bay, who have just become millionaires…

This is good:

http://broadstuff.com/archives/1776-The-Free-Market-for-Snake-Oil-and-the-Age-of-Unreason.html

“Lets be clear, Anderson is proposing the economic version of a perpetual motion machine, but that’s not the point of this post – quacks, charlatans, snake oil salesmen and journalist-authors on the make have been with us a long, long time. ( I’ll get to what’s wrong his theory tomorrow, but in essence its impossible to have the All Free to All Men, All the Time case )

The interesting point is that it is far, far harder to rebut these sort of claims in the new media, especially if the claimants have access to a good channels of their own.”

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