Kevin Kelly on how to sell free

Practical solutions for thriving in a mostly free, all-digital era.

KevinKelly.jpgThe question of whether access or ownership is more important was directly addressed — and answered — by Kevin Kelly, senior maverick at Wired magazine, during his keynote speech at TOC 2011. In no uncertain terms he said access was the future:

There’s this huge shift we see in the entire environment where people get more value out of having access to something rather than owning it. With Netflix, you don’t own the movies, you just have access to them — Spotify, Pandora, and Last FM are music streams that go by; you don’t actually own the music, you just access it … Why own them if you can have instant, all-the-time access?

What’s more, he suggested our current models of selling items — books, music, etc. — will change. Instead of selling “things,” producers and publishers will be selling the parts that cannot be copied:

In a world where everything is moving to the free, we have to have a different attitude … the only things that become valuable are the things that cannot be copied. Let me give you one example: immediacy. So, you’re not paying for the copy, you’re paying for immediacy — you can eventually get anything you want for free if you wait long enough, but if you want it as soon as the creator has created it, the artist has made it, you’re willing to pay for the immediacy of it.

So, the monetization comes from the speed of delivery, personalized experiences and individual attention. The products themselves will be free, or nearly so.


Kelly also pointed out that visualization will go both ways — as we look at the content on a screen, it will look back at us. Showing an image of a tablet screen (pictured above) he explained:

This is a heat map generated by software in a camera inside a tablet looking at the ways eyes spend time tracking on a web page — the more orange it is, the more attention it’s given. So, it’s very easy to imagine our books looking back at us … they become adaptive in some ways … [the books are] aware of where [they’re] being read and aware of us.

Kelly’s keynote is embedded below. We also had the opportunity to interview him one-on-one — that clip is available in O’Reilly’s YouTube channel.


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