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What is valuable when so much is free?

Free

(Bill McIntyre via Flickr)

Chris Anderson’s new book "Free" has restarted the controversy over pricing of goods, particularly digital goods. This led me to re-read Kevin Kelly’s piece on "Better Than Free". He argues that "When copies are free, you need to sell things which can not be copied." I like his taxonomy of 8 "generative" qualities which cannot be copied:

– Immediacy

– Personalization

– Interpretation

– Authenticity

– Accessibility

– Embodiment

– Patronage

– Findability

I think that Kelly’s model applies particularly well to the investment research world. Investors pay a massive premium for immediate access to information which is often free 15 minutes later (e.g., stock prices).

Ironically, some investors (Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Victor Niederhoffer) have argued almost the opposite point: that 99.9% of new information is just noise, and one should focus instead on the information important enough to be of interest after some time has passed.

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