Com597c-week 3: $Free.Ninety-Free

July 8, 2009

Content_monetization_fighting_unlicensed_content_size485 The price of free in the digital space is an important debate because digital medias in many instances have bridged the digital divide and knocked a gaping hole in the wall that separates the middle and upper classes from “the poor.” That wall is built by ones’ ability to access information, and free content has a wider breadth than paid-for content merely because there is less financial necessity to get it. I believe Anderson to have some valid points on how “free” as a distribution model can make a significant splash when it comes to marketing and market immersion, however, that is only if the product or content being handed out holds a perceived value higher than its’ asking price. Cuban put it this way “anything that used to be analog that now is digital have a perceived value that is based on their legacy delivery. We value all those TV shows on Hulu highly because we assign a value to what we pay for cable or satellite. We assign a high perceived value to newspaper and magazine reports based on the years we spent paying for them. Anything that we paid for as recently as last year, that we now get free, of course we assign a value of more than free.”

Anderson said, “…newspapers are indeed one of the industries most affected by Free (although that’s just one manifestation of their larger problem: having lost their monopoly on consumer attention).” Just as AT&T cried in the 1980’s and Microsoft has been sued for most of this decade, monopolies feel victimized, never to regain total power because consumers naturally do not like a lack of variety due to a lack of options. Due to the many technologies that allow anyone with internet access to publish content throughout various medias for free is why people have left print; they found somewhere else that offered more options for content than the trusted news sources, the fact it was also free for them to access only made the abandonment of the traditional news outlet easier. As Godin stated, “Magazines and newspapers were perfect businesses for a moment of time,” but that moment ended as consumers wanted to diversify their editorial portfolios.
What does free online distribution have to do with the digital divide and why can’t everything be free? Gladwell gives a great example in a biotechnology company, “Genzyme spent five hundred million dollars developing the drug Myozyme, which is intended for a condition, Pompe disease, that afflicts fewer than ten thousand people worldwide. That’s the quintessential modern drug: a high-tech, targeted remedy that took a very long and costly path to market. Myozyme is priced at three hundred thousand dollars a year. Genzyme isn’t a mining company: its real assets are intellectual property-information, not stuff. But, in this case, information does not want to be free. It wants to be really, really expensive.” The point that Gladwell makes with this that cannot be ignored is stuff (services, products, dollar store Virgin Mary candles) can afford to be given away for free because their purpose holds no real contribution to ones quality of life. A $300,000 drug does not sound worth it to someone not suffering from the disease, but it sounds like a bargain to those whose lives it has altered if it will return some form of normalcy to it. We feel entitled to a weather report and wouldn’t want to pay a cent for it, but to a remote farm community in a third-world country, it would be the most important information they ever invested in.

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