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Saturday, 22 October 2005

Monetisation versus Open Source

There is an interesting tension building on the internet between the whole principle that anyone who blogs or podcasts might want to get to the situation where they can monetise what they do (an Americanism for "Make Money out of!") – and the concept that the web is the means by which to provide vast amounts of content in an Open Source way.

For an example of the monetisation concept, I look to the work being done by Adam Curry in the podcasting world – he is mindful of the free-at-source roots of podcasting but can see the opportunities too, and is looking to monetise this sector. I'm not critical of this. There are loads of podcasters producing content for reasons of passion and obsession rather than for commerical gain. But there are many people who want to generate income. Adam Curry is working ingeniously to deliver business models which make that possible.

Around the issue of Open Source I think the approaches of Tom Peters and Seth Godin are really interesting. Both of them have a growing store of freely downloadable material for people to read. I guess they figure that they make plenty of money and the issue is about getting readership.

Although they presumably also realise that giving away free electronic content does convert into sales in a world where people still prefer the real printed page to browse and stick on their shelf. And it is this translation of free to purchase that leads to something else.

There is actually a 3rd way in all of this – something at the interface between monetisation and open source. I guess in software terms it would be shareware. But that isn’t quite what I mean. I’m talking about the way in which it is possible to build market share (something Amazon did in the early stages of its business where it lost warehouses full of cash selling at ridiculously low prices to get customers), build readership (Godin & Peters) and develop a meme-like interest through the ‘give it away for free’ approach. I guess this idea needs more work, but I am sure that we are on the brink of some new business models, and exciting new ideas.

I have written before about the 'Creative Commons' idea - this weblog has a creative commons license. This is another aspect of this wider picture. The challenge which faces web publishers (bloggers?), podcasters and other net-entrepreneurs is to work out how to weave through all of this and get out of the net what we want to, whilst ensuring that we give the reader / surfer what they want too.

There is a lot of talk at the moment about Web 2.0 which will take us into the next era of the web, beyond the market place which it has become of late. Exciting times are ahead - more thought is needed about the collision of monetisation, open source and creative commons to create new ways of doing things.

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