by Mike Masnick
Thu, Apr 9th 2009 11:30am
from the if-you-want-to-fail... dept
Eric J. Johnson, a professor at Columbia Business School, said he had been amazed by media companies repeatedly adding free online services, like on-demand video. "Before you add something to your site, you should say that if consumers really want it, that should be part of a package that you could charge for."That's looking only at one side of the equation and is doing so in a dangerously short-sighted way. Rather than saying "hey, if people want this, we should charge for it," why not actually look at the larger ecosystem? Why not recognize the added value that can be added if it is free and how that can enable other business models? The problem is that professors like Johnson are basically pushing the idea that a media company is a "content company," rather than a company that's building a community. It focuses on the belief that the content is the final product. It's not. It's never been the final product. If you have open and available content, that allows users to make it more valuable by sharing it, spreading it, annotating it, commenting on it and building off of it. You can't do that when you put it behind a paywall. Content behind a paywall is less valuable to most people. So why would people pay for content that is less valuable?
The problem is focusing so much on the product rather than on the real benefit. Having the content free enables so much else. And if you focus on charging, all it does is open up an opportunity for others to step in and provide that value, and sap away the "paying" users. Focusing just on the pay question and ignoring the value side of the equation is a recipe for trouble.
So, rather than the NY Times "debate," perhaps check out what the site Hypebot did, which was note that the "debate" is already over. It's not about whether or not there should be "free" content, but that the economics and the market are clear: it will be free. So, with that in mind, it put together a whole series of thoughts from different folks about ways to embrace "free" as a part of larger business models. There's plenty of good stuff to read there.
Glenn Peoples, at Billboard, also picked up on the discussion, which is great, though I'd like to challenge one thing he wrote, complaining about Chris Anderson's take on "free":
Anderson did not draw enough distinction between marginal cost -- which in the case of digital distribution is zero -- and average cost. When Anderson writes that "the marginal cost of digital information comes closer to nothing," what he means is the marginal cost of distributing that digital information. There are significant costs in recording music. The cost of creating a brand and inducing awareness, other considerations Anderson understates, are both unavoidable and considerable. An insignificant cost of creating and distributing one more digital file does not reflect the amount of investment to be recouped.While I don't want to speak for Chris, he and I have certainly talked about these things, and I believe that Peoples is misstating Chris' point on all of this. As we've discussed here before, no one is ignoring the cost of creation or the cost of those other things. We're simply stating the economic fact that none of those things matter in terms of final price. This isn't how we want things to be. It's how economics works. Price is influenced by marginal cost. That's it. Price is not influenced by fixed costs (or average costs). That's not because of what Chris says or what I say. It's how a market works, no matter how anyone thinks things should be.
That doesn't mean you ignore the fixed costs or the average costs. Obviously, you do need to pay attention to those for the sake of making sure there's an ROI where you need it. But that's where you look at your overall offering rather than focusing so narrowly on just the content. So if you can take the content (as you can) and make it free, and use that to drive up interest and value in other scarce products you can sell, then that's where it matters. And, as for the question of "the costs in recording music," we (here at Techdirt) have certainly addressed that at great length: the creation of content is in fact a scarce good. And you can charge for it -- and many have. Jill Sobule is a perfect example of this, getting people to pay to create a new album. Other models work as well, including having brands help pay for the creation of music. There are lots of models that work -- and they don't conflict with or negate the fact (not opinion) that the content itself will have its price driven towards free.
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Mar 20th 2009 2:28am
from the not-very-nice dept
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Mar 2nd 2009 1:08am
from the limitations-on-actions dept
Wed, Feb 25th 2009 9:18pm
from the unintended-consequences? dept
For example, some people are pushing for the US government to make Internet censorship a trade issue. The argument, that Google has made in Congressional testimony, is that digital barriers to the free flow of information are equivalent to traditional trade barriers which are illegal under WTO rules; as such, the US Trade Representative should use its leverage to lower those costs to doing business in China and elsewhere. It is not clear if this will be effective, especially given numerous other bilateral trade issues between China and the United States, but recent news makes it clear that censorship does affect technology companies in China.
Late last week, the head of the Internet surveillance department at the Beijing Bureau of Public Safety was arrested on charges of corruption. The man is accused of taking bribes of nearly $6 million to help an anti-virus company beat its competitor. This is obviously problematic for foreign companies operating in a country where they do not have close ties to the powerful bureaucracy, especially given China's notoriously corrupt judiciary. But perhaps what is even more worrying is that Internet censorship and surveillance are on the rise around the world, only furthering the control exerted upon what could be a very free marketplace.
from the the-great-firewall-needs-to-be-fed dept
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Sep 5th 2008 7:42pm
from the rinse,-lather,-repeat dept
Now we've got another similar story, as the LA Times is positively amazed that the popular virtual world Habbo Hotel limits its users to spending no more than $35/month, on the theory that many of its users are teenagers, who could get sucked into spending on stuff, which could lead to eventual backlash. Its CEO made this clear in a recent interview, saying: "We didn't want a situation where teens were raiding their parents' credit cards to be able to play.... We really don't want teenagers to spend more than the price of two movie tickets a month on Habbo."
So, how does the LA Times describe this decision? It points out, partly in jest, that "turning down money seems un-American." Again, even if this wasn't meant as a serious comment, it's similar to the silly claims about Craigslist. Habbo Hotel has simply made a strategic long-term decision on ways to best maximize its success for the long haul. And, part of that probably included the calculation that Habbo would have been in quite some trouble if news stories started showing up about kids bankrupting themselves buying virtual trinkets for their Habbo Hotel world. Limiting how much people can spend isn't anti-American or anti-capitalist or even anti-profit maximization. It's just taking a much longer term view of the best way to maximize profits over the long run.
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Jun 27th 2008 6:15pm
from the is-it-illegal-to-help-someone? dept
Now, obviously, some will claim (as easyJet does) that easyJet should have the right to only sell flights off of its own website. But if these other sites are merely scraping the content and then linking back to easyJet, then what's the problem? These sites are sending more business to easyJet, and it wants to sue them. The lawyer quoted in the article discusses copyright issues (which again, seems to go against what the company should want) and also database rights -- which is recognized in Europe rather than the US. But even if it's true that easyJet has a legal right to block these sites, it still seems like a bad business idea to sue sites for giving you free advertising -- especially when those are the sites people go to when they want to buy airplane tickets.
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Dec 18th 2007 5:21am
Getting Millions Of People Listening To Your Music, With Many Giving You Money Voluntarily, Is Dumb?
from the please-explain dept