As public lead for Creative Commons South Africa, I'm often faced with content publishers asking me questions like: How can we possibly afford to stay in business while giving away the fruits of our labour for free?

I'll cover three basic ways.

1. Advertising

The most obvious answer is that you can make your money back from advertising. However, quality journalism and production is not cheap, so it is quite difficult to make sufficient profit from advertising and affiliate revenue alone if you're relying on original content to bring in your readers.  Archived content can, however, provide bonus revenue from people coming across old content that you may already have recovered your costs on.

2. E-Commerce and Affiliate Revenue


A number of publications, such as Backpackers.com are using e-commerce to fund their publications (in addition to advertising). You can also get commissions from related products and services that you recommend via your site (some publications have ethical issues with this, as it can be seen to bias the writing toward the particular products/companies that affiliations have been set up with).

3. Freemium

Some companies, such as MarketingProfs, give away some of their articles for free but charge for full access to all their articles. Others, like Trendwatching, give their content away for free, but charge a premium for high-quality summaries and live presentations of it. There are many ways to apply freemium - for example, you can give free access for a limited time only, or free digital access to drive print subsriptions or attendance at events. Andrew Chen has devised a useful little spreadsheet to help you evaluate the viability of freemium for your product or service.

Chris Anderson has identified four types of free that can work in business, an article worth checking out. I've reproduced his visual summary below:

The Four Types of Free

Lastly, you may find that giving your content away for free doesn't work for you. The fact is, that despite the overwhelming amounts of free content available online today, it's still time consuming to find the best knowledge and information that you can trust and use. People, like me, are still prepared to pay a little extra for access to well researched and produced  information. Walter Isaacson wrote an insightful piece about the need to charge for content in this week's Time magazine (which is, ironically, available for free HERE)

Oh, and by the way... Creative Commons is not all about content creators giving content away for free. Yes, you can sell your own Creative Commons licensed work, while limiting others from doing the same.  Creative Commons licenses allow others to share your work, while giving you credit for what you've done. They can only sell it if you have allowed for commercial use of it.
Companies that have access to better quality information make more profitable decisions. This is the finding of a recent McKinsey Global Survey entitled: "How companies make good decisions".

In the world of Marketing, there are many people willing to offer advice and opinion, but how do you know what's actually worthwhile paying attention to? The answer is more about having an info-filtering and decision-making process than about knowing which guru's blog to read.

I think that The 5 Principles of Evidence Based Management (via) could serve as a useful guideline for marketers and managers operating in fast-changing environments
1. Face the hard facts, and build a culture in which people are encouraged to tell the truth, even if it is unpleasant.
2. Be committed to "fact based" decision making -- which means being committed to getting the best evidence and using it to guide actions.
3. Treat your organisation as an unfinished prototype -- encourage experimentation and learning by doing.
4. Look for the risks and drawbacks in what people recommend -- even the best medicine has side effects.
5. Avoid basing decisions on untested but strongly held beliefs, what you have done in the past, or on uncritical "benchmarking" of what winners do.

This approach also compliments the "Value Creation in a Wild Wired World" model, which favours an iterative, collaborative approach based on on-going engagement and application of  feedback and evidence.

Update: Jacques Rousseau, who convenes UCTs "Evidence Based Management" course, has just put up a blog post about the subject entitled "Teaching EBMgt: developing better managers, or educating critical thinkers?".
Some of the regular visitors to this blog may have noticed that I have posted progressively less over the last 6 months. Recently my posting has almost come to a standstill. There's a lot behind this, which I've been trying to make sense of.

In short, it comes down to a sense of frustration I'm having with the amount of information I seem to have to deal with before anything actually gets done. As an example, besides spam, I get around 80 emails a day, all of which seem to require an urgent response. This is not good for someone who spends most of his time out the office working with groups. It basically means that most of my time in the office is split between dealing with email, and reading news so I can stay in touch with industry trends and innovations. This leaves very little time to spend working with my colleagues (at Huddlemind, Creative Commons and Muti) on important stuff like strategy. All this information feels like it's paralysing me!

In fact, this sense has sat with me for a while, and it's the primary reason why I've been so drawn to the study and practice of "Attention Economics".

So, regarding my blog...

Someone Has Already Said It

Perhaps the main reason I haven't been posting is because, quite honestly, everything I can think of saying has already been said by someone else online. And its not often that I have felt I could say it better.

For those who are interested in what I recommend reading, or what I find interesting, I would like to introduce you to my Diigo links which you can see in the sidebar on the right. There are some superb finds there, and they're all sorted by topic/tag.

I feel so full up with other people's information that there's barely enough space for me to form my own insights and share them.

Experiences vs Information

Maya Angelou once said: "People will forget what you tell them, but will never forget how you make them feel".

For people, like me, who believe that our Attention is increasingly scarce and valuable today, there is a cost attached to each new piece of information that we consume. Information consumes Attention. Despite my knowledge and understanding of "Attention Economics", I've been spendthrift with my own Attention. Now I have a bit of a deficit to deal with - each waking moment is currently spent processing the information I've amassed, at the expense of the experiences and interactions I could be having.

Information, by the way, is inherent in everything. It's just that we have come to prioritize encoded information - in the form of writing, sounds, and video - over real-world, information - in the form of experiences.

Reading and Writing

When I first started blogging, I enjoyed the sense of personal discovery through public disclosure. However, at some point the blogging became more about building an audience than about sharing ideas.

I can say the same about live chat, email, and meetings. My initial experience of these filled me with delight in the process of sharing ideas. They all now seem more like an obligation than a priviledge.

So in my attempt to reclaim my own sense of daily delight in my work and online pursuits, I am cutting down on all these attention traps, drastically. In their place, I hope to clear some space to experience and to reflect more, and to allow my own insights to emerge.

As my esteemed friend, Joe Botha, has said: "The true breakfast of champions is a low information diet".
Posted
AuthorDave Duarte
12 CommentsPost a comment
nvohk bannerI thought of this concept when my friend Tim emailed me about nvohk  (pronounced "envoke"), a crowdfunding and branding initiative applied to clothing.

In theory it's a great idea - 30 000 people each put forward $50 for a year's membership in nvohk inc. For their $50 they get a "founders t-shirt", get to vote on stuff like logo design and advertising decisions, get discounts on nvohk t-shirts, and split 35% of the profits between them. It works for the company because each t-shirt owner then has a vested interest in helping the brand succeed, and passing on work of its success.

Where I think the company could improve its offering is to start connecting members and create an online space, like a Ning social network, for them to discuss their investment in public with each other and the project founder, Brendan Lynch. This would increase trust and interest, and make it a bit more like the original concept, a proven success model, on which I believe it was based (probably unknowingly) - the South African Stokvel.

Stokvels, according to The Beehive, "...have been around in South Africa for many years. They are a good way for people to help motivate each other to save, and many stokvel or savings clubs are like social clubs where members also help each other in ways other than with money. Regular stokvel meetings have become a social highlight in many communities".

The internet can allow ad-hoc communities to form around virtually anything - the initial social object could be saving money, but then extend as people seek other ways to connect with and help each other. In the business case, such as with nvohk (or to quote a more familiar South African example, Verity), I believe that the investors want the project to succeed, and some of them would have at least enough interest in it to want to chat with other investors with the same interest via a convenient virtual platfrom like the official website of the project.

I think the concept of the digital stokvel has great potential to be applied to brand campaigns. Watch this space for more case studies to come.
Posted
AuthorDave Duarte
8 CommentsPost a comment
I started lecturing on a course at UCT on Monday called Evidence Based Management. In it I'll be covering three topics over 5 weeks - Attention Economics, Innovation, and Globalization. The topics are chosen to help students contextualize their role in the economy, new business, and the world at large. Of course, I'll try and make it as exciting and engaging as possible - which will be reflected, I guess, in how many students are left at lectures by the end of the term!

There are 900 students on the course, and I'm working with 21 tutors. By the end of my first day of lecturing to such a large group (and with all the admin and prep that it entails), I was exhausted! But, based on feedback it's going well.

Lectures are on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 2 - 5pm (three 45 minute slots). If you'd like to attend pop a comment below and I'll post the lecture venues. Otherwise, I'll be as diligent as possible about writing a blog post about the topic of each lecture, along with related reading material. Consider it e-learning:)
Posted
AuthorDave Duarte
9 CommentsPost a comment