The Value of “Free” on the Web

November 21st, 2007 · 1 Comment · Category: Web Content

Starting a business, I read a lot on marketing, advertising, promotions online and offline and a common method of generating more leads was giving something away. Free tutorials, free whitepapers, free samples of my services, etc. It’s uneasy to give away my time and sweat, but as a business owner, perhaps it’s part of the process to give a little away to get a little back that’s worth a lot more. This afternoon I came across this article at The Blog Herald (a great resource, by the way) titled “The Value of Free Information?”. The following is an excerpt that stood out most.

“A friend of mine, Mark, has decided that because of the community response, he is reconsidering giving away free PHP scripts for people to use. It seems that if the community doesn’t respect people willing to freely give out their knowledge, then they become disenchanted, and no longer take the time to create free things for people to use. And this is really understandable to me.

Flipping this around, there are so many online e-books that will set you back hundreds of dollars to teach you how to make money from your blog, rank well in search engines, or get super amounts of traffic, and people buy them in droves. Does that mean that the paid e-book would have more value than a free one? Or do people just assume that the higher the price, the higher the quality and value?”

This makes sense to me. The most natural thing as a consumer is to assume that pricey things are worth more than cheap things. This may not always be the case, but we’ve been trained well enough to believe it despite evidence to the contrary in some cases. Regardless, you shouldn’t expect to get a good website for free, just a cheap one. Nor should you expect to get a good seminar about blogging or something else of interest to you for free without expecting the speaker/teacher to ask you for something in return. It doesn’t have to be money. Money is not the only thing of value in which to trade.

Given the nature of the Internet today, high-quality content is a rare thing. As I stated in a previous article, good content is created by talented people. So, why not pay some money for high-quality content from someone who is smart and trained, and not expect it to come to us freely? And, if you get something for free, take it for what it’s worth or take it for what it’s worth to you. A cheap thing is only as cheap as its use to use. An expensive thing is only as valuable as its use to you. Not t get to philogophical but, everything being relative, value is arbritarily assigned by each of us. In this new age of very available, constant and surplus information, it’s our respective jobs to weed out what we’re willing to shell out money for and what we are not. Do a little research, soul searching, etc. It’s worth your time, if it’s not worth any money.

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