When I tell a story, there is a distinct “movie” going through my head and the words are an attempt to express that “movie” in such a way that others can appreciate the story the same way I do. That covers the written narrative and some kind of multi-media or video representation of it. What about “static media” like graphics, paintings or illustrations?
I have had a few careers so far: professional musician, music teacher/band director, software developer, college instructor, technology specialist for developers, consultant, product planner and product manager. Every one of them, along with every other subject I’ve ever studied and things for which I have a passion, are what I bring to what I do. My primary motivator in each of these is helping people (OK, so playing music is helping people enjoy themselves….or so I hope…).
…with apologies to Was (Not Was)…
Newspapers are signposts of their constituents in so many ways. Just take look at the difference between the Seattle Times, the Des Moines (Iowa) Register and the Boston Globe (the paper/site I took a look at for this post). Each has top line focus on local news, but the Register does not have a link to national/global news on its front page. They choose to stay purely local.
In the battle and discussion around Free (using Chris Anderson’s capitalization), I have felt that a missing component has been whether the Free stuff in and of itself has value to the consumer. Sometimes maybe and sometimes maybe not.
I work in an organization in which we run across something like this: another business unit inside the company has created some technical training content aimed at consultants and systems integration firms. Many times it takes the form of “<Name of technology goes here>-Brain-Dump-in-a-Box” which is duly posted for broadest possible distribution on the Web. Great! Lots of folks go there, download and/or watch it (if it happens to have webcasts that aren’t downloadable) and get whatever assistance the content by itself can offer.
Then, this internal group will approach my team and ask us to make it available to our training channel. For various niggling reasons, a cost/price becomes associated with this training content in the process. So the question is, will a training company be able to sell this same course to corporate customers despite the fact that they can get it “for Free off the Web”?
The answer is Yes.
The reason is value. When this corporate student attends an instantiation of this class, she or he will not be staring at a monitor for five days. They will be taught by an experienced technology trainer. There is the value! It’s not just the content (or whatever other IP you might think of) by itself. It is the context and the “value-add” that make it worth paying for. The value-add also adds cost, but the Value scenario still comes out looking good.
Will some companies still opt to go to the site, download the content and point their employees at it, telling them to “get up to speed” on their own? Sure. There will always be takers for Just Free. However, context and extra value can make the difference.
The challenge is to discover the context and extra value the potential consumers of your currently Free Stuff would be willing to pay for.
My experience on Tuesday, presenting to my colleagues three consecutive times in forty-five minutes, felt very much like when I was a working musician. In most jazz groups I played with, we had a ‘chart’, so called because if provided enough melody and background riffs to play specifically, and then ‘chord hash’ that allowed an improviser to be able to play within the chord progressions (or not, depending on the player’s mood, sensibilities and abilities) while soloing.
This class was a great wrap-up. I liked the discussion led by Paolo and Peter. While their article was dated (which by itself was interesting), it provided a bit of a prelude to the consideration of the next 5,000 days of the Internet.
Howard Rheingold touched upon numerous things in his session with us and the one I found particularly significant to me was the importance of mindfulness in communications. Knowing the power and impact of providing solid or incorrect information, as well as the ways to shade and tone the communications can have any number of positive, negative or inconsequential effects upon the community. In his comments about education (evaluate information, asking the right questions, ascertain the mores of the community) he highlighted the need for foundational cultural immersion for denizens of the community or communities to which one can belong. His example of Stokely Carmichael alludes to this, as Carmichael was unable to maintain a different “face” between audiences. He was presented with a choice of communities with which to identify and ultimately represent and based his communications upon that culture thereafter.