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I have just obtained a copy of Free - the new book by Chris Anderson. Today I read an article at ITEC "The Free Content Conundrum" by Ron Miller and its embedded link to Mark Cuban's take on tis subject.

Here's the ITEC article http://goitec.com/article.html?a=The-free-content-conundrum&utm...

Here are Mark Cuban's comments - you'll need to scroll down to find them

http://blogmaverick.com/

I've also started discussions in several forums to discover the thoughts, concerns, opportunities and actions that people will take if (when?) free training becomes the expected norrm.

I am interested in your comments and will update you as I read Free.

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This is my first time for commenting, so please tell me if I am out of order.

I believe there will some free training that will be delivered via the internet. However, I don't believe it will replace the training and development profession, much like on-line shopping has not closed malls and retail stores. In my view, ~80% of those who attend a Seminar or Class, do so for the experience of human interaction. Further, free training may be more prevelant with "soft skill" topics vs. technical content, since in my humble view, the latter takes greater research and preparation time.

Cheers,

Mac
Paul,

Where is the connection of "free content" and "free training"? It's probably just me but I can't make the leap when I read either the ITEC article or Cuban's blog.
Pat, I am not sure that I am a good enough writer to explain this by writing but I will try.

In the ITEC article I read the section titled: What if content is your business and saw a clear analogy to training content providers and how they might view their business. Some may argue that content is not their business - perhaps correctly but I wonder how they charge for the services (is it a function of content consumption?)

And from Mark Cuban's comments I learned that "Free" needs to have a plan to become revenue. Again, some may argue his point and others may not understand it. You-Tube had $0 revenue and was purchased for $1.2 Billion. Someone got the point of free content.

The Open Education Foundation supports the availability of Free Training Content (MIT and others are participating by contributing their content.) For years "free training" has been provided as a means of selling something else. Free really means someone other than the consumer pays the costs. It may behoove the consumer to understand the motivations behind the one that pays.

Livemocha.com provides free online training content intended to help you learn to speak another language. Have you tried using it? It might be a foreshadowing of how training content is made available.

Patrick Malone said:
Paul,

Where is the connection of "free content" and "free training"? It's probably just me but I can't make the leap when I read either the ITEC article or Cuban's blog.
I am working on a FREE product for a website and so Free has been standing out to me lately. I have found some good information on wired magazine that discusses the ideas of free. It does not necessarily focus on training but I think there are some valuable insights when providing content for free and which content can be provided for free and which content becomes premium content. There is even a FREE audio book about FREE.

http://www.wired.com/techbiz/it/magazine/16-03/ff_free
http://www.wired.com/techbiz/it/magazine/17-07/mf_freer
http://www.wired.com/images/multimedia/free/FREE_Audiobook_unabridg...
Chris Anderson's book has a lot to say for us in the training industry. Specifically on page 160 he describes a model for a free text book and on page 185 he describes how a college education can be free.

This is very good news for all of us - if we can embrace and harness the concepts. He also applies the Kubler Ross model to the normal reaction to Free - so go ahead with the denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance!

Chris provides many examples and business models that are built on Free. Some are familiar - many are new. He explains how freeconferencecall.com works. Do you know how its model works? It's not based on ad revenue. It's what he calls a "reversible business model."

Join the debate!
Paul,

So free doesn't necessarily mean free. For instance, for years we have offered a no-charge one day proof of concept to decision-makers to drive our full paid applications within their organizations. Second, I have a client who offers our training "free" to their distributors as an incentive for reaching certain annual volumes across the board, in a particular line of products or a new product. Third, again for years we have written and distributed free articles designed to increase knowledge about a particular subject and/or demonstrate our expertise in a particular subject. That caused numerous prospects to take a closer look at our for-profit applications.

A couple of other observations on other comments here.

First I would take exception to the concept that technical content is less likely to be free since it requires greater research and prep time on the part of the trainer. I'm sorry but I'm convinced that the customer determines value which ultimately drives price. I wonder what a golfer would pay more for - the understanding of the physics behind a club striking a ball or the ability to consistently hit the ball well.

Finally, I think it is important to fully understand "acceptance" in the context of Elizabeth Kubler-Ross' work on death and dying. For some "acceptance" meant they were going to die and there was nothing they could do about it. For others "acceptance" meant I'm going to die someday but in the interim I'm going to live my life to the fullest. The latter group lived significantly longer that the former.

Training as we know it may die some day but in the interim...(fill in your own answer).
Hi, Pat. Thanks for the useful comments.

Today there are probably some golf pros that would charge a fee to teach their clients how to hit a golf ball well consistently. What if they offered the course for free and then received a fee each time the golfer hit the ball well. This is one of the models of Free that Chris Anderson advocates (He includes 50 models in his book.)

Another example would be the same golf pro teaching the same individual and then the golf course paying a fee to the golf pro every time the individual bought a round of golf or purchased something in the pro shop. The individual probably pays more for the round or the item purchased than if purchased elsewhere. But maybe not, if the volume of purchases goes up then the price per purchase could actually be lower than elsewhere.

The key point in my mind for the training industry is that whether or not we accept free and whether or not it applies to training - I believe that we need to shift from being paid to disseminate information to being paid for the meaningful measurable results achieved by those that learn from us and then successfully apply what they learned.

Paul



Patrick Malone said:
Paul,

So free doesn't necessarily mean free. For instance, for years we have offered a no-charge one day proof of concept to decision-makers to drive our full paid applications within their organizations. Second, I have a client who offers our training "free" to their distributors as an incentive for reaching certain annual volumes across the board, in a particular line of products or a new product. Third, again for years we have written and distributed free articles designed to increase knowledge about a particular subject and/or demonstrate our expertise in a particular subject. That caused numerous prospects to take a closer look at our for-profit applications.

A couple of other observations on other comments here.

First I would take exception to the concept that technical content is less likely to be free since it requires greater research and prep time on the part of the trainer. I'm sorry but I'm convinced that the customer determines value which ultimately drives price. I wonder what a golfer would pay more for - the understanding of the physics behind a club striking a ball or the ability to consistently hit the ball well.

Finally, I think it is important to fully understand "acceptance" in the context of Elizabeth Kubler-Ross' work on death and dying. For some "acceptance" meant they were going to die and there was nothing they could do about it. For others "acceptance" meant I'm going to die someday but in the interim I'm going to live my life to the fullest. The latter group lived significantly longer that the former.

Training as we know it may die some day but in the interim...(fill in your own answer).
Anderson's book sounds like a worthwhile read. I just saw a post in "The Customer Collective," which give us a caution about "free" stuff, http://www.thecustomercollective.com/TCC/37311. As I read it the key is "value." If your free tip, free e-book, or free whatever, is not worth the bandwidth to download it, then you are devaluing your propsect. Your freebie has to be worth enough that people would pay for it.

Paul Terlemezian said:
Chris Anderson's book has a lot to say for us in the training industry. Specifically on page 160 he describes a model for a free text book and on page 185 he describes how a college education can be free.

This is very good news for all of us - if we can embrace and harness the concepts. He also applies the Kubler Ross model to the normal reaction to Free - so go ahead with the denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance!

Chris provides many examples and business models that are built on Free. Some are familiar - many are new. He explains how freeconferencecall.com works. Do you know how its model works? It's not based on ad revenue. It's what he calls a "reversible business model."

Join the debate!
Mark, I believe that you are correct. In the 20th century we learned to believe that "free" was a trick. In the 21st century we are learning that the internet, open source software and dramatically reduced distribution costs are allowing free to a value and loyalty creator.


J. Mark Walker said:
Anderson's book sounds like a worthwhile read. I just saw a post in "The Customer Collective," which give us a caution about "free" stuff, http://www.thecustomercollective.com/TCC/37311. As I read it the key is "value." If your free tip, free e-book, or free whatever, is not worth the bandwidth to download it, then you are devaluing your propsect. Your freebie has to be worth enough that people would pay for it.

Paul Terlemezian said:
Chris Anderson's book has a lot to say for us in the training industry. Specifically on page 160 he describes a model for a free text book and on page 185 he describes how a college education can be free.

This is very good news for all of us - if we can embrace and harness the concepts. He also applies the Kubler Ross model to the normal reaction to Free - so go ahead with the denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance!

Chris provides many examples and business models that are built on Free. Some are familiar - many are new. He explains how freeconferencecall.com works. Do you know how its model works? It's not based on ad revenue. It's what he calls a "reversible business model."

Join the debate!
I've also been writing a microblog via Twitter - a chapter at a time. Here are the tweets:

Reading "Free" by Chris Anderson - "...every company is going to have to figure out how to use Free or compete with Free..." Ch 1 - page 14

Ch 2 - Page 32 - Reversible Business Models - What do you think is the business model for freeconferencecall.com? - Clever!!

Ch 3: Seth Godin quoted: 1981 - top 100 US companies made something you could hold. Today only 32 do so. The other 68 offer services

Ch 4: #SampleLab Boutique in #Tokyo - you get 5 free items each time you visit. Reservations required. Any first hand experiences?

Ch 5: pp76-77 - What if electricty was free? Fascinating impact. Could free electricty be an economic stimulus by a Gov't?

Ch 6: Good read for #training companies interested in understanding how to get "on board" the free training "train" - pun intended!

Ch 7: Anderson applies #Kubler-Ross (Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance) - how will #training industry respond?

Ch 8: "Craigslist responsible for taking $30B out of Newspaper stock valuation - where did it go? - to users! (wealth redistribution)

Ch9: P138- Anecdote about #Wired and #Google - industry norms can prevent #innovation - what norms prevent innovations in #training?

Ch 10: Free #Bikes thrive in #Paris but not in #Brussels? Is this still true? Can someone in Paris or Brussels let us know?

Ch 11: "In a competitive market, price falls to the marginal cost." New markets emerge because of the growth in demand. Be there!

Ch 12: My synopsis: 20th century: Buyers and sellers spend to make decisions; 21st century: Buyers spend for results

Ch 13: Abundance thinking vs. Scarcity thinking. Can scarcity economics survive in an abundance environment?

Ch 14: #China and #Brazil are leading the way. Piracy has won. Piracy has become zero-cost marketing. Is this true?

Ch 15: "We are motivated by what we don't have, not what we do have." Learners can get free knowledge, so what do learners not have?

Ch 16: A great chapter if you are still skeptical and even better if you want to really understand what "Free" is and what it isn't.

CODA - I just listened to this for free at www.hyperionbooks.com/free This is where you can also listen to most of the book for free
This week (8/31/09) there has been a discussion in the ASTD National LinkedIn Group about Free Stuff. It prompted a response or two from me. Here is the latest:

There is a lot of truth behind comments that I will paraphrase as:

"Nothing is Free"
"TANSTAFL"
"small print"
"quid pro quo"

Here's another truth in the software industry (of which online learning is a subset.) The first few years of life for a software company are typically the following:

1. Spend a lot of money to develop, market, sell and support the product
2. Charge enough to cover your costs and make money
3. Find additional money to fund R&D for product updates so you can protect the investment made by your clients
4. Celebrate each new client (one at a time!)
5. Ease your client's concerns about your long term viability by placing your code with an escrow company
6. Lose tons of money, frustrate your small client base, hope to sell your company to someone with deep pockets that can fund the R&D, satisfy existing clients and grow the business! (Has anyone experienced any of this?)

Free Software (e.g. email, linkedin, you tube etc.) has enabled the following:

1. Spend a lot of money to develop and support the product (don't spend any money to market or sell it.)
2. Provide your product for free
3. Open your code so that others will do R&D to enhance your product at no cost to you while increasing interest in your product (i.e. "free" marketing)
4. Celebrate new clients (thousands at a time)
5. Sell your company to Google or IBM or Microsoft (You-Tube sold for $1B+)

Free "Software" has saved billions for the software industry because they looked at it from a business perspective. Our challenge is to look at "free training" from a business perspective and make wise decisions. Are we up tfor this kind of challenge
There is an article in the current issue (October 2009) of Fast Company magazine titled "The High Cost of Free," that can put some of these ideas into perspective.

"Though digital prophets champion our pay-nothing future, it's instructive to consider why free sometimes fails. To return to Google's Chrome OS, sure, Google will persuade some computer makers to install the OS. But when you consider what free really buys, the answer is not much." Click here for the one-page article. I think it is easy to extrapolate the ideas to the training industry.

When a prospect is considering doing the training project himself, or hiring us, we have to help him quantify the "high cost" of doing it himself. These are real costs in development time, materials purchase/printing, and the "BIS." (Butts in Seats.) Sometimes a home-grown course will actually reduce productivity or produce confusion on the job. Rarely will a do-it-yourself program, or using "free" content from a book or a web site, achieve even similar results to a purchased solution.

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