Wednesday, August 16, 2006


So if you haven't noticed, I haven't been publishing much recently. A lot of factors are to blame - friend visited from the east coast, laptop is at Best Buy being repaired, and, most importantly, I've been ramping up work on the project I've alluded to once or twice this summer.

I will keep up the blogging as well as I can (expect a post on the changing face of news soon), but the pace will be slow until I get my laptop back. I'll definitely be back blogging once every day or two once school kicks off Sept. 6. Sit tight, and stay tuned.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

If it's free...

It's for me. Or those were the words of my old football coach. But they pretty much describe the common man's attitude to, for lack of a better word, stuff.

Over a dinner conversation with my Dad and his college buddy, my Dad pointed out a counterintuitive phenomena in the telecom industry - for all the advancement of cell phones technology, a hallmark of today's hand held era is consumers' tolerance of the system's imperfections - dropped calls, fuzzy voice, etc. Landlines never had those problems.

So anyway, that got me thinking of something I decided (but subsequently forgot) to blog about - free(dom). Not the Constitutional kind, but the "wow I'm getting so much free stuff" kind.

Confused? Think about it. How much do we get for free in today's world that we paid for just a decade (or less) ago. Contacting relatives on the east coast (or across the pond) took a phone call or, at the least, a letter. A few bucks or a stamp. But we were willing to pay for that contact. Now? Are you kidding me? An email, IM, or VoIP call is free, and even a cell or land line call is dirt cheap. The web has drastically altered the value we assign to a vast majority of services.

There's free wifi in Mountain View and London and coffee shops. Free music and movies on the internet. Free text messages, emails, and calls. Hell, even free APIs for mashup developers. Free, free, free.

The question really is what are people still willing to pay for? And it's a tough one. Hell, most start ups can't come up with a coherent answer. Seriously, my most popular question for entrepreneurs at Mashup Camp, "What's your business model?", was usually greeted with dropped eyes, stutters, and shuffling feet.

Sure, music and movies still have markets, but the revolutions that will transform those industries have already begun. I mean, iTunes does quite a bit of business, but free file sharing sites are thriving. People got a taste of free(dom) with Napster, and most never went back. And why should they?

We're getting used to free stuff. Paying for information, media, telecommunications, and much more is so 20th century. We just aren't willing to shell out for the same services we used to. And it's affected the way companies make money.

The key, then, is to find other ways to do so. Two answers the market has spat out other than simply selling stuff are advertising (Google) and taking cuts off transactions (eBay, Amazon, etc.). But other than those two models, online businesses aren't really making money. The Salesforce model has gained some popularity, and perhaps leveraging real life services in the virtual world is the answer to this dilemma. Whether it is or isn't, the future will belong to those who come up with unique applications of the two tried and true revenue streams and invent others.