This week I blogged about the actions of Meetings Professional International (MPI) and their decision to charge $299 for a Virtual Access Pass (VAP) to attend their upcoming conference in Salt Lake, UT. See my initial post and the subsequent post about free online content.
The sticky wicket is the word “free” although I argue that I’ve already paid $375 for dues and MPI should cover any expenses for live streaming from their current budget, especially since they waited until this week, ten days before the event, to announce a fee for VAP. And, since they set a precedent in January 2009 and allowed free virtual attendance to MeetDifferent with access to four conference sessions.
To add a different perspective to this discussion view this short 3-minute video by Chris Anderson, editor in chief of Wired and author of The Long Tail. His next book, FREE, published by Hyperion is set to be released July 7.
How interesting that this discussion that is occurring right now in the Blogosphere is very similar to the issue taking place at MPI. Some of the biggest names in social media, Web 2.0 and new media are weighing in on the issue of free. The list includes Chris Anderson, Chris Brogan, Mark Cuban, Jason Falls, Malcolm Gladwell, Seth Godin, Mitch Joel, Valeria Maltoni, Tim Sanders, and David Meerman Scott. (BTW, you just caught a glimpse of my daily reading list.)
The biggest difference between the bloggers description of free and MPI’s lack of free content is that as an MPI member, I’ve already paid $375 for annual dues. I’m claiming that I’m not getting $375 worth of services, that I’m not getting enough value for my annual dues. Thus, I want the four sessions from WEC live streamed for free just as they did in January at MeetDifferent. This may seems petty to some but can you really tell me what you get for $375 a year for your MPI dues? It’s very intangible.
Back to the Blogosphere discussion that is taking place by some very smart and brilliant minds today. If they are discussing and applying the concept of free, perhaps we should watch, listen and learn. And with social media, why not jump in and discuss these concepts with them, especially since many of these thought-leaders are willing to engage in dialog with us. (I expect that MPI leadership could take some cues from how these people engage others in conversation too.)
Chris Anderson believes Free, $0.00 is the future of business.
Chris Brogan argues that we can choose to distribute our material and let it loose to the wild and hope to capture value elsewhere or lock our material into containers of perceived value. He says the later model is the way the world has worked for well over a hundred years.
Mark Cuban believes that the content is free but that where it’s distributed is controlled. He offers an example of offering free music only from a specific website.
Jason Falls argues that nothing is really free and advertising and sponsorship sustain perceived free offerings.
Malcolm Gladwell doubts that free is the future. Seth and Chris disagree with him.
Mitch Joel says that free is going to scare people.
Seth Godin says that people will pay for content if it is so unique that people can’t get it elsewhere. He calls Malcolm wrong. Seth Godin even set-up a Squidoo lens to debate the topic right here: The FREE Debate.
Valeria Maltoni believes that free is not a benefit, it’s a feature. She says it doesn’t become a benefit until it’s activated by you in the right place, at the right time.
Tim Sanders believes that amateur content should be free but not well-produced content. I don’t think Tim practices what he preaches. Update 8/2/10 – Tim does practice what he preaches. More than one year later, Tim reached out to me. Read his comment below for his views on Free.
In order not to detract from the flow here, I’ll add my sidebar about Tim’s actions below.
David Meerman Scott believes you’ve got to lose control of your messages and you need to make your valuable online information totally free and freely sharable. He practices what he preaches and offer five free eBooks online.
To be fair, here is MPI’s CEO and President, Bruce MacMillan post The Debate Over “Free.” I don’t think Bruce deserves to be listed with these great thought-leaders because he has no new progressive thoughts about associations. Nor is he a leader that embraces disruptive innovation. He started out that way but now he is comfortable with status quo association offerings. MPI has done nothing in the past two years that qualifies as remarkable or memorable with the exception of offering free live streaming in January.
So what say ye? How do you see free impacting business today? Let’s take it further, how do you see free impacting meetings and events, associations, nonprofits? Do you think MPI’s education content is unique enough to warrant additional fees? Do you think I’m out of line for asking MPI to give me more value for my $375 yearly dues? Do you think the entire conversation of free content is free crap and that I’m just a whining MPI member?
Let’s hear from you. All opinions are welcome here. (If you want to know my personal thoughts about Tim Sanders, read on. If you don’t care about that, add a comment.)
*Oh, and regarding Tim Sanders. I’m going to disagree with Tim that only amateur content should be given away free. (Is he really calling these blogger and authors amateurs? I’m going to assume that Tim does not mean to imply these bloggers and authors are amateurish.) Tim does not practice what he preaches here. I have personal experience that says differently. [Make sure you read my update for the full story. I]
Several years ago, I hired Tim to keynote an opening general session for a joint session of PPAI’s BF&M and The Motivation Show. When I was considering potential keynote speakers, Tim reached out to me and sent me a free copy of his book Love Is The Killer App. He also picked up the phone and had a personal conversation with me. He used free—a free book in this case–to get me to buy his product, his speech. Now, I seriously doubt that Tim remembers me because I was just one stop in a yearlong speaking tour for him.
But wait, there’s more. Tim just joined Twitter recently and is trying to build up a list of followers. He tweeted that he would appreciate some recommendations to others about following him. (That there shows his inexperience and understanding of social media.) Well, I had already tweeted about him and did so again the following week because I enjoy his writings and like his insights. He thanked me and asked me to DM him and he would send me a copy of his new book. The oddest thing is that he was not following me so how could I DM him my address. (I just lost all of you that don’t use Twitter. Stay with me.) So I sent him a public reply that I couldn’t DM him because he wasn’t following me. Days later, I sent a second tweet. He never responded again so I don’t think Tim understands the social space very well and I’ve since lost a lot of respect for him. He says one thing and does the other. And he does believe in FREE in order to get people to buy his product.
Update 8/1/2010 – More than one year after I wrote this post Tim reach out to me and kept his original promise. I have to say that my respect for him has just increased. Most people would just forget about the original request but Tim didn’t. He posted his thoughts in the comment section below and then sent me a personal email. He also shipped a copy of his book to me. Anyone that would reach out one year later and follow up, gets my respect. While Tim and I may disagree with the concept of free, I still believe that Tim has a great message, insight and wisdom. My connection is now stronger with him than in the past.
Don’t forget to add to this discussion.