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The Curve will tell you how to use the web to give stuff away from free, to build relationships with your biggest fans and to charge them lots of money for things they value.

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From Guardian membership to U2 giveaways: some thoughts on free #mcs2014

I will be chairing the Mobile Content Summit in London on Thursday 2nd October. In advance of the event, BusinessTechnology interviewed me for my thoughts on free and making money in a digital age. The interview is reproduced (with permission) below.

The customers of the digital world expect more for less. We read openly-available news online, stream music from Spotify for free, and play chart-topping games like Angry Birds and Candy Crush Saga without parting with any of our cash – initially, at least. Continue Reading

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Does this chart show that print is over?

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics has put together a chart showing how expenditure on the written word varies by demographic. It focuses on newspapers, magazines, books and ebooks. That’s a bit odd because it includes the digital versions of books (ebooks) but not the digital versions of magazines and newspapers (websites).

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Becoming a YouTube star

YouTube is a very powerful medium for reaching an audience, and starting the process of earning the right to talk to them. So much so that in the games industry, YouTubers have become the tastemakers who can make or break games, much more so than that traditional press channels of reviews and the specialist press.

A successful YouTuber recently wrote up what it takes to become a successful YouTuber, the financial model, the benefits and pitfalls of signing up to a multi-channel network and the ethical challenges that YouTubers face.

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How etailers can take advantage of the Curve, and make money when everything is going free.

In June 2014, I was asked by Google to go to their offices and talk about the ideas of the Curve to a room full of etailers. It was part of an afternoon when Google pointed out that ecommerce providers in the UK have three times as many page views as every newspaper and magazine in the UK combined. They are fixated on conversion rates and sales, yet they offer a enormous, free, value-added resource to their customers which can be harnessed as a revenue strategy (through advertising) and through a Curve strategy (through content marketing, earning the right to talk to their customers again and enabling superfans.)

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Case studies: the Marvel of comics

When you have seventy-five years of history and over 5,000 characters in your archives, including Spiderman, The Incredible Hulk and Captain America, you have a lot of potential to experiment with a Curve strategy.

Marvel is in such a lucky position. In 2009 Disney acquired the comic book publisher for $4 billion. At the time, it was the eighth largest magazine publisher in the US, and 4.1 million people read its content every month. That said, even by the time of the acquisition Marvel was far from just a comic book business. Although it made $125 million from publishing in 2008, that represented less than a fifth of its revenue: the bulk was made up from licensing ($293 million, 43 per cent) and film production ($255 million, 38 per cent). It’s a brand and movie business, and since 2000 there has been a Marvel-licensed blockbuster in cinemas every single year. Continue Reading

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Case study: Kaleel Zibe, a wildlife photographer

In November 2013 I received an email from Kaleel Zibe, a professional wildlife and nature photographer. His business has been under pressure for many years. ‘The crash of stock price imagery, and the fact that everyone is now an amateur photographer, means we in the profession need to re-think what we’re doing to make money. For years now the classic ways of earning a living from photography have had eroding returns.’

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Twitter has taken the first step towards making you “earn the right to pay Twitter to speak to your fans”

One of the key tenets of the Curve is that you use free to find an audience and earn the right to talk to them again. A content marketing strategy that just finds an audience with no follow-through is not a strategy.

My preference is email, because it is in my control, but it is important to be where your audience is: YouTube, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr and so on.

I have long joked that Facebook is different. On FB, you are “earning the right to pay Facebook to speak to your fans”, and their ongoing changes like hiding the most recent posts and encouraging users only to see the posts that Facebook wants you to see are part of this monetisation strategy.

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