Okay, IBD is free here every Monday and Thursday, as well as Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. That includes weekends and holidays. Really, who would pay for this? I can think of several people who might pay for us to stop this attempt at making the world a better place one typeface at a time, but because of them I am more encouraged than ever. I will not name names, but my wife uses reverse psychology on me all of the time and it always works. Just because it is free, does that decrease the value of what we are offering? That was a rhetorical question. Please don’t answer it in the comment section. Paul is way too sensitive to receive actual constructive criticism and I just want people to like me.
Several months back I finished reading Free: the Future of a Radical Price by Chris Anderson. Ever since I finished it, I’ve been turning elements of Anderson’s thoughts over in my brain, relating them to interpretation. This is similar to the way my wife has been thinking about shirtless werewolves and sparkly vampires after reading the Twilight books—minus me, the geek factor, and the interpretation part.
In one of the most powerful statements in Free, Anderson states that “Memorable experiences are the ultimate scarcity.” When scarcity is created people or visitors become willing to pay for a part of having something that is scarce. This is evident by what people are paying for tickets and associated fees on Stubhub.com. I’m guilty.
Interpretive sites and programs provide memorable experiences, which is good news for interpretation. Much of what we offer is free, making this the ultimate combination, free and memorable. We should work harder at letting visitors know the true value of our free, authentic, memorable programs and media. I’ve seen scarcity at work when demand exceeds supply for positions in day camps, specialty tours, and at various events where visitors are afraid that they are going to miss something. Even if our programs are free, we can add a sense of scarcity by using sign-up sheets, limiting participants, and offering tickets to the intended audience.
Anderson is successful at drawing conclusions between trends, successes, failures, and generational differences around the concept of free. Where younger generations have grown expect to pay nothing for digital media, it is up to interpretive managers to find ways of meeting that demand. Anderson uses YouTube and Facebook as examples. Both are free and valuable to users, but neither has been very successful at making money, which is ultimately their goal. At this point in the lives of these two websites, users/consumers would accept nothing less than free. Both websites are trying to find a balance between meeting the expectations of users and staying afloat. If not for ad sales (not to mention the backing of Google for YouTube), both would have folded at the cost of storage and bandwidth.
Interpretive sites face some of the same challenges of these web giants. Sites finding a delicate balance between meeting mission without selling out important interpretive themes while still meeting the needs of the site can be difficult. It is up to us to know what our end goal is for the site and then discover how interpretation is going to help generate revenue, build donors, find volunteers, or even help visitors get to self-actualization stage of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Anderson writes, “Free is not a magic bullet. Giving away what you do will not make you rich by itself. You have to think creatively about how to convert the reputation and attention you can get from Free into cash.” If what we offer is primarily free we have to focus on the creativity and reputation portions of that quote.
In honor of the book Free, I am giving away copies of Interpretation By Design (the book not the blog) to the first two readers who follow through with the challenges outlined below. This will also serve as a reward for the only two people who actually read the entire post.
Here are the two challenge opportunities.
1. The first reader to contact 5 friends, have them comment on this post and mention your name in that comment, will receive a free book. The caveat is that they cannot have ever commented before on IBD before.
2. The first reader to have 5 friends become fans of the IBD Facebook page, and then have those 5 new fans place a comment on the IBD Facebook wall that mentions your name will receive a free book.
Due to the rare nature of actual book sales and unconfirmed rumors that IBD (the book not the blog) is successful at leveling wobbly tables. We have implemented the following qualifier for this contest.
Qualifier: This book give away will require the winners to provide Paul and me with your home address and pending an Internet review of your background could require an overnight home visit to ensure the book is going to a good home. This is especially true if you live in a city where the Yankees and/or Phillies will be playing this summer or the Yankees will be playing this October. We will also be checking to make sure that the new home is a Papyrus- and Comic Sans-free environment. We care about the health and home life of our books.
If you want to avoid a pajama party with yours truly, you can always just pay for the book. Which leads me to the next question: Does giving away a book decrease the value? Again, that was rhetorical.