The Technium

Earning Money From the Free

Earlier this year I wrote a piece about creating works in an environment where everything is copied freely and when copy protection does not work — in other words today’s digital world.

How do you make money with the free?

My answer is you offer something better than free. I gave eight examples of what I call Generatives that improve upon the free.

That post, entitled Better Than Free, got a lot of attention, garnered many comments, got Digged and Reddited, and was translated into several languages by fans.

Now it is available as a free (of course!) downloadable PDF manifesto. Published by ChangeThis, a bunch of savvy media folks who produce very short, incredibly well-designed, free PDF Manifestos pushing the skills of change. Past authors include Seth Godin, Tom Peters, Guy Kawasaki, Hugh MacLeod. I really like the smooth navigation and user interface of these PDFs. They have a few ideas worth stealing in the format alone.


My piece begins:

The Internet is a copy machine. At its most foundational level, it copies every action, every character, and every thought we make while we ride upon it. In order to send a message from one corner of the internet to another, the protocols of communication demand that the whole message be copied along the way several times.

When copies are super abundant, they become worthless.

When copies are super abundant, stuff which can’t be copied becomes scarce and valuable. When copies are free, you need to sell things which can not be copied.

Well, what can’t be copied?”

The whole thing can be downloaded as a small 11-page PDF from here.  You are encouraged to share it, spread it, email it to friends, and make as many copies as you want. A landing page is here. The copies are free, and free to disseminate. I’ll make my money (if any) through one of the generatives.


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