Better Than Free

Kevin Kelly has a very interesting post in his book in progress The Technium. Victor tipped me off to this (thanks Victor). Check out Better Than Free.

The internet allows for easily made and distributed copies: copies of documents, music, photos, whatever. Kelly asks some good questions:

“If reproductions of our best efforts are free, how can we keep going? To put it simply, how does one make money selling free copies?”

why would we ever pay for anything that we could get for free? When anyone buys a version of something they could get for free, what are they purchasing? “

He then identified eight values that can’t be easily copied or cloned, which he calls generatives:

  • Immediacy – How quickly do you get the copy of the thing you need?
  • Personalization – To what degree is the copy customized to your tastes and needs?
  • Interpretation – What services help you better understand or enjoy the copy?
  • Authenticity – Is the copy what it says it is?
  • Accessibility – How do I access the copy?
  • Embodiment – How is the copy represented and presented?
  • Patronage – Can I support the creator of the copy even if I can get it for free?
  • Findability – How hard or easy is it for me to find the copy?

The recalls a recent talk I saw online of Chris Anderson, of Long Tail fame, speaking about the Abundance Ecomony. (Sorry – can’t find the video right now). If everything is moving towards being free or virtually free, how do businesses monetize their services? Advertising..yes, OK. But it looks like Kevin Kelly has given us a more robust framework to consider yet different ways.

I know Kelly mentions Authenticity, but I’d like to see more about credibility and authority too. Given the recent boom of credibility with the work of BJ Fogg, for one, that seems important enough to be a high-level generative. I guess Experience would come under Embodiment, but I’d have liked to have seem that more prominent or explicit.

About Jim Kalbach

Head of Customer Experience at MURAL

One comment

  1. revsmilez

    I’m with you on credibility and authority. I think there’s another layer of this. On the one hand, you’ve got the products and services that still have value. On the other, you’ve got the personal connections that make you choose one service over another, assuming they offer roughly the same product/service. I posted a response to his article too, and would love to hear your take on it.

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