I am just tickled pink by this Firefox add-on that gives you a “free” option while shopping at Amazon:
“The timing of the ‘Pirates of the Amazon‘ launch could not have been more (un)fortunate. At the busiest time of the year for on- and offline retailers, this Firefox browser add-on offers users a download link to pirated copies of products that can normally be found in the Amazon online store.” (via)
In other words, if you look up “Pirates of the Caribbean” this is what you see:
Clicking on “Download for Free” takes you to The Pirate Bay, a Swedish BitTorrent site, where you can, should you wish to take the legal risk, in fact download a copy of the movie for free.
What does this really all mean? Well, it certainly isn’t a legitimate threat to Amazon’s bottomline – yet. It is, however, a warning to all producers of things that can be freely copied and distributed that they had better make sure the paid version is worth the price.
There is a really cool piece over on TechDirt about a series of experiments designed to look at the effect of “free”
“Ariely discusses an experiment he ran with children at Halloween. He first gave them all three Hershey kisses. Then he held up two Snickers bars — one tiny one and one large one. He offered to trade them the small one for one kiss and the large one for two kisses. Most kids quickly made the trade for the larger Snickers bar — which is a perfectly rational move.
He then changed the terms of the experiment. He offered to give kids the small Snickers bar for “free” or the large one for one Hershey kiss. Most kids now took the free small Snickers bar — even though they are worse off in that case. Having two Hersheys kisses and the big Snickers bar providers more chocolate than three kisses and the small bar — but the impact of “free” got them even more interested. Ariely ran more similar experiments (economist Tyler Cowen wrote about one recently) and found that again and again people overpay for free. ”
This is another fantastic example of the ways in which all of our long-held beliefs about marketing, sales, advertising and the economy are coming into question. And for good reason. It’s not that we are suddenly responding differently to the idea of “free” but that what can be made free and how that can be incorporated into new schemes is growing rapidly.
There is a pretty comprehensive look over on TrendWatching at what’s been going on in the past few years in terms of what I know think Anderson has successfully forced us to all call the “Freeconomy.”
One example it should had to do with some beverage companies attempts at working with advertisers to provide free or discount drinks:
“Still in concept phase, Japanese vending machine operator Apex is looking into turning some of its beverage machines into a new medium for advertisers, who will pick up the partial or full cost of drinks. Apex runs 35,000 vending machines across Japan that serve drinks in paper cups, generally priced at 70 to 120 yen (USD 1.16 to USD 2.00) a cup. The MediCafe vending machine (the name combines media and coffee) will play an advertiser’s video for around the 30 seconds it takes to pour the drink and dispense a paper cup with an advertisement printed on it. Eventually, Apex hopes to install up to 35,000 MediCafe machines in large corporate offices, community centers, hospitals & rehab facilities, schools and roadside rest stops. Even if the MediCafe doesn’t materialize, this should be food for thought for other vending machine operators, and their food and beverage partners!”
How would things change if someone figured out how to turn a profit offering free coffee? What would that do to Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts? There is clearly a gigantic market for coffee drinkers and the many competitors are certainly going to drive the price down but offering it for free would really shake things up.
So, as part of their promotional efforts, Wired is offering free copies of their current issue. That should totally get people psyched, right?
Well, check out the recent comments left on the free sign up page:
“Posted by: DonFrodo
Only open for US residents… sigh Sad world when even Wired doesn’t seem to realise the web is larger then the US. Why not put a huge disclaimer next to your promotions: “non U.S. residents please ignore this message: as far as we’re concerned you d…
Posted by: Grottco
Free?!!! I Can’t even get get the magazines that I paid for. Take some responsibility for YOUR subscription service!!! Customer service still exists and still matters in the new economy. Even more so when your potential for meaningful interaction is …
Posted by: SFC
I would just be satisfied if the (paid) subscription service for Europe would work properly, without delays and with a responsive service. It is a hassle to get a subscription overseas – starting from the totally unfriendly website and further intera…
Posted by: bsenentz
I like the article, but anyone who has experience with free should be wary. I’d rather read online than submit my DOB online over unsecure http for no good reason. From the same magazine that writes threat level?
Posted by: MacMike
really dumb design
Wired’s Chris Anderson’s preview essay of his upcoming book FREE is getting a lot of attention (see BoingBoing) for starters). Considering he is the guy who wrote the extremely influential book The Long Tail it isn’t really that surprising.
Maybe because I am so deeply involved in the world of “new media” I don’t find his essay especially earth-shattering. His main point is that many things which once cost money are now free thanks to the internet, largely due to the fact that processing power, storage, etc, has become nearly free.
Of course, “free” doesn’t always mean without cost. Anderson notes that much of the so-called free content we enjoy online is being paid for by advertisers. We end up paying with our attention and time and focus. What happens when the “cost” of bad advertising outweighs the value of the attached content.
“There is, presumably, a limited supply of reputation and attention in the world at any point in time. These are the new scarcities — and the world of free exists mostly to acquire these valuable assets for the sake of a business model to be identified later. Free shifts the economy from a focus on only that which can be quantified in dollars and cents to a more realistic accounting of all the things we truly value today.”
This is what many brands ought to think about as the begin to explore how to best support all the “free” content out there.
The internet is the backbone for a revolution in self-employment opportunities. While many have tried and failed in this pursuit, many have also tried and succeeded. There doesn’t seem to be a magic formula for success, but one key element of many plans is tapping into the many niche communities living on the web.
Caroline Middlebrook has written a book exploring one such way to do this:
“One of the most common ways to make money on the Internet today is to pick a popular topic and put together a small website consisting of articles related to that topic and monetize the site with ads. The traffic comes from search engines and once the site is setup, it just runs on auto-pilot. ”
She is providing a free download of her book and uses WordPress (a free software package) as the foundation of her technique. Very interesting reading.
B.L. Ochman has been playing around with the video conferencing site Oovoo and he sounds pretty darn excited:
“Once a few technical kinks are out of Oovoo, it’ll be hard to convince most people to travel for business. That’s because you can video conference – gratis – with up to six people; exchange files, text message during the call, and lots more. And rumor has it that Oovoo will soon go mobile.”
One of the elements that strongly empowers the independent pirate movement is that more and more of the high cost applications needed to run a business are now being offered free, or close to free, through the internet.
Just off the top of my head, here are the things you could be doing for free:
Telephone via Skype
Full Office Suite via OpenOffice
Email via Google
Image Editor via FotoFlexer
and now Oovoo.
Hell, you don’t even need to pay for an internet connection considering how much free wifi is out there.