Free, free, free


A number of reports from across the globe this week have highlighted the power of the freebie in contemporary consumer culture. Much of this is the result of the impending launch of Wired magazines Chris Anderson's new book 'Free', in which he outlines a number of the cultural trends driving the rise in giveaway culture. See him discussing the phenomenon here.

From free upgrades and downloads, none of this is particularly new. Current examples include free newspapers, airline tickets, photocopies and game downloads, free bike and car hire, free city guides and free wi-fi. And as the Brazilian Revista da Semana points out, someone, somewhere is paying and at present its largely advertisers.


This months trendwatching report summarises the contemporary context as follows:

  • An all-out war for consumers' attention: including various handout and sampling techniques.
  • The online world, with its amazing capacity to create, copy and distribute anything that's digital, with costs that are close to zero, forcing producers to come up with new business models/services, which are often purely ad-driven.
  • The ever-decreasing cost of physical production makes it easier to offer more (nearly) free goods in the offline world too.
  • The avalanche of free content created by attention-hungry members of GENERATION C.
  • C2C marketplaces enabling consumers to swap instead of spend, making transactions cash-neutral.
  • An emerging recycling culture.

And all of the above fueling consumers' expectations to get online and offline stuff for free.

Does this apply to you???

What are the benfits and pitfalls for us consumers???

Let us know your thoughts