The "Free" Dilemma – Bits vs Atoms


Photo Courtesy: Julia Manzerova on Flickr

I have written about the power of “free” multiple times before. Here are are a few links:

1. The Business Case for Giving Away Your Best Work for Free

2. The Case for “Free” (Again!)

Every time I write about free, I get a few emails about the topic. Every email is different but at the heart of every email are a few things:

1. I like free. I believe in it. How will I make money if I give something for free?

2. I don’t have enough time to give things for free.

A blog post can’t do justice to properly respond to the “free” dilemma. However, if “free” is something that you want to experiment with ( I strongly advise you do ) then you should understand the one of the differences between atoms and bits.

  1. Atoms don’t scale. Bits do.
  2. Incremental cost of work by atoms won’t decrease with more work. Incremental cost of work by bits is almost zero.
  3. Atoms take up a lot of resources to work. Bits don’t.

Your “free” strategy should be mostly based on bits (of course, you require atoms to create those bits) if it has to scale. This means you have to create content that spreads without your ongoing effort to provide the fuel for the idea to spread.

  • Providing 1-1 free consulting is atom-based. Creating a free report on the top ten mistakes to avoid is bit-based.
  • Doing a free security audit is atom-based. Providing a free tool to a self-service audit is bit based.
  • Creating “office hours” is atom-based. Conducting a webinar and providing replays of the webinar is a hybrid model (first part is atom-based and subsequent replays are bit-based)

Use the atom-power to create remarkable bit-based free stuff that spreads 🙂