Stop Whining About How Elitist And Expensive TED Is [Just Because] You Didn’t Get Invited
Feb. 15, 2010, 9:17 AM

>> Too bad you missed it! Larry Page gave everyone a free Nexus One.

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via Silicon Alley Insider.

(Minor edit for colorful language.)

What is amazing about this (the subhead sentence after the headline), is not what it says about TED, but what it says about the future of content creation, and the question of charging for it.

Yes, Larry Page is a multi-billionaire who gave away free Nexus Ones created by his Fortune 500 (currently ranked #150) company, Google, to other well-to-do folks who were able to afford to pay $6,000 for the exclusive TED Talks experience. In doing so, he is following word of mouth (WOM) marketing model 101, of getting your product into the hands of key influencers, and hopefully winning them over, and getting them to evangelize your product.

But aside from all of that, he is showing what the future really holds: With ever cheaper reading & communication devices such as the Nexus One, it will become increasingly common to give those away to users, JUST to have SOME influence over what content (and thereby advertisements) they consume.

In essence, such a give-away represents A PAYMENT of the consumer for consuming content on the “gifters” platform. That is how important it is to get some, any slice of the attention pie. The getting of some of which implies that you will have opportunities down the road to do business with the “giftee” in the form of offers (ads or otherwise) that can be embedded with the content.

Note that it is taking for granted that a lot of content itself cannot be charged for. Why? …

…Because just like the devices it is shown on, much of that content is becoming commoditized.

There is an over-abundance of it, and certainly no scarcity at all. If the supply is going to infinity, and the demand is finite due to people’s limited amounts of attention, then the price is by necessity going toward Zero.

Now contrast this with the way that Old Media publishers have been trying to put the genie back in the bottle, and start charging for their content again, with so-called Pay Walls and other ill-conceived schemes.

Contrast it with Microsoft, which, when announcing the finally updated version of its mobile OS, made it clear that it intends to charge a licensing fee to handset makers, even though its market share in mobile has been languishing around 10%, and Google is giving away its Android mobile OS for free. All while Apple has built up a huge lead with its iPhone in the smart phone segment.

Silicon Alley Insider correctly points out that Microsoft’s stubbornness on this point is illogical, because even under the most optimistic scenarios, Windows Phone 7 won’t hardly be noticeable on their bottom line. It is however setting it up for failure in the race for market share and resulting mind share.

Microsoft’s question should be: How can we maximize our share of the attention pie for our mobile OS ecosystem? How can we catch, or better yet outflank, the iPhone?

Similarly, Old Media companies should be asking: How can we maximize our share of the attention pie for our news, opinion, and other content ecosystem?

Anything else is folly at this point. Once you have the attention, there WILL be opportunities to monetize, simply by virtue of people being in your ecosystem. Compare how street vendors benefit from people simply being at an event.

But you cannot choke off the oxygen and lifeblood of your ecosystem with Pay Walls, and other walls and barriers of any kind at the ENTRY point. If next to no one lives in your ecosystem, you won’t be selling very much to anyone.

And remember: The first sale is always the hardest. Why not make it much easier, and make the first sale…well…FREE. Someone taking your free offer still constitutes a sale, because they paid you with their valuable attention (time and energy).

Even better, PAY THEM to “buy” from you in the first transaction, as Larry Page has demonstrated with the Nexus One give-aways. Those cost real money, and yet it is still in Googles interest to be giving many more away.

Notice what Google has been doing all along, they have been giving away free copies of a lot more than just digital content (actually Google doesn’t create content at all): Google applications of all stripes and colors, including Gmail, Google “office” apps, Google Maps, Google RSS Reader, etc. etc.

Why? Because it keeps you on Google’s platform for a little longer, so that they might have SOME influence over what you are shown in terms of advertisements, and other offers that go along with the ecosystem.

Notice the deep misunderstanding by the parade of other companies, especially news and other Old Media companies, that have recently been trying to crucify Google over spreading their content through their search engine without reimbursement, not understanding that that content is typically lowest on the totem pole of usefulness:

The New York Times for example is still dreaming about charging for their news content, when it has about a 6 hour half-life (that’s why it’s called “old news”). Compare that to Google giving away productivity apps that can be useful to you for months and years.

What’s  your take away: Massively Move The Freeline, so that you may even have an ecosystem in which to sell anything.