One of the great things about my job is the fact that I get so many freebies. Free books, free meals, free admission to events, you name it. But this special situation might not be so special anymore, as it seems nearly everyone can get tons of stuff gratis these days. The culprits? Bandwidth, storage and processing.

According to Wired magazine’s Editor in Chief Chris Anderson – who gave us the term “the long tail” – these three components of information technology have become “too cheap to meter.” In other words, they’re so inexpensive and abundant that everyone can post huge text, audio and video files to the Web and share them with each other at little to no cost. It also means that media outlets (such as, say, Chief Learning Officer magazine) will be increasingly compelled to give away most of its content just to be able to compete with the sheer volume of information on the Internet.!@!

Obviously, Anderson’s argument (which you can read at http://www.wired.com/techbiz/it/magazine/16-03/ff_free – for free, natch) has tremendous implications for learning leaders, most of which are positive. Obviously, they can deliver more content to more people at a lower cost at than ever before, and that will only get better as capabilities in bandwidth, storage and processing improve. On the other hand, as the amount of total content delivered via all forms of media continues to expand rapidly, there will be a greater challenge to really distinguish the subject matter of learning and make it stick in employees’ minds.

Behind all this is a larger discussion about the nature of value and competition in a world where all content seems to be moving inevitably towards being no-cost, copious and accessible. How can learning functions and media providers alike survive and thrive in this virtual “land of the free”? Feel “free” to send me your thoughts at editor@clomedia.com.

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