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The Cost Of Free: How Freemium’s Cheerleaders Make A Pretty Penny

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By Helienne Lindvall: At a book reading in 2005, media “guru” Cory Doctorow said: “I don’t mind being a whore, I just don’t want to be a cheap whore.” And cheap he isn’t

This article originally appeared in © Guardian News & Media Ltd..

14 Responses to “The Cost Of Free: How Freemium’s Cheerleaders Make A Pretty Penny”

  1. What an embarrassment for the once great PaidContent to have such an ill conceived garbage post. These authors made them selves famous partly by writing great blogs which people read for free. There is an extremely low cost to distribute these works. Books and speaking engagements cost resources, so they can charge a premium. I don’t think the author has ever heard of a free sample. Free is PART OF (not all of) a business strategy.

  2. Helienne Lindvall could have saved a fair few column inches by simply stating she didn’t understand. Probably would have been paid less to do it though. Don’t put all your hope in apps either, they’re a fad not a business model.

  3. Doctorow himself is living example that it is possible to make a living while still not charging for the process of making digital copies.

    Yeah, except his blog is mainly filled with digital copies of other people’s photos and other people’s writing. He really pushes the edge of fair use. That’s not a way to run a newspaper or pay for knowledge gathering, just knowledge replication.

  4. You’re missing the point completely. Doctorow’s whole idea, related to the idea behind the whole Free Software movement which inspired the Free Culture movement, is that the traditional business models are broken.

    The point is that we shouldn’t be paying for something that takes no work nor effort (making a digital copy), we should be paying for the work itself (standing there talking, or actually writing a book or a program). Doctorow himself is living example that it is possible to make a living while still not charging for the process of making digital copies. If it seems ironic, you haven’t thought long enough ;-)

  5. So Seth Godin gives away millions of copies of his books electronically, not to mention his blog content for free each day. People like his content and then want to buy his books and pay him $150,000 for a live speech. Why isn’t this a good model for musicians? Doctorow and Seth aren’t saying anyone should show up and work for free on demand, so where is this great irony?

  6. I think Barry has already made the point pretty well, but Cory Doctorow’s introductions to his books all explain the concept of free pretty well – the ebook version is licenced under Creative Commons, but any print version costs money to support Cory and his publishers.
    It’s the same as Open Source – free as in free speech, not free beer – so many companies build a profitable model around Open Source software and services.
    Or most professional bloggers, who use their blog as a free information service to promote their other business interests – which is where most of their profits will come from as it’s very hard to fund an entirely ad-funded product in the digital era.

  7. And the thing that really bugs me about Doctorow is the way that he proves everything we’ve always heard about the commons: people take without giving. His posts on BoingBoing are almost 100% the work of someone else. He usually writes one or two sentences of introduction before including a huge blockquote. He does write well on occasion, but that’s usually when something threatens his expansive view of “fair use”. Anyone can be prolific and cool with those considerations.

  8. behind the curtain

    The problem with the music industry isn’t the model, it’s the fact that most freemium advocates don’t understand it and argue just that it doesn’t work. Well, that’s true. The Record Industry was born out of, um, records… the pressing, distributing and selling thereof. With the advent of digital technologies the Record Industry days are waning but music and the business thereof will continue. However, not if the freemium advocates have their way… their system would only pay active artists who can schlep across country, and around the world, to play concerts as a service to their fans. Musicians would not be entitled to payment for any other uses in many of their models including online and in mashups, however third parties like ISPs and the nerdy kid at the computer making the mashups will.

  9. The reason why these “Freemium Cheerleaders” charge what they charge is … wait for it … because they can. If the music industry’s business model was still working, there would be nothing to talk about. But it doesn’t work. How much are music industry executives charging on the speaking circuit? These people never said everything should be free. They propose a way to use “free” as part of the larger picture. Have you read any of their books or articles, many of which are available for free, btw.What was the point of your Article?