Thursday, February 7, 2008

Chris Anderson - "Free" Not Equal to "No Value"

When I saw Deborah Solomon's New York Times interview of Sheryl Crow, I had the same reaction as Chris Anderson's referenced below.

image Whether it's pop stars or Wall Street analysts, the biggest misconception of free is that no cost = no value.

For instance, this today from Silicon Alley Insider:

Whether it's software, patents, movies, or music, as a planet, we have decided that things that exist only in the form of atoms, or are not offered as a service, have no value.

Or this, from Sheryl Crow in last weekend's New York Times magazine (from which this photo was taken):

I’m sad that people feel like music should be free, that the work that we do is not valued.

Don’t you feel valued enough? It’s more about consciousness. When music comes free by way of friends burning CDs, there’s not that understanding of the work that goes into the making of an album.

Spot the error? It's that the only way to measure value is with money. Of course the Web is built mostly on two nonmonetary economies, attention (traffic) and reputation (links), both of which benefit hugely from free content and services. And it's a pretty simple matter to convert from either of those two currencies into cash, as a glance at Google balance sheet makes clear.

In a recent post, we listed dozens of business model built on free. All of them are based on the notion that free stuff does have value and the way we measure that is in the time people spend with them. Do I actually need to remind Wall Street analysts that time is money?

[The Long Tail]

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