The Power and Profitability of “FREE”!

Every day people are trying to think up new ways to make money online. Yesterday I wrote a post on how Markus Friend is making over $10 million a year by offering a free dating service. With the concept of FREE in mind, here are just a few examples of why FREE works and how you can make the most of it.

I just read a post over at ShoeMoney’s blog about how TwitterCounter is finally monetizing their site as a revenue source. Now that the site is well established and generating over 11,000 pageviews a day, they can offer a promotional spot on the age for $499 a week to a feature Twitter account.
Business Model: Offer the best service and product around and worry about monetization later.

MySpace Resource Sites
Social networks are huge, but it really all got started with the massive teen craze on MySpace. Soon enough everyone and their mother was on MySpace. Unfortunately for the users, not everyone knew how to create their own images, upload them to servers then host them on their myspace pages. Fortunately, early webmasters, affiliates and designers got in on the action and made free resource sites for myspace users to add content to their pages with a simple copy and paste.
Business Model: Offer something free that everyone uses, and let onsite advertising make it worth while.

The general concept for many bloggers is to make money, however blogging is one of the slowest ways to make money online. The amount of time and work involved in building up a blog and a growing reader base is a big task. On the upside, once you have that readership and brand running, you can continually sell advertising on your blog, while offering free information to your readers.
Business Model: Provide free information in exchange for on site related advertising.

Building a Forum Community
Not to keep referring back to ShoeMoney, but one of his most successful (and wasn’t planned to be) sites was his NextPimp ringtones forum. What started out as people creating their own ringtones and sharing with others, had turned into a massive community of die hard ringtone users. Building up any type of community or niche place where members can talk and contribute, is always going to do well.
Business Model: Build a quality place where people can do and discuss what they like, and provide quality advertising and services your users are interested in.

The point is, when you are trying to think of a new business model or ways to make money online, don’t always look at the bottom line, or how you can scam your site visitors into buying something. Try and create a quality product or service and you will succeed that much more, while actually building your site into something people use on a daily basis.

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  1. "Business Model: Offer something free that everyone uses, and let onsite advertising make it worth while."

    yea i remember something like this…it worked for a bunch of companies in the late '90's right? i think the result was called the dot com bubble burst

  2. wrong quote…i meant to quote:

    "Business Model: Offer the best service and product around and worry about monetization later."

  3. Zac,

    I'm sure many people are reluctant to try new ideas and are afraid that their ideas might be too saturated or might not work.

    I am personally an optimist. I believe opportunity is endless. Do you believe, and can you reaffirm for your readers that there are "free" business models out there yet to be taken advantage of?

  4. Do you think it was luck of the draw? Destiny? A great marketing plan backing each of these guys? Personally, I think that in most cases, passion is the draw. Not necessarily passion for that particular niche, but the passion to succeed, support your family, help others, etc. I can't imagine Shoe being a hardcore ringtone downloader- but his innovation and determination certainly play a large role in his success. Curious to hear other thoughts on this.

  5. <a class="replyTo" href="#comment-97559" rel="nofollow">@MLDina:

    Motivation and passion is definitely a factor. I hate myspace and still was able to make the most out of it. I'm sure many are in the same boat.

  6. Zac,

    I am continually amazed at those who try to 'reinvent the wheel'. It all comes down to what you have to offer, remember the hula-hoop or the wheel-o? Fifty cents to manufacture and sold for $3.00. These immutable marketing laws still apply.

    Capture the imagination, get word of mouth advertising launched, provide great customer service and wash, rinse, repeat the above.

    There is a cool article at the DaVinci institute site regarding ten-times ROI projects to rebuild the american economy.

    I wonder how these can be reduced to a local level with local funding?


    Nicholas Chase

  7. So true Zac, So True! I think this is the best model to make a living online – find something thats needed, offer it for free, and offer paid services around it. I just wrote a similar post today about this on my blog as well!

  8. surely so.. making things free drives in loads of traffic!!

    and hence the best way to make money! 😛

  9. I aggree with the idea of .make crowd now and make money later,it is suck at the fist time I have to admit it ,but remembering the success of twitter make me re thinking too much about making too many advertising into my poor traffic weblog

  10. @Matthew Berman:

    You sir, are an idiot. Do you know how many of those "foolish" dot com company owners made a fortune before their stock went to zero?

    Why would they care that the stupid company's stock went to zero when they had already cashed out 2 billion dollars worth of it before it tanked? I doubt they are disappointed with their business model.

  11. Zach you are so right, the biggest names in the world gave their stuff away for free, Mr. Gates is a fine example. Say what you want about him, he made the world a better place! I know I will never forget Windows 3.1

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