As the internet continues to evolve (even to the extent most people no longer use a capital ‘I’…), new business models have sprung up, many based apparently on giving things away. A recent internet marketing system which landed in my email inbox from one of the many lists to which I subscribe promised to show me how to build a significant income from giving away my products.
While this seems perverse logic, there is method in the madness. Most people are now aware of the amount of free software you can download form the Internet these days, from zip compression tools to complete office suites (ok, that’s my first giveaway 😉 ). Now, with internet connectivity increasingly widespread, as more and more software becomes web-based there is an increasing trend is to let individuals use the software for free. This allows them to call it “free software” (this is not such an obvious observation when you realise that commercial organisations use this technique). This has immediate benefits, at least while most software is only ‘free’ for a trial period, of getting very good results in search engines and is naturally viral if the product is at least half decent.
These companies, who are not usually Open Source developers themselves, make their money by charging companies to use the software and offering upgrades, hosting and other services on top. It is a natural progression of the open source customisation model where experts in particular software products like the popular free content management system drupal, began to offer hosting, design and other services on a commercial basis. This was clearly good for the communities of developers as it increased the usage (and ‘utilisation’ – effective usage) of the software and allowed the developers themselves to earn from their efforts towards the common good.
Free software and services per se do not, of course, make for a business, or even survival. I have followed, contributed and been part of the debate on internet business for over 15 years now and in many ways, nothing has changed. We are still trying to figure out how the internet should work, what should be free (see this recent, amusing yet disturbing article on the give-away culture) and most fundamentally – what is it actually for…?!
Incidentally, free vs paid for and proprietary vs open source is a whole subject in itself and you can expect a post on this here sometime soon. (I should clarify “free software” is not the same as open source – click here for a definition.)
But given my account above of the free+upgrade, as well as the vast repositories of free information and other content available online now, I truly believe that by offering help, advice and even free versions of your product for private use is beneficial for both the recipient and the owner. By showing a willingness to help your audience and committing time to providing material from which anyone can benefit for free, you will gain the respect and trust of your audience and so reduce or eliminate the defences we naturally put up when reading, hearing or viewing the sales messages that constantly bombard us every day.
This is my first post in a site which I hope will prove that. I have seen and directly experienced this phenomenon and I intend to build your trust so you will accept my recommendations based on your judgement of my knowledge and expertise in the subjects about which I write. As I build up this site, I hope to teach you how to do the same and I will share with you my ‘secrets’ on how you can achieve the same success. Here’s some of my recent inspiration – an article by Chris Garrett posted on Wordtracker, a leading keyword research tool used by SEO professionals such as myself, on making blogging work for your business.