Is free the future for associations


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Chris Anderson’s book "Free: The Future of a Radical Price" picks up where his bestseller, "Long Tail," left off. In it, he argues that the digital age is exerting an inexorable downward pressure on the prices of all things “made of ideas” and that $0.00 is the future of business. Thought leadership and knowledge – products and service made of ideas – are quintessential elements of the association brand. What does this controversial thesis mean for the business model of associations?

This presentation from the April 2010 DigitalNow conference, lays out the underlying assumptions of Free and Anderson’s taxonomy of “freeconomics,” looking at present day examples in each category, both in the for-profit and association market space, and considering the contrary view from Malcom Gladwell, among others.

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  • Association Examples:General access to parts of the Website; membership required to access all of the content.Value pricing of association programs and services, then up sell. Value of time: Journal content free on the Web (eventually). Paid subscription to access content immediately. Unbundled member services. Rather than dues covering everything, dues are "price of entry" and association services are sold a la carte.
  • Banner ad sales on association websiteAdvertising (print, online)
  • Banner ad sales on association websiteAdvertising (print, online)
  • Certification offered at below cost, creating market for continuing education.Professional liability insurance offered free to students in order to create future membership and insurance sales opportunities.
  • ASAE periodically makes specific pre-recorded seminars available to members.
  • Offering a study for free in return for completing the survey used to create the content.Offer a free seminar, whitepaper, etc. in order to capture prospect information (name, contact info, area of interest)
  • Association WikisUser created online manuals and reference libraries
  • YouTube"When you let people upload and download as many videos as they want, lots of them will take you up on the offer."Cost of bandwidth is "close enough to zero" to entice the user. 75 billion videos added to YouTube in 2009.BUT: YouTube's collective bandwidth costs were $360,000,000 in 2009.YouTube is doing Free to create a market for advertising, BUT ..."The videos attracted by the psychology of Free --- pirated materials, cat videos and other forms of user-generated content --- are not the sort of things that advertisers want to be associated with. In order to sell advertising, YouTube has had to buy rights to professionally produced content, such as television shows and movies."Cost to YouTube: An additional $260,000,000.Gordon Dean (Strauss's predecessor at AEC): even if the source of energy were free "the reduction in your monthly electricity bill would amount to but 20%, so great is the cost of the [electrical generating] plant itself and the distribution system."
  • Digital References
  • Is free the future for associations

    1. 1. Free: Is $0.00 the Future of Associations? Thursday, April 8, 2010 Fantasia E/F
    2. 2. Your Panel• Mark J. Golden, CAE Executive Director & CEO: National Court Reporters Association• John Mancini President, Association for Information and Image Management• Mary W. Ghikas, CAE Senior Associate Executive Director, American Library Association• Mark Langley Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, Project Management Institute• Richard Yep, CAE Executive Director, American Counseling Association
    3. 3. Chris Andersons Concept of "Free" • There is a huge difference between "cheap" and "free" • In a competitive market, price falls to marginal cost 4
    4. 4. Chris Anderson’s Concept of Free (2)• At a certain point, marginal costs get close enough to zero that you can round down• The digital age is exerting an inexorable downward pressure on the prices of all things "made of ideas."• Markets no longer defined by connecting two parties 5
    5. 5. Chris Anderson’s Taxonomy ofFree• Freemium• Advertising• Cross Subsidies• Zero Marginal Cost• Labor Exchange• Gift Economy 6
    6. 6. Fremium• Free sample to entice future purchase.“For every person who pays for the premium version of the site, 99 others get the basic version for free.”“The reason this works is that the [marginal] cost of serving the 99% is close enough to zero to call it nothing.” 7
    7. 7. Fremium• Whats Free • Web software and services • Some content• Free to Whom: • Users of the basic version• Association Examples from Panel • Actual • Potential 8
    8. 8. Advertising• Google pay-per-click text ads• Amazon pay-per transaction “affiliate ads”• Paid inclusion in search results "All of these approaches are based on the principle that free offerings build audiences with distinct interests and expressed needs that advertisers will pay to reach." 9
    9. 9. Advertising• Whats Free: • Content • Service • Software • And more• Free to Whom: • Everyone• Association Examples from Panel • Actual • Potential 10
    10. 10. Cross Subsidies• The razor is free to get you to buy the blades.• Cell phone is free to get you to buy the service plan. 11
    11. 11. Cross Subsidies • Whats Free: • Any product that entices you to buy something else • Free to Whom: • Everyone willing to pay eventually, one way or the other. • Association Examples from Panel • Actual • Potential 12
    12. 12. Zero Marginal Cost• Digital Content variant of the free sample approach "Some artists give away their music online as a way of marketing concerts, merchandise, licensing, and other paid fare." 13
    13. 13. Zero Marginal Cost• Whats Free: • Things that can be distributed without an appreciable cost to anyone.• Free to Whom: • Everyone• Association Examples from Panel • Actual • Potential 14
    14. 14. Labor Exchange• Wikipedia• Rating stories on Digg• Voting on Yahoo answers• Google 411"The act of using the service creates something of value, either improving the service or creating information that can be useful somewhere else." 15
    15. 15. Labor Exchange• Whats Free: • Web sites and services• Free to Whom: • All users, since the act of using these sites and services actually creates something of value.• Association Examples from Panel • Actual • Potential 16
    16. 16. Gift Economy• Sharing without expectation of reward.• Individuals contribute because they like the fact that actions of individuals have impact. 17
    17. 17. Gift Economy• Whats Free: • The full, "premium" version of the software or content. • Open source software. • User-generated content (e.g.; Wikipedia) • Freecycle: free second hand goods to whoever will take them away)• Free to Whom: • Everyone• Association Examples from Panel • Actual • Potential 18
    18. 18. Contrarian ViewsMalcolm Gladwell• Looks free to the user but ... • Marginal cost of bandwidth may be “close enough to zero” to look free, but YouTube spent $360M in bandwidth costs in 2009• Ignores infrastructure and system costs • Even if the cost of producing power was “too cheap to meter,” distributing energy requires enormously expensive transmission system• The only hard fast rule is there are no hard fast rules "Apple may soon be making more money selling iPhone downloads (ideas) than it does from the iPhone itself (stuff). The company could one day give away the iPhone to boost downloads; it could give away downloads to boost iPhone sales; or it could continue to do what it does now, and charge for both." 19
    19. 19. Contrarian ViewsAssociation Perspective• Content creation can be expensive, even if distribution costs are zero• Associations lack the scale that makes free work for Google/Wikipedia 20
    20. 20. Digital References• Article length version of Free! by Chris Anderson: "Free! Why $0.00 Is the Future of Business" Wired Magazine, March 2008• Critical Review by Malcolm Gladwell: “Priced to Sell: Is Free in Your Future?" New Yorker Magazine, July 6, 2009 ooks_gladwell 21
    21. 21. Panel Presentations
    22. 22. Discussion
    23. 23. Thank You!