I can't believe it's free – Chris Anderson

I was just thinking – I was at Chris Anderson‘s talk last December Chris Anderson at The Wired Store, NYC. What is new about Free? and I questioned him on the use of “Free”, then (and got a copy of The Long Tail with an additional chapter about “Free” that was included to preview the upcoming book.

Now the publication date of his book is approaching – I bet he’s tickled pink with all the authorities that have weighted in and disagreed with him, partly or fully, about “Free”. I’m almost tempted to think Chris Anderson wants all of this disagreement as it’s driving awareness (maybe it’s “pseudo – discussion” – a manufactured discussion to drive traffic – a cheap way of getting advertising by not having to do much but get other people who are well known to weigh in).   In fact, I’ll play with the buzz about “Free” by setting up a profile in Radian6 and discussing influentials – it’ll be interesting if I can find out that Chris just asked Seth Godin and Malcolm Gladwell to weigh in of his “Free” book to generate buzz.

(I don’t know if I’ll be able to prove that – but I strongly suspect it to be true - but I could be wrong).

But then, Mark Cuban gets involved – just what we need to muddy the waters and weighs in on Free vs. Fully Distributed.

Articles from Malcom Gladwell in New Yorker, and Seth Godin discuss the various merits and challenges of Free.  Is Free inevitable ? Is Free the beginning of the end ? Let me answer the question.

…… In the long run, printed content producers should have a brand, and use their institutional knowledge, their core competencies and ability to procure, improve and market to maximize the value of their brands and the perceived value of their content. Whether its on a central website, a co produced website, in print or on a hologram in the evening sky, I should go to the NY Times because they have demonstrated to me that they have the very best articles on the subjects I am looking for. That they are the best source for breaking news about the topics I care about. THEY NEED TO MAKE SURE I DONT HAVE THE CHOICE OF GETTING IT ANYWHERE ELSE BUT WHERE THEY DICTATE.

To be honest, I’m not against this.   There’s a lot of RSS feeds out there, but maybe, in the case of the New York Times, they should control how it appears.

I spoke with Chris for a minute after his talk last December and I didn’t think he had made a full case where “Free” was the new “it”.    There’s a lot to digest from Gladwell and Seth Godin, so I don’t want to write a post that states my full opinion – but I did feel, when I saw Chris Anderson, talked with him personally – that his idea of “Free” has more wind in it, than substance.

For all the talk about “The Long Tail” over the last couple of years, many have begun to debunk it – it’s an oversimplification of a current situation – and I bet the same thing could be said about FREE.

More coming later – I’ll read that last Chapter of the Long Tail now.

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5 thoughts on “I can't believe it's free – Chris Anderson”

  1. Marshall, great provocative post as always. The debate is definitely generating buzz for Free. I am anxious to see what else your Radian6 analysis turns up.

    Warren Sukernek
    Director of Content Marketing
    Radian6

  2. Thanks Warren, first, I have to set the profile up, later tonight. Usually, I have a question I’m trying to answer, in this case, how much debate about Free is real, vs. Fake publicity drummed up to generate awareness and sell more copies of his book. I’ll work on it before the fireworks!

  3. Hi Aimee,

    Seems like WSJ and The Registar started debunking LT last year (http://www.google.com/m?source=mog&gl=us#/m/search?uipref=6&q=The%20Long%20Tail%20questioned&channel=gp1&gl=us&source=mog&og=gp&source=gp)

    Argument was Chris made the numbers fit his concept.  When looked at by economists, flaws shows up (it’s an easy error to fall into, btw, though his first book ought to have had more critical review, sounds like).

    My personal impression of Chris, he’s pretty good speaking  in frount of audience, selling whatever ideas he has, but it didn’t feel, to me, as if Free, had as much substance, as he claims.

    And I noted, he’s fromenting debate about his book (not sure it’s published yet, or not); just wondering why John Battelle hasn’t said anything (unless I missed it), they’re old friends from Wired and Industry Standard.

  4. Good post Marshall,
    I also commented on Gladwell vs Anderson at http://blog.immeria.net/2009/06/free-or-fee-gladwell-vs-anderson.html

    But what strikes me in your post is this quote: “THEY NEED TO MAKE SURE I DONT HAVE THE CHOICE OF GETTING IT ANYWHERE ELSE BUT WHERE THEY DICTATE.”

    Wouldn’t it be ridiculous… isn’t Web 2.0 supposed to be about “when I want, where I want, on the device I want, reusable the way I want and contribute the way I want” and end up being locked down by the lure of “financially free” dictating I don’t have any other choice?

    Free in the eye of the purchaser always seems a good deal, free in the eyes of the seller is just fine when you have so much money and power you can leverage it otherwise…

    Anderson might be playing the game of the “Attention Economy” (another really good book by Davenport)… and interestingly, it seems his speaker fees and his book are far from being free! (plus, the scandal about his willingness to use free content from Wikipedia – whole paragraphs – without giving due credit)…

    Stéphane

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