In the future, everything will be free. Free, though, means different things to different people. Grab a cup of coffee, this one’s gonna take a while.
Wired’s editor-in-chief Chris Anderson, famous for his “Long Tail” theory, has a new one up his sleeve this month, and it’s one that we should have seen coming. Simply, zero dollars and zero cents is the future business, a future that we can already see on the Internet. (How much is Gmail? Or Facebook?) The theory is easiest to see online, where disk space and processing power cost so little nowadays that you can literally give away a polished product—again, everything Google does, Flickr, Picnik, etc.—and not charge customers dime one. (Although you can charge them for premium features.)
But the theory holds for offline businesses, too.
Take public transportation. What if Company A sponsored an entire line of the NYC Subway, giving every passenger a free ride? Then, customers could go to far-away neighborhoods and, maybe, buy an exotic fruit or other widget from the local stores? Or, what if Store Z gives away a video game system with the purchase of a special edition video game?
If reading nearly 5,000 words isn’t your bag, Anderson has a three minute video wherein he explains the gist of his theory. Work smarter, not harder.