Jason Fried is the co-founder and President of 37signals, the Chicago-based web-application company. He has co-authored all of 37signals' books, including the upcoming, "Rework," as well as the 'minimalist manifesto,' "Getting Real: The Smarter, Faster, Easier Way to Build a Successful Web Application" He also helps to maintain the company's popular blog, Signal vs. Noise, and is regularly invited to speak around the world on entrepreneurship, design, management, and software.
Question: What is wrong with free content?
Jason Fried: You know, you walk into a bakery and get a free sample because they want to sell you a muffin. That makes sense. But you go online and use a website for free and there’s nothing to sell you, that doesn’t make sense. So, I think free is a great model as long as you have something to sell also. Free should be an incentive. We like to say that you could be emulating drug dealers, basically. You know, drug dealers give you a little sprinkle or a little taste and get you hooked, and then you buy from them. They don’t just give you more free drugs all day, you buy something from them. So, we’re a big fan of emulating drug dealers, basically, or bakeries. That might be a better way to put it.
But anyway, that model works. But the open source world, that’s kind of a different thing. There are some companies that opens source software and then sell support on top of it, so that’s one way to make money off of open source. For us, we think that the opens source thing works for us because, first of all, the product is better and we get to use Rails, and so if other people are improving it, that’s good for us, we can use that in our pay products. Secondly, whenever people mention Rails, they mention 37signals, they mention Basecamp or High Rise, or us in some way. And that indirectly benefits us as well. So, that’s kind of the guiding principle for us. So, some stuff is free, most stuff is pay.