The Wired Business Conference took place this week, featuring digital media gurus like LA police chief William Bratton; NYC Mayor Bloomberg; Zynga, a company that plays in the economic-value-added (*sarcasm*) area of virtual goods; and Starbucks, announcing yet one more proprietary online content network.
During a break from chairing these mind-numbing sessions, Wired’s editor-in-chief Chris Anderson was interviewed by Aaron Task of Yahoo’s bloody awful video program “Tech Ticker.” The segment was focused on Wired’s success in selling over 80,000 downloads of its iPad app. Halfway through the interview, Task sprung this (paraphrased) question on Anderson – as the author of “Free,” why isn’t the Wired iPad app free?
In his patented snide manner, Anderson remarked “if you get one page into the book” you’ll see that wasn’t what he meant. “Free,” of course, was just one more business book based on a faulty premise that is beaten to death for 250-or-so pages.
First faulty premise – “free” marketing. There is no “free” in marketing. It goes by other names, like promotions, bundles and trials. It’s like a bank giving away an iPod Touch to get your business.
Second faulty premise – “free” business. There is no “free” in business. All inputs cost something. And a business without revenues by another name: bankrupt.
Selling a Wired app to early tech adopters is like shooting fish in a barrel. One actually should be amazed that Wired has only achieved 4% penetration among iPad users. Especially when Anderson gushes how the iPad is a “lean back” device, something we used to say about the TV set. And when he calls using the iPad "a tactile experience," something we used to say about magazines.
Here is the best part, though. You can get a hardcopy of Wired for $10 a year. Or you can download the app for $5. FOR EACH ISSUE. A 600% upcharge for a lean back, tactile experience?!? Wired should include oral sex with the app. But hey, if you’ve already dropped $700 for an iPad…
Here’s a working title for Anderson’s next book: “I Was Only Kidding About That Free Long Tail Stuff. It Sure Is More Fun Up Here At The Big Fat Head.”