November 1, 2007
News & Opinion: Free!?
Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert and author of the recently released Stick to Drawing Comics, Monkey Brain!, has an intriguing op-ed in the Wall Street Journal today. It deals with the complications of providing one's material on the internet for free. He began as an evangelist, offering his comic on the internet for free and generating great results by doing so. He has since become more of a skeptic, having had a negative experience when he put his first non-humor title online for free, hoping to boost sales of its sequel. Instead, that only led his fans to expect the sequel to be made available for free as well. He writes that "for the readers of my non-Dilbert books, I have inadvertently set the market value for my work at zero. Oops." He is also receiving some negative feedback from his fans with his new book. It's not because of the book itself, however, but the fact that the book is a compilation of the most popular posts on his blog, and he agreed to take down those posts when he signed his book deal. This is the challenge many individuals, artists, and organizations are going to have as the internet continues to change the way we sell our work, our services, and ourselves. How much material should we provide for free to generate the maximum amount of interest in our work, and how do we use that interest in our work to make a living, i.e., gobs of money? Chris Anderson (author of The Long Tail) believes that all information wants to be free, and is even working on ways to release his next book, in print, for free. The name of the book? Free. He believes that offering his work for free is the best way to promote himself, and that has to help him make his living as a speaker. For anyone looking for new business models and creative ways to move forward in the burgeoning new environment of the internet, Wikinomics is very good source. Scott Adams' experiences as a humorist and novelist expose a nuance that is a large part of the Web2.0 debate, and the op-ed is worth looking at. Somewhat ironically, it is not free.