It All Started with Gilligan’s Island

Question: How did you arrive at this concept of free?

Chris Anderson: I talk a lot about my youth. Growing up as a kid in the 70s you come home from school and you watch TV. Right? Gilligan’s Island like you probably did. You probably didn’t. You’re a little younger than me. But in the 70s that’s what you did. And had you measured that Neilson statistics would be pretty clear. 60 percent of American households watch Gilligan’s Island. You would have concluded that this was, sort of, a Darwinian perfection. We had reached the optimal form of programming for 12 year old boys. Then move it forward a little bit. Add cable TV, digital cable, hi capacity to Hulu, YouTube, the internet, etcetera, and now you realize that we, of course, had confused supply with demand.

I watched Gilligan’s Island because it was the only thing on. There were four channels: three soap operas and Gilligan’s Island. I watched what was on. We had a distorted sense of who we are, who we were and we now measure who we really are. We’re more diverse. There’s more concepts out there. Our tastes are more refined than the mass market approach reveals. That led to that first book which was sort of quantifying the true shape of demand unencumbered by distribution scarcity and then that changed the culture. It created some business opportunities, but it was a cultural phenomenon. As I was reflecting on some of the cultural changes that had come from The Long Tail and this infinite shelf space, I was reflecting on the reality that we could only have infinite shelf space if the shelf space costs nothing, if it’s free. Only if it’s free, you can be indiscriminate about what gets out there. Only if you have free video distribution, can you have YouTube.

You know, where it’s YouTube and not guy in suit tube which, by the way, defines the previous era of television. As you think more about free, you realize this word free is both the underlying economics of free. In other words, free distribution, free productions are driving this explosion of productivity. This explosion of a range of what we make and who makes it as well as the price of what these products cost. Then you think more about it and you realize that we built a country sized economy, like a Germany size economy online, with a base price of zero. This is kind of a big deal. And that, no doubt, there should be economic theories to explain it or books about it and there was nothing, so I felt I needed to fill that gap.

Recorded on September 30, 2009

Chris Anderson, author of The Long Tail and Free, reflects on what forces helped him arrive at his new concept.

22 months of war - condensed in a 1-minute video

No, the Syrian civil war is not over. But it might be soon. Time for a recap

Strange Maps
  • The War in Syria has dropped off the radar, but it's not over (yet)
  • This 1-minute video shows how the fronts have moved – and stabilised – over the past 22 months
  • Watching this video may leave you both better informed, and slightly queasy: does war need a generic rock soundtrack?
Keep reading Show less

Bespoke suicide pods now available for death in style

Sarco assisted suicide pods come in three different styles, and allow you to die quickly and painlessly. They're even quite beautiful to look at.

The Sarco assisted suicide pod
Technology & Innovation

Death: it happens to everyone (except, apparently, Keanu Reeves). But while the impoverished and lower-class people of the world die in the same ol' ways—cancer, heart disease, and so forth—the upper classes can choose hip and cool new ways to die. Now, there's an assisted-suicide pod so chic and so stylin' that peeps (young people still say peeps, right?) are calling it the "Tesla" of death... it's called... the Sarco! 

Keep reading Show less

How to bring more confidence to your conversations

Entrepreneur and author Andrew Horn shares his rules for becoming an assured conversationalist.

content.jwplatform.com
Videos
  • To avoid basing action on external validation, you need to find your "authentic voice" and use it.
  • Finding your voice requires asking the right questions of yourself.
  • There are 3-5 questions that you would generally want to ask people you are talking to.
Keep reading Show less