Kevin Kelly brilliantly sums up the entire internet economy in an article entitled Better Than Free. His thesis is that the internet is basically a giant copy machine, but that as copies of content become more abundant, they lose their value. For a business to become successful in the age of the internet, they have to offer things that cannot be copied. He lists eight:
In a real sense, these are eight things that are better than free. Eight uncopyable values. I call them “generatives.” A generative value is a quality or attribute that must be generated, grown, cultivated, nurtured. A generative thing can not be copied, cloned, faked, replicated, counterfeited, or reproduced. It is generated uniquely, in place, over time. In the digital arena, generative qualities add value to free copies, and therefore are something that can be sold.
Another overriding factor he mentions is trust. I suggest that if you or your business have any connection with the internet (and that’s all of us, especially if you’re reading this!), then you read Kevin’s article immediately. I think there are the seeds of a million business plans in there.