The mass of digital content has created a widening gap between free and paid versions of the same item.
Author, blogger and founder of Squidoo.com, Seth Godin’s recent blog post discusses the ‘free culture’ that has developed over the years, as more people gave their services away for free to promote them (e.g. songs on the radio, chapters from a book).
Although it has always been the case that most people won’t buy something if it is available for free, Godin believes two things have changed in society that have caused a gap between the free and the paid:
1. As more commercial activity involves digital goods (websites, ebooks, music, etc.), the temptation to spread the idea for free (to aid discovery) is actually economically possible–if you believe that the free spread will lead to more revenue in the long run. The cost of a single copy is zero, so you can choose to set the digital item loose without bankrupting yourself.
2. A culture of free digital consumption has evolved and is being adopted by a huge segment of the most coveted consumers (teenagers, the educated, the upper middle class).
People make a “leap” to buy something generally available for free. For example, from listening to a song played on the radio to actually buying the music. Godin believes this was easier to do years ago and the recent digital spread of ideas and products has amplified the “free-gap” to the point where some people aren’t going to pay for anything if they can avoid to.