« Buy the phone, get the music library for free | Main | 37 Signals: Charge for your products, Dummy! »

September 03, 2008


Gerd Leonhard

Chris, thanks for bringing Hal's work back to life - great stuff here. Just yesterday, I posted something very much related on my blog, "The Future Revenues for Content Creators: Attention Revenues UP, Copy Revenues DOWN -- get used to it" >> http://www.mediafuturist.com/2008/09/future-revenues.html

A snippet: it looks like we are indeed heading into a future of Attention Revenues exceeding Copy Revenues - and I am talking within 3-4 years here, and probably much sooner in Asia where 'selling copies' has never been the #1 money maker for content creators.

A Future where all kinds of attention-based revenues (i.e. not just advertising-as-we-knew-it but revenue sharing of flat-rate offerings, next-generation '2.0' advertising, up-stream selling and marketing, sponsorships and branding, linking and referring, etc) will very likely surpass copy & unit-sales revenues. A Future where many content creators of all kinds, in all locations, and within all levels of accomplishment will make more money based on what their brand stands for, based on their fans aka users having real, meaningful experiences with or through them, and based on who pays attention to them, when and where.

Selling enough copies of one's work (whether physical or digital, whether books, songs, movies, software or games) to make this the sole pillar of one's livelihood has in reality always been reserved to those very few creators that are at the top of the heap (i.e. not in the so-called longtail or even the body). And of course, being hit-driven, the companies that have marketed those that can sell millions of copies globally are the ones who will have the most to lose in the short term and during this paradigm switch-over - Hollywood's latest disaster movies are not going to be themost-watched movies in India, China and Brazil in the future, anymore.

In our immediate future as content creators and companies that serve them, it's all about gathering and converting Attention - at least until the world is so well-served with feels-like-free content in return for attention that physical copies become desirable again (and they will)....

John Banfill

Another model would be to Improve a core product. An author writing a book can test their material and get comments on it before the book is finalized.

A penny saved is a penny earned. Money can be saved by offloading maintenance and improvements. Sun open-sourced Star Office -> Open Office to have an office suite available for UNIX.


This paper by Hal Varian has been published in the Journal of Economic Perspectives, Vol. 19, No. 2, Spring 2005, pages 121-138.


The factor I often see missed when the general argument is made that since the cost of copying is near zero, that the revenue potential is zero is the factor of time. Time is not free to it's experiencer. As such, there is almost always an ability to monetize the time you save a customer in access, acquisition, retention, and ease of use.

The opportunities are around combining "Subscriptions" with "Sell information complements." When we stop concentrating on the digital widget and instead concentrate on the value creation that the digital widget is simply a carrier of, we can get past "all information wants to be free" to "this information and information provider creates real value for me the consumer and I'm quite willing to pay him because paying is easier.

Music services a mood, books either service an entertainment mood or educate. Either way, focusing on what these widgets actually do and offering the services around them creates commerce models for content producers and better experiences for end consumers. Ask yourself which one is easier to use - Pandora or Bittorrent? If you write an e-book, ask your fans to subscribe to you and gate them new content and access to you (online chat, etc.) Then, trust your users by making those digital widgets work as widely as possible for as many uses as possible. Trust tends to get returned...

I will add a shameless personal plug for Vindicia where we're taking that philosophy and actually making it easy to build and scale content and service offerings.

Miguel Barbosa

Thanks for this great article. I have already linked to it through my blog. I love how your content helps people become more well rounded citizens. Take care.


Thank you so much for sharing such an interesting article overhere, i am glad to be here because i always found here nice as well as interesting blogs.. This article is really gr8 & also it will update my knowledge..

The comments to this entry are closed.


The Long Tail by Chris Anderson

Notes and sources for the book

FREE was available in all digital forms--ebook, web book, and audiobook--for free shortly after the hardcover was published on July 7th. The ebook and web book were free for a limited time and limited to certain geographic regions as determined by each national publisher; the unabridged MP3 audiobook (get zip file here) will remain free forever, available in all regions.

Order the hardcover now!