Are You Ready for Free?

A recent post on ReadWriteWeb looks at the relationship between traditional publishing (newspapers, magazines, books) and teen readership. The results are hazy at best — experts can’t seem to get past the “digital reading” vs. “print reading” debate — but a short passage in the article’s magazine section touched on a topic that’s popping up all over the place: the power of free content.

“MediaTel managing director Derek Jones said the [magazine] industry must find new ways of engaging with the teen market which has suffered a steady decline in sales. The problem, according to ShortList chief executive Mike Soutar, is that the younger generation like to consume media for free and they have come to expect free content through online extensions.” [emphasis added]

The expectation of free isn’t just the domain of teens; Web consumers from all generations are used to getting their information for free as well. This is a powerful trend that’s gaining steam.

If you’re intrigued by free models (or concerned), take a look at Kevin Kelly’s essay “Better Than Free,” Chris Anderson’s article “Free! Why $0.00 Is the Future of Business,” and coverage of Tim O’Reilly’s TOC ’08 keynoteFree is More Complicated Than You Think.”

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