What Will Be The Impact Of FREE On Corporate Learning?

Courtesy of Wired Magazine

Why $0.00 Is The Future Of Business,” on the front cover of the Wired Magazine March, 2008 issue is one of the most thought provoking articles I have read in a long time. The author is Chris Andersen, who also wrote The Long Tail and resides as Editor in Chief of Wired Magazine. The article explores the concept of FREE – a marketing strategy where digital products are given away and previews Chris’ forthcoming book called “Free.”

Chris argues that with cost of digital products rapidly dropping, it’s time to give them away for FREE. There are plenty of examples in the article including: free web web mail from Google and Yahoo, free access to online content from the New York Times, and free DVR’s from Comcast. According to Wired article:

FREE was once a marketing gimmick, free has emerged as a full-fledged economy. Offering free music proved successful for Radiohead, Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, and a swarm of other bands on MySpace that grasped the audience-building merits of zero. The fastest-growing parts of the gaming industry are ad-supported casual games online and free-to-try massively multiplayer online games. Virtually everything Google does is free to consumers, from Gmail to Picasa to GOOG-411.

The rise of “freeconomics” is being driven by the underlying technologies that power the Web. Just as Moore’s law dictates that a unit of processing power halves in price every 18 months, the price of bandwidth and storage is dropping even faster. Which is to say, the trend lines that determine the cost of doing business online all point the same way: to zero.

Just last week the United Nations University was launched. At this stage, the UNU OpenCourseWare Portal offers open access to about a dozen courses developed by three of UN’s Research and Training Centres and Programmes (RTC/Ps) and the Tokyo-based UNU Media Studio.

The goal of the UNU OpenCourseWare Portal is to make the course materials used by UN Research and Training Centres available on the Web, free of charge. This is not meant to replace degree-granting higher education or for-credit courses, or even customized learning programs, but to provide content that can be used by educators for curriculum development, by students to augment their current learning resources and by individuals for independent self-study.

As more of these initiatives are launched and heavily promoted I can see senior executives of companies asking learning and talent management professionals the tough questions including how to integrate FREE content into some of their customized learning programs and in the process lower the cost and improve the quality of these programs?

On a final note, I wanted to take Wired Magazine up on their offer for a FREE March, 2008 issue where this article is the cover story. But on the Wired web site you will see the following notice: The March 2008 Issue For Free Offer is Now Closed. So much for walking the walk…

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About Jeanne Meister

Jeanne C. Meister is a best selling author of three books, internationally recognized consultant and keynote speaker. Jeanne is Partner of Future Workplace, a consulting firm dedicated to assisting organizations in re-thinking, re-imagining and re-inventing the workplace. Jeanne was recently voted by her peers as one of the 20 top influential training professionals in the United States. Jeanne’s name is synonymous with the establishment and institutionalization of global corporate universities. Jeanne is the author of three books, Corporate Quality Universities and Corporate Universities. Jeanne’s latest book is, The 2020 Workplace: How Innovative Companies Attract, Develop & Keep Tomorrow’s Employees Today (Harper Collins, 2010) is in its 10th printing.No information is provided by the author.

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