As the marginal cost of transactions on the web approaches zero, more and more stuff is “free” . When something is given, the  act of giving usually sets up a dynamic of “obligation” on the part of the receiver.

This blog is published on WordPress, for free, the cost to WordPress of hosting my blog, and supplying me with the software is approaching zero.

At some point, I will probably want some features not offered for free. At that time, it is highly unlikely I will go anywhere but the upgrade button on the Blog dashboard, and then Wordpress will generate some revenue, and I will feel I have offered some return for the free use of the software and hosting to this point, as well as not having to climb the barriers to exit.

This dynamic is being repeated everywhere on the web, almost to the point of “free” being the generic price of many services, Wikipedia being the classic.

For marketers, the question is “what is better than free?”, how can we attract customers when free is no longer sufficiently distinctive to be attractive? This goes to the heart of how publishers, of all types, reconstruct their business model to extract a living as their consumer base gets increasingly used to getting their “product” for free.