What’s free worth?

Everything’s free on the internet.

Free is everywhere you turn, it’s all so easy, sign up to this, sign up to that, register here, login, sign in, don’t worry it just takes a second to sign up, we just need your email, no – + or $ symbols, choose a password with a minimum of 6 characters, 4 numbers and an explanation of how gravity works, tell us why it gets cooler just before the sun comes up and the square root of 347.6…. quick you’ve only got 5 seconds to complete this form, 5, 4, 3, nah just kidding take as long as you want we need your details to expand the database, which in turn helps us value the company to prospective buyers. Oh yeah that’s right, leave your wallet in your pants champ, this one’s on us.

But it’s not free. ‘Free’ is your time. ‘Free’ is arguably more expensive. Who has nothing to do?

‘Free’ is asking you to pull away from whatever else might have been otherwise occupying that timeslot and dedicating it to itself. ‘Free’ is opportunity cost.

And because time is the one thing you can’t get more of, free products that exist now and are developed in the future will have to either be unbelievably unique and valuable – which is an initial short term proposition because others will see what you’ve done and attempt replicate it, so relevant and constant innovation will be necessary (think MySpace vs Bebo vs Friendster vs Facebook) – or are very quick and accurate but not worth paying for, (think xe.com and Google).

On the other hand the product can be good and valuable and can be subscription based and you may just end up with a great and even better product, more solid financials and a more qualified database that care enough to buy and use the product.

Because when something is free and grows quickly, it’s also subject to faster competitive loss in the event of getting out-maneuvered, out-innovated or out-played.

Is ‘free’ the answer? Probably not, excellent products will excel, and the rest will fall by the wayside.

Free is just a price point, the product is still king.


  1. “the product is still king” – I would suggest that audiences’ attention becomes more powerful than content’s uniqueness in terms of what determines value and price.

    1. Absolutely. I would agree with you, that’s what I was saying in the post.

      The audiences attention will only be grabbed by great and unique products. A discerning consumer is less likely to actively choose to spend time on a less engaging, less useful, less beneficial website.

      The products therefore have to get better to engage the consumer. If the products don’t then consumer attention won’t be there.

      What I mean to say, and perhaps I didn’t write this clearly enough was that ‘the king product’ will be determined by the consumer and it will be up to the products competitors to do better.

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