The power of ‘free’ – part 1

I find it hard to imagine life before the Internet, let alone pre-personal computers.

Yet I had my first real demo of the Internet when I joined NatWest in 1997, given to me by the CIO, the visionary, somewhat eccentric, and now sadly deceased, Achi Racov.  That's only 14 years ago; I lived more than two-thirds of my life pre-Web!  What on earth did I DO all day??

So that is by way of context to point out that while we take it for granted, the Internet is still very young. And its effect on our lives, our businesses and our future is still emerging, and will continue to do so for many more years.

But one thing that it has undoubtedly changed is our views on what we will pay for and what we expect to be available free of charge. For instance:

Music; Spotify is amazing, MySpace, Facebook  and Youtube give you access to huge amounts of music, and that's even before we get into illegal stuff.

Information;where to start! Research that would have taken months (and would have cost £ thousands to commission) is now available in seconds. Free newspapers are another more mundane (but significant) example.

Literature; a vast range of free e-books, public domain titles and more recent works available to download free of charge.

Advice; a whole range of expert websites, as well as opportunities to pose specific questions and get 'expert' responses (LinkedIn, Quora etc.)

Analysis: technology, for example. Pay for Gartner, or read free Spend Matters, Forrester and Aberdeen reports...?

Software: I run Mozilla and AVG, about to start with Mail Chimp, don't pay a penny for any of those.

So with this seemingly unstoppable trend, how can organisations build viable business models these days? We'll address that in the next post in this short series, and look at what it might mean in some areas close to our procurement home.

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Voices (3)

  1. Guy:

    The other thing you might include is price (and competitive product)transparency, primarily in the consumer market. For any branded identifiable product its now possible to get pricing from a host of different sources, including abroad, in the space of minutes

    For example I believe that an early internet retailer, CD-WoW, which sold from the far east, discounting CD’s at £5-7, meant the likes of HMV being unable to sell CD’s at anything above those prices. Probably caused Woolworths to go bankrupt and now sending HMV the same way too.

    Good thing? – well short term sure, I bought more CDs and expanded my musical taste as I was happy to experiment.

    Mid term probably not, stopped record companies releasing risky stuff, less places to browse CD’s in my lunch break etc.

    Long term, who knows. Probably wont be any such thing as a music industry as we recognise it anymore. If this means less boy bands and more Arcade Fires then great, not sure it will though.

  2. Christine Morton:

    You forgot “The Dark Side,” Peter – as in

    * Fraud – we now have to watch out for things like identity theft (in the US there is now a hideous crime known as medical identity theft, where people will assume your identity for health insurance purposes)
    * Proliferation of PINs and passwords – constantly changing
    * System Security – making sure your files are backed up, not hackable, virus free etc. – you have to know everything about wireless connections, LANs, etc.
    * Always On – the greater ability to communicate with others makes it difficult to switch “off” for downtime; vacations invariably include my laptop nowadays

    Etcetera, etcetera…

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