Is free really the new economy? Chris Anderson seems to think so – “we are entering an era when free will be seen as the norm, not an anomaly.” The assumption that free means we don’t pay for anything is not entirely accurate. You see, we are still paying, but just with a different currency. If you live in the United States and travel abroad to Europe, you are not getting everything for free because you’re paying with Euros. The currency has simply been converted.
Such is the case with what Chris Anderson calls “freeconomics.” Instead of paying with money, we are now going to paying with attention, which is more valuable than money in my opinion. Is Google really giving away Gmail? Not quite. They are not “giving” away anything, they are investing. They are spending money to get your attention, and they have it. The same goes for Yahoo with their free unlimited e-mail storage space. Are they paying for it? You bet they are. Are we paying for it? Well that depends on whether or not Yahoo! got your attention when they made their grand “free” announcement.
It may seem that companies are giving things away for free, but ask yourself this, each time a company offers to give you something for “free” is the company getting your attention? What would happen if every company started giving things away? You want a new computer? Here you go. You want an Ipod? Here you go. Do you think these companies will continue to grow and profit? Absolutely not.
There are two currencies now, attention and money. In order for companies to continue to grow and become successful, they need to find a balance between the two.
So the question is, how are you going to get your customers attention?