No One Ever Said Free Is The Business Model -- But It Absolutely Should Be A Part Of The Business Model

from the a-little-bit-of-confusion dept

Following Rupert Murdoch's latest hints that he's going to take down the paywall at the Wall Street Journal, a bit of a debate has developed about whether or not it's a good idea. Dow Jones executives are apparently against the idea (ironically, published in a "free" article on their site). However, the WSJ's Kara Swisher is all for it. Watching the debate unravel, however, I keep seeing people arguing against the idea, using similar logic to what I saw in the comments earlier this year when I wrote about how "free" is an essential part of many business models (if you know how to leverage it). It's typified by Mark Potts, who declares: "Free is Not a Business Model," in dismissing the commentary in support of a freeing both the NY Times and the WSJ. Unfortunately, it seems like Potts is blinded by the word free and forgets to look past it. No one is saying that "free" is the business model. They're simply saying that free is a component of the business model -- just as it's been a component of business models for ages ("the free trial," "buy one, get one free" "buy now and we'll throw in a free toaster"). Arguing that free isn't a business model is missing the point. The argument is actually over how you use free as a part of your overall business model. In fact, that's exactly what Swisher is doing in her piece, where she suggests a number of related business models that are all helped if the WSJ makes its core content free. It's the same thing that we're saying when we suggest that musicians are better off making their content free. It's not that free is the business model. It's that the free stuff helps promote other business models that can make more money.

Filed Under: business plan, economics, free


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Sep 2007 @ 12:03pm

    I eonder if you actually read the page you linked to, perhaps you don't need ot as I see Techdirt expertse tends to be absolute.
    However I would point out "..Dow Jones executives, however, have made the case that there is value in keeping the Journal's Web site ... at least partially a paid site.", these are smart people who know their business so perhaps it would be worth trying to understand the case they made rather than dismissing.
    The aticle goes on to say intersting stuff, for example :
    "...Journal and the Financial Times are special cases in the newspaper world -- more specialized than general-interest papers..."
    "But making that up in advertising revenue would require the Journal to increase traffic to its site to well north of 20 million monthly unique visitor...."

    There seem to be some smart people thinking carefully about this one, but perhaps they are out witted by Techdirt "thinking" for half a second.

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