The question of where to put the Toll Booth is being asked of me more and more lately, it’s a big subject and really can’t be covered in a Blog Post well, I’ll just share some thoughts for you to ponder. With the shift to an Open & Free Business Model, the confusion of the concept, the fear of losing control, and how to make new money from it are the biggest reasons to take your time and consider where the Toll Booth should be. Let’s consider some facts.

Today we have 1.7 Billion people on the Internet, in the next 3 – 5 years there will be 5 Billion people here online. Also consider that Advertising dollars are shifting to the digital marketplace, traditional advertising is dropping and digital is increasing. Print is down 18.7%, T.V. is down 10.1%, Radio is down 11.7% and magazine’s are down 14.8% in the USA alone. On the other-hand, Digital is up, HandHelds are up 18.1% and general Internet (Computer) is up 9.2% overall in the USA. These numbers are changing everyday, and these are taken from November 2009 statistics. With over 65,000 iPhone Apps on the market and more are being released daily, these apps are revenue generators that play a huge role in the Open & Free Business Model. A Toll Booth if you will.

The term Open & Free Business Model means a great many things, it’s access first before money, in a way it’s like the old GPL of Shareware model, you got to try it for 30 days and then you had to buy it. But today there is a difference, today people won’t tolerate paying for content in any of the traditional terms. Newspapers are trying get you to pay for content for access, how do you think that will go, I think they will rethink that if they want to generate new revenues.

The biggest issue I’m coming across is a thing called creativity, there is a mental block on how Open & Free is going to make money. Personally I think it’s not that difficult to figure out, but that’s what I do, I help businesses come up with new ideas on how to do that, to build something that can be implemented for the purposes of being ready for the new 3.3 Billion people coming in the next few years. The problem isn’t that¬† it can’t be done, the problem is we have to unlearn and make a paradigm shift in how we view the world of business. I’ve quoted Gerd Leonhard many times, he once said, “the Internet is a giant copy machine, we now have to sell things that can’t be copied. Sell things around the content. Sell the packaging, sell the experience.” I’ve always believed that the experience I have in dealing with you determines the success of your brand. Business is not transactions, it’s interactions with people, and those people determine whether your brand is good or not based on the experience of dealing with you and your business.

If we must stop the model of copy to something that can’t be copied, we must look at a bigger picture, and that means changing the way we see the world. The Open & Free Business Model has nothing to do with technology, it is rethinking the placement of the digital marketplace Toll Booth. Some Bloggers have proven this model in part, offering good if not great content for free that you normally would have paid for upfront. That scares the day lights out of the business world, letting you decide before you buy means mainstream business has give up some control. It means they can’t guide you through the typical sales process of making say yes to a string of mini closes. They have to change how they think and ensure what they want you to purchase brings value and fills a real perceived need. They struggle now with where they make the money and how to ask for it. I’m generalizing of course, some understand but most don’t.

The bigger issues coming, what happens when we go to a single currency in North America, what happens if Net Neutrality comes to fruition, there will be another shift but not nearly as big as the Open & Free Business Model. This is not the same as Open Source but we can learn much from the GPL (General Public License) model.

The placement of the Toll Booth will most likely determine the amount of money you generate in the digital marketplace, but you need to understand how to determine that placement. You may not like the idea of an Open & Free Business Model, but what you may not see is that free gets you to a place where can ask to be paid. It will be quality over quantity, and it will also mean you are solving a problem and or filling a perceived need.

I have probably introduced you to, maybe for the first time, the thought of giving your content away for free and then figuring out how to make new money from that thought. There is far too much to cover for this post but you can read more about it here on my Blog by doing a search on the topic.

Owen Greaves Consulting is currently planning a 2 day workshop on the Open & Free Business Model, to help you learn how and where to put the toll booth in your Open & Free Business Model. If you are interested in this workshop please send me an e-mail or leave a comment for more information.