Free is More Complicated Than You Think

Broadway Ballroom

After putting Dilbert online for free, Scott Adams reported, “Free is more complicated than you think.”

In this talk, Tim O’Reilly does the math: just how many page views do you need to support an e-book with advertising? How popular does your blog need to be? What percentage of customers who sample a free product end up paying for more? Which online business models produce revenue comparable to existing print models? How much will others need to grow to fill the gap?

Free is a strategy, not an endpoint. It’s time to stop wishful thinking and build business models that work.

Photo of Tim O'Reilly

Tim O'Reilly

O'Reilly Media, Inc.

Tim has a history of convening conversations that reshape the industry. In 1998, he organized the meeting where the term “open source software” was agreed on, and helped the business world understand its importance. In 2004, with the Web 2.0 Summit, he defined how “Web 2.0” represented not only the resurgence of the web after the dot com bust, but a new model for the computer industry, based on big data, collective intelligence, and the internet as a platform. In 2009, with his “Gov 2.0 Summit,” he framed a conversation about the modernization of government technology that has shaped policy and spawned initiatives at the Federal, State, and local level, and around the world. He has now turned his attention to implications of the on-demand economy and other technologies that are transforming the nature of work and the future shape of the business world. He is the founder and CEO of O’Reilly Media and a partner at O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures (OATV). He is also a founder and board member at Maker Media, which spun out of O’Reilly Media in 2012, and a board member at Code for America, PeerJ, Civis Analytics, and PopVox.

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