Business models for free content

Education Revolution's recent Manifesto (worth reading!) includes this link to a protocol by Mike Masnick for developing business models that offer free content. Over the weekend, I tried out these steps. This is another sequel to Indie Professional Development and Meetings of the Mind.

Here's the protocol:

1. Redefine the market based on the benefits
2. Break the benefits down into scarce and infinite components.
3. Set the infinite components free, syndicate them, make them easy to get -- all to increase the value of the scarce components
4. Charge for the scarce components that are tied to infinite components

1. Redefine the market based on the benefits: Inventors and content creators naturally define the market based on tangibles, things and deliverables. It's far from easy to redefine the market in terms of benefits. When we are benefiting from making things, we lose sight of the experience of users, receivers and explorers of our thing. In this blog, I've been redefining the market as follows:

  • It's not the content, it's the context of the customer who uses the content as a solution to their own problems, difficulties and confusion.
  • It's not the delivery of content, it's the discovery of the timing, applicability and self motivation to put the content to use
  • It's not the nodes of information, it's the links between those nodes that make the learning meaningful, valuable and rewarding

2. Break the benefits down into scarce and infinite components: Content is ubiquitous, searchable and taggable. It's becoming "everywhere all the time" as we evolve from WIFI to handhelds with broadband connectivity. Context is scarce. An individual's need to know, readiness to consider, time to reflect, and situation to change -- are all rare, hard for others to find and temporary in nature.

3. Set the infinite components free: Give away the content. Write blogs. Contribute to wiki. Write comments, tag other's content, quote and link to other content. Do all this like we were being paid to do it -- even though we're not.

4. Charge for the scarce components that are tied to infinite components: If all the learners need is the content, they get satisfaction for free. If the learners want a more valuable experience, they "come inside and pay at the door". Perhaps the learners want:

  • the content broken down into steps and simplified so its easier to grasp
  • the content translated into visuals that make it possible to picture how it all interrelates and comes together sensibly
  • the content put in the context of other knowledge or ways it is applied in other situations so it seems useful and worth remembering
  • the content presented in narrative form so they can identify with characters, get immersed in the plot and pick up the underlying message by osmosis

These experiences are economically scarce, more difficult to come by, and worth some money. They are tied to the content that everyone can get anywhere. The infinite content increases the demand for the more valuable experiences. Freebies become monetized without charging for the free content.

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