Friday, December 23, 2011

The dilemma of free

MarketWhy Free Changes Everything

I've been blogging, and networking, and using every means possible to generate revenue online.  I've also participated deeply within the open source community.  I started browsing the Internet in 1994, so I've been using the Internet for 18 years.  Through all of these experiences, there's one thing that is consistent. People love free stuff and the Internet is an infinite supply of free stuff.

The combination of computers and the Internet drive the price of every product they touch to $0 (free).  This observation is at the heart of the problems with the music, newspaper, magazine, and publishing industries.  Before computers and highly capable software were so easily obtainable, each of these industries competed in a scarce economy. Not everyone could publish a book, make a CD, or produce news. Now everything online exists in an abundant economy.  It's a very challenging problem to have, but that's not the dilemma I'm most concerned with.

When consumers get a taste for "free" a few things happen:
  • The first thing that happens is that quality is no longer a threshold. We will accept any free version over one we have to pay for.  Ever watched a recently released movie recorded with a camcoder?
  • Logging onto the Internet or turning on a computer is a trigger which immediately makes us assume everything should be free.
  • Free becomes a habit. Once you can download Open Office or GIMP, then we get into the habit of expecting everything else to be free too.
The Paradox of Free

The dilemma of free is that when no one wants to pay for anything, then the only alternative left is advertising. And boy do we love advertising, am I right? So from open source advocates to independent authors or movie makers, we're all struggling to produce a good product. Since we're not Seth Godin or Mozilla, then we start pricing everything for free. When we try to move up the value chain and charge for our products we get little or no support. I've been sharing Amazon Associate links for 8 years. I've gotten only 16 click throughs, and no sales. I've got Google Adsense running on half a dozen websites, and I'm lucky if I meet the minimum once a quarter.

We easyily drop money on the stupidest of things offline, on vacation, at the fair, or at a Disney on Ice show. However, when we fire up the Internet, we close our wallets and expect everything for free. Going out drinking with your peeps on Friday after a long week of work, we will spend $20, $50, or maybe even a $100. When we conduct these transactions, we rarely thing twice. What is so different about online commerce?

Every company, every project, every artist(author) needs money to survive. Yet, we commonly entertain ourselves with their products for free. How are they supposed to find the money they so desparately need to continue producing entertaining or useful products, if no one wants to buy their products? Don't want to buy, then what about donations? Nope, we rarely do that either. When was the last time you made a donation to an open source project while using their products all the time?

Crying in my Coffee

As we are in the holiday spirit, I'd like to make one wish. If you find something on the Internet for free, and it entertains you, or makes you more productive, then find a way to compensate the producers of said product. Here are a few suggestions:

  • If they have products for sales and you've enjoyed their work, please make a purchase. If you already got it for free, then buy it and give it as a gift to a friend.
  • If they accept donations, then make a donation. Come on, if you're using software from an open source project, cough up a little money to show your appreciation.
  • If they only have advertising on their sites, then by all means click on their ads. I suggest this a lot and most people will say that's cheating.
How Advertising Works

Here is another example of the paradox between offline and online behaviour. When you buy a magazine or newspaper, there are a lot of advertisements. Sometimes there are products in those advertisements, that  you may never buy, ever. Yet the publisher collects their payment for putting that ad in front of you. Do you feel guilty or like your cheating those advertisers for not looking at their ads? Of course you don't.
Yet, when you see ads on a website that is providing something valuable, you don't click on them. If that is the ONLY way for the website owner to get paid, why don't we want to show our appreciation for the effort of making something valuable available for "free?"

Still leave a bad taste in your mouth?

The only option

We vote with our money. When we pay for something we say,"I want things like this." If we never vote for the products we enjoy by buying them, then we are subconciously saying I want to see more advertising. We are still in the infancy of the Internet, so it's hard to predict if a different model will emerge. Unfortunately the only option other than advertising is opening our pocketbooks and exchanging money for value. Let's make the Internet the global marketplace it has the potential to become.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The proof is everywhere: We are not alone


I'm still reeling from an outstanding "TEDx San Juan," but here's another Puerto Rican who has committed himself to making a difference. I met another one this weekend at our annual Christmas outreach to the less fortunate in the Condado area. We are everywhere, and if we can grow together, we'll become even more productive and effective; through unity we can reclaim our future.

I'm pleased to be working with Jose Alvarado, from Humans Engaged in Learning Procedures. He's dedicated himself to staying: focused, positive, and active to generate a life-time of self improvement. Enjoy this speech he recently gave at Toastmasters Puerto Rico:

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Five actionable items to do today to get more traffic to your blog and website

Based on the max-strategy theory and the conversational model.

How dimensions are there?
Here are five actionable items that you can do right now to get more traffic to your blog and/or website:
  1. Locate a tool like TweetDeck, HootSuite, Postling that allows you to post messages to all your social media at once: Facebook, LI, Twitter, Tumblr, Flickr, etc. Tweetdeck and Postling are my favorites.

    This is a simple multiplier-affect activity. You may have only a short-time to send out some exciting news, so look for tools that give you a multiplier affect. The best strategy comes from doing something once, but having the same message AUTOMATICALLY posted to all of your premium social networks. Write one clever post and multiply it's reach by spreading as widely as possible in simple action.

  2. SEO, SEO and SEO - Learn these three important tricks:
    • Choose your title very carefully. Most blogging platforms use the title to create the permanent web address for your blog post. So use as many important keywords as possible.
    • On your individual blog posts, use HTML tags like A, B, H1, H2, EMPHASIS (italics), U (underline) on every occurrence of the keywords in your blog posts. This is SEO attraction bait. By highlighting these keywords with special tagging, you're giving the search engines a hint as to what is most important on the page. Blogger does this for me with keyboard shortcuts.

      There should be at least one use of the word or phrase within the post as there is for the tags, labels, or keywords used for the post
    • When you link to your own posts, always use keywords as the text and not something useless like 'here.'

      Better: Say visit the boldest flash fiction ebook series of flash fiction is now available from Mis Tribus' new "20 in 5."
      Than: You can find our new ebook here.

  3. Setup a TwitterFeed from your blog's RSS. That way, once you post, it automatically sends out a message to Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

    This is another wonderful multiplier tool. Essential tool for every blog.

  4. Blog as much as you can. Daily for sure, but more is better. Use a variety of content. Try to vary short, medium, and long entries. Use shorter posts if possible.
  5. Aggressively grow your social graph. The combined connections of all of our social networks is our social graph. Implement a daily search for connections based on your most important key words. Add as many as a specific social network will allow.

    With each new connection you make, you exponentially increase the value of your social graph.
Bonus action item: Search for blogs with good SEO for your keywords (you do have a very clear set of keywords, right?). Go to those sites and interact. Leave a comment. Let them know you're passionate too. Whenever possible, leave a link back to your blog.