Much maligned it may be by Malcolm Gladwell and others. Faultless it is not. But Chris Anderson’s follow-up to The Long Tail is a great read, full of insight and anecdote, and – for the large part – convincing.
I also think it provides an important counter-point to all the doom and gloom around the media and broken business models, something I’ll touch on in my Journalism.co.uk column later today.
For a favourite anecdote in Free: The Future of a Radical Price we go back to 1925, the early days of radio and the origins of free-to-air.
In the knowledge that only content was going to shift the hardware, Radio Broadcast magazine asked its readers: “Who is to pay for broadcasting and how?”
It received 800 responses including the following suggestions:
- volunteer listener contributions
- a charge of programme listings
- a tax of vacuum tubes as an “index for broadcast consumption”
Not only did this magazine competition pre-date crowdsourcing by 90-odd years, it also foresaw the model that became National Public Radio in the United States (1.) and the licence fee that we pay here in the UK (3.).
Readers of Radio Broadcast also made it plain that they were not keen on advertising. But that’s what they got.