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June 27, 2012


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Grant Crowell

It seems to be now more of a strategy around incentivizing the consumer at each step of getting and keeping their attention and interest, towards a call-to-action that actually moves at least a portion of those consumers towards your own business model that you can sustain.

Colin Warwick

This is so true, David. As reader, the real cost of a book or a white paper is the time it takes me to read it. As an author of of a blog posting or a white paper, I'm always conscious of trying to make my content worth my readers time. Cheers, Colin.

David Meerman Scott

Grant - Yes, I'm seeing that too.

Colin - Exactly. Which means shorter can be much better sometimes.

Gary Ambrosino

Well........sort of David. There might not be a Free Lunch somewhere, but there IS lots of software that truly is free. Yes, it doesn't have "everything" in it that the "full" version - - maybe you can only consume so many uses or something - - but a lot of free software actually does do "something useful" without any "opportunity cost". After all, the twitter account I used to receive your blog post is free of charge. And didn't I get some value out of it ?

Bryan Brown @GetVision

If this is someones first exposure to your brand - then you really want them to get the content for Free as fast as possible. If you're content is helpful and not an advertisement than its not out of the question to place a next step - call to action where readers could go to express interest and fill out a form.

Joseph Ratliff

Free isn't truly free unless you don't place a value on your time.

That being said... OpenOffice anyone? :)

David Meerman Scott

Gary, of course there is an opportunity cost with free software. There is a learning curve associated with new software. So the cost is my time to understand how to use it. That's why simple is better and why iPhone apps took off because most are really easy to use.

Getvision - Exactly. And so many companies first exposure is a massive form required for a download. Not very brand friendly.

Joseph - Yes. And thank you for reading my "free" blog. I know that you have other things you could be doing with your time and I appreciate it.


Sooooo good to see you talking about this, David!

For me, at the center of the issue is that calling an offer free but requiring sign-up to get it is seductive and manipulative.

I refuse to be that in any area of my life, so although I know that works, it won't work for me.

What I've found is that by offering things of value without requiring an exchange, and inviting people to sign up if they want to have me stay in touch with them gets a great response.

And it makes my heart happy, too.

Thanks for this, David. And especially for the call to push back on those who misuse the word. Brilliant.


David Meerman Scott

AnastaciaBrice - Thanks! "seductive and manipulative" indeed! Yes, I've also found that giving gifts from the heart is the best way.

Colin Warwick

...yes takes effort on the part of the author to be succinct... as Blaise Pascal observed "Je n'ai fait celle-ci plus longue que parce que je n'ai pas eu le loisir de la faire plus courte."
"I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time." http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Blaise_Pascal

SEO Chennai

Just eyewash of "free"...!!! am i right...???

Catherine Johns

This is so interesting, David. Marketing experts keep telling me I have to offer a juicy something-or-other "for free" and collect names so I have a list. I love your approach.

Trevor Young

Very timely piece David! Yesterday I released my new free ebook 'The Micro Maven Manifesto' - for weeks I grappled whether I should have a gated lead (I think that's what it is called?) requiring registration, or make it completely free no strings attached and thus exposing my ideas to many more people.

I opted for the latter, influenced by your arguments in the past around this very issue; needless to say, I appreciated reading your '50 times more downloads without registration' comment above!

If anyone is interested, the manifesto can be downloaded at http://bit.ly/micromavens - no registration required! - Cheers TY

David Meerman Scott

Catherine - The people telling you that are working off a 1980s playbook that does not utilize the power of the web to seamlessly spread ideas.

Trevor - Excellent ebook! Glad to hear you put it out there with no gates.

Joseph Ratliff

David - Your blog isn't "free either IMO ;)

You devote time to writing valuable lessons for your readership to absorb and use in their businesses and lives.

The "hybrid" model you suggested quite a few years ago radically changed my thinking about "free" and what it means to businesses.

Now, let's explore this "free" concept with mobile phones as an example...

IMO, today's consumer knows what free really means, unless YOU the marketer change that definition. In the case of mobile phones, I know that when a mobile phone is "free," it really isn't. The data charges are where they make their money. I propose that the majority of the buying market knows that.

So is the mobile phone really free? Not in that case. And as an aside... have you ever gotten a free iPhone (no, because Apple doesn't HAVE to offer free, but that's another blog post for me :) ).

But, what if Verizon decided one day to change the "free mobile phone" landscape much like you have David?

A hybrid model of sorts.

What if they offered a "free for teens," a "free for women," a "free for men," etc... approach?

Free for teens: Free phone plus "a teen-oriented PAID app" free for a year or something (they could work out the deal with an app owner).

Free for women, and free for men the same way... but the free offer tailored specifically for the group they are marketing to.

Obviously this is off the cuff... there could be a bit more research put into the offer, but I hope the point gets delivered.

Free isn't free unless the end user doesn't think it's free, instead free is only free when the end user thinks they got away with something or got HUGE value for nothing.

If your end user thinks they got something for free... they've already devalued that thing in their mind... so free becomes "not important."

Don't be "not important." :)

Melonie Dodaro

I guess the word “free” has been abused for quite some time now. No, nothing is really free. But I definitely agree when you said that it is something that is so easily accessible, it almost seemed free. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on these!

David Meerman Scott

Joseph - Ah, you have a good memory. The "hybrid" model offers something valuable such as a white paper with no registration first and then within the paper is an offer (such as a webinar) that does require registration. Your suggestion is a very interesting one -- a buyer persona-centic set of offers. It could work. But would other personas get annoyed? I know I hate it when I pay more as a subscriber of, say, cable TV than a new subscriber does.

Joseph Ratliff

Oh no, each buyer persona would get the same "free mobile phone"... but the package that goes with it would be tailored to them, and probably offer a selection of apps each group could choose from I suppose. (remember, off the cuff, LOL)

Alienating a group based on price would have to be one of the "no-nos" for this type of offer for sure. :)

David Meerman Scott

Joseph - Oh, I get it. That's an interesting approach for sure!


Hi David, so far you are the few (popular authors) that really offer free eBooks to the world. As you said, the rest needs registration. Anyway, thanks for that! :)

Web Application Development

Imagine for a moment if you tried that trick in your off-line business. Let’s say, you put a sign in your shop window saying “Free Newspapers today” but when you have attracted the customer into your store you tell them that in fact the “free” newspaper comes with a Latte costing €4.

Web Application Developer

If you are in need, it is a great real time connection. If you are not in need, then the message becomes an annoying and interrupted message.

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