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May 05, 2009


Andreas Ekstrom

Thanks - for us living and working just across the bridge from the battleground you're describing, there are some lessons to be learned...

Laurens Holst

Well, I for one am happy the way it is in the Netherlands now… we have a bunch of free newspapers (Metro, Spits, De Pers and Dag) which are distributed at public transport hubs… Pretty happy with them, I can pick one up and read some news on the way to work. They also all have their own identity in the way they bring the news, so it’s not all the same press bureau boilerplate stuff. I personally prefer Metro. Though lately I also use my mobile phone a lot to read news. And at home we have a shared subscription on De Volkskrant which is a ‘real’ newspaper, offering more detail and is less on-the-go oriented.

But it seems the difference between the Danish free papers and ours is that they apparantly also delivered for free at your doorstep. That means that while in our system people take the paper(s) they want, in the Danish system you get all of them delivered to you. Seems less efficient. Also let’s not forget the big amounts of wasted paper, which isn’t exactly environmentally-friendly either.

Malte Holm

Great read from Jon. I'm originally from Denmark and remember with the newspapers started 'raining down' on us. Now I'm in Guatemala and was lucky to get a ticket for Mondays Free Summit. See you there, looking forward to it!!


Free is over. Free is past. Free is regretably becoming poor news for the poor.


Errrr.... "same Icelandic investors the helped take down the world economy."
Do you really have the courage to assert this?
The "And yes" also indicates that you assume other people think like you. Really?
Small town city councils, non-governmental agencies, retirement homes and social institutions investing in USA AAA+ rated assets. They truly showed a coordinated cooperative effort to shut down the world. On which they don't depend at all, of course.
I came here looking for progressive aware modern knowledge and I found a guru as intelligible as a fart.
Enjoy censoring me!

Bruce Christensen

I am not sure how long we will ignore the writing on the wall or in the press..
Free is great, when it is connected to enterprise.
Enterprise is great, when it is connected to selling.
Selling is wonderful, when it results in profit.

Nothing happens in this world until somebody sells something.

Forget free; monetize by selling something besides advertising.


Here's a possible path for financially-threatened newspapers and magazines to move towards sustainability…

In addition to a comments section, these ventures could add a “related predictions” space by each article or column for readers to make cogent (Twitter-like lengths) forecasts of specific events related to the article that they see unfolding over a three or six month period.

To make predictions, readers would pay a one-time or subscription fee to enter the prediction pool, bringing needed revenues to the publication.

The best predictors over time could earn karma points convertible to status or visibility. One reward for the most successful participants might be the opportunity to contribute an occasional guest columnist, after the precedent that Nicholas Kristof and others have set at the New York Times.

Another reward option might be to periodically highlight the best predictors in a “open forum” on trends in given fields, where they would be free to comment on trends and make further predictions.

Such pay-to-participate prediction market systems might also use a portion of their revenues for cash prizes. The prizes might go to the most successful predictors and/or good causes of their choosing.

Has any move of this kind been tried? A pilot project might be a good way to test reader interest and revenue-generating potentials.

Mark Frazier
@openworld (Twitter)

Rezwan Razani

The "same Icelandic investors who helped take down the world economy"? I just noticed that they also use more electricity per capita than anyone else in the world. Fascinating country. Must visit soon.

Chris Anderson

@Muah. The Icelandic comment was a joke. Sorry that wasn't obvious.

Jean K. Min

Welcome to the Land of 'Freeconomics' That is Korea:


Inspired by your cover story, I've tried to compile some variants of freeconomics I found in Korea, though I basically consider it as a kind of barter economy disguised as points, air miles, and sometimes a shiny new gadget. If you are looking for some Asian examples, this story would give you some food for thought.


Well, I believe that traditional printed newspapers, and perhaps printed magazines, are headed for some hard times. The internet has Most if not All of the information found in the printed (for a fee) media for free! I can find all of the current news I want on the internet for free, why would I purchase a newspaper, or a magazine? Although Online Auction sites like Our-Auction The New Free to buy, sell, and bid online Auction site and Ebay, etc.. have not hurt traditional auctions held in public buildings. So it is possible that The traditional printed newspapers, and magazines Might do all right, but common sense dictates that they will see at least some drop in sales, especially in these trying economic times.


Free is not over, free is come back


I think I disagree.

Well, I loved the account of the failed attempt by Nyhedsavisen to conquer the Danish market, and caught myself thinking a lot about it. I also felt a growing unease with the purportedly proof that "Free" is dangerous per se. To me, this tale is the proof of the inanity of carrying a successful strategy into a new market without first identifying the explicit and (above all) the implicit assumptions on which it rests upon, and checking if they are still applicable in said new market.

In a very competitive market, I bet your competitors won't simply let you do your dance, watching from the sideline, without reacting as quickly as possible. Contrary to Iceland's tame market split between two contenders, the Danish newspapers had a history of active competition, and seven newspapers fighting for the pie. Hence the ingredients of the Danish disaster.

My analysis of the tale is that Dagsbrun's first mistake was to conclude that Denmark was the ideal landing spot for their doubly free newspaper. Did they choose Denmark simply because they speak a Scandinavian language? It seems obvious that Denmark was already a crowded market. The "doubly free" strategy started a price war, but basically even a newspaper with a traditional revenue model would have been caught in an uphill battle in the attempt of winning a share of the crowded Danish newspaper market - I suggest reading Lanchester's strategy for business, adapted by Yano.

Perhaps a more accurate description of this could be: the story of a business failure that was based on insufficiently questioned assumptions, with dire consequences amplified thanks to a "doubly free" business model.

Nishant Patnaik

Is the industry in Europe bitten up by recession?And what benchmarks set by press freedom in Europe!


Thanks - for us living and working just across -

without first identifying the explicit and (above all) the implicit assumptions


Urs E. Gattiker

Dear Chris

Thanks for this post, looked at Morten Lund's as well.... sad and inspiring at the same time.

I just wanted to add a few thoughts. Since the younger generation in some markets with free sheets does no longer want to pay for news, newspapers face a battle to convince their readers to pay for the print or online version of their fare.

This is a tough battle, who will win?

As the above comments show, some free newspapers will survive (single or double-model) as long as they are backed by media houses (e.g., Netherlands, Denmark also Funen ;-), Switzerland) and they carve up the market (e.g., 1 publishes in the morning and the other in the evening - rest closed shop in Switzerland).

Unfortunately, while people may think about what their legitimate consumption model is (e.g., free downloads, e-news, etc.), free beats paying for content hands down. And yes, every time it seems people are willing to choose free (regardless of quality) over paid.

Are newspapers the dinosaurs of the 20-21st century? Revenues are dropping and the Kindle reader will not save them either from having to explore new revenue streams:


Lars Lindstrom

Dear Chris,

As co-founder of Nyhedsavisen and later partner with Morten Lund in the project I would like to add to your otherwise fairly balanced blog post that there was actually nothing wrong with the business model of the double-free newspaper but unfortunately, as we discovered, vehement competitors in the good old physical world can still produce insurmountable obstacles the FREE internet model doesn't have to deal with.

As Jon Lund (whom I by the way have never heard off) evidently has no insight into Nyhedsavisen's operations, I have to correct that we did in fact get the distribution to work impeccably after much hard work but unfortunately at too high costs - the decision by the Competition Authorities was frankly insane and a great example of how 100-year entrenched incumbents in a small country with language barriers can power-bowl any foreign newcomers - and this being particularly true in media being perhaps the most powerful industry of them all. Image selling a products when an entire nations news sources are aimed at killing you off as quickly as possible to the point where a front cover story in a national coverage newspaper was about how all the investor money behind Nyhedsavisen came from Russian mafia money (yes libel laws in Denmark are, like the rest of the socialist ideology, unbearably soft). Add to that the fact that our competitors each threw in $100m just to produce two copy-cat products with no intention of ever making them profitable - they were created purely to litter peoples mailboxes with enough newspapers to forever constipate consumers from free newspapers and to give away free advertising making it very hard to increase our advertising prices fast enough to survive.

All in all, free gone horribly wrong but I still maintain it was not because the free model didn't work - sometimes competitors can simply smoke you out.


Lars Lindstrom

Malcolm Elvey

I just read James Ledbetter's 5/24 article in The Washington Post. Does that taste like sour grapes? $2 for the first pound, $8 for the next.

insuranceleads mac

Double free newspapers are done in a more subdued fasion where I reside. Instead of dailies, the newspapers do a variety of weeklies that have more local intrest, event schedules, and editorial content. It must be because this type of content is cheaper to produce because it is not so time sensitive.


I don't think "free" is necesarily dangerous, you just have to now how to promote something free and still make money. Like newspapers that charge for delivery of the newspaper, not the actual newspaper.

selling photography 101
1 dollar ebooks

Studio photography

i was diagnosed with cancer, then my husband of 17 years walked out; thought it was all over., and could easily have sat in a car with a hose pipe. however, i thought about what i had, ie my children, my family - could you really let them down?


free and Open Source are better than payed things :)


Chandrakanth Natekar

Dear Anderson,

I want to forward the 'Hypothesis connected with the future outcome of LHC, Geneva' for your kind perusal. But i don't know how to reach you?

Chandrakanth Natekar, India


Open Source rules


Free Open source can be manual and it can be customise so this is better than compact pay things

DC Condo

Nice source for this open source discussion


I need some feed for open source because my own site is not prepared correctly

City Suites

Nice to see this blog


Open source is not spam free

dofus kamas

“A must-read on how "free" can turn real expensive”

report, I'll save it. I love free and Open Source , cuz it's always better than that get charge


A friend just shared this link and recollecting your post on the future of newspapers, I thought it quite appropriate. Sometimes we have to go through the awkward stage of 'horribly wrong' before we go consciously 'right'. http://whatmatters.mckinseydigital.com/internet/investigative-reporting-in-the-web-era

cerita dewasa

I want to forward the 'Hypothesis connected with the future outcome of LHC, Geneva' for your kind perusal. But i don't know how to reach you?

vitamine e

Thanks for sharing such a great venture.Can’t wait to here about your next venture.....

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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!