The Rise in Popularity of Free Stuff

The Internet never fails to serve up an eclectic mixture of free stuff. Everywhere you turn people are queuing up to offer their wares for free. But have you ever considered how many times a day you see the word “free” on the Net? It’s probably much more than you realise, and even if you just happen to visit a few Web pages, you’ll struggle to avoid it. Companies (both large and small), hobbyists, programmers, artists, designers and musicians are just some groups who can’t wait to give away freebies, and in this article we’ll take a look at the growing popularity of free stuff, particularly online.

The early days of the Internet saw many Web sites base their business models on offering services for free. And it pays to offer something for free, even today. Web surfers are bombarded with so much information nowadays that their attention span is relatively short. Consider how many advertisements you see on the Web, and then think about how many sites you visit. It’s difficult enough remembering where you’ve been on the Web, never mind what each site was offering, so anyone offering a freebie is immediately at an advantage when it comes to attracting attention. Few words are more attention-grabbing than “FREE”, hence the popularity of freebies on the Web.

“Few words are more attention-grabbing than ‘FREE’, hence the popularity of freebies on the Web.”

Take Webmaster services sites (online services for people wishing to build Web pages). Many free hit counter, guestbook and message board providers learned early on that it pays to give away a service for free. It can attract untold numbers of visitors to a Web site, and once a user has outgrown the “free” offering, they may be more willing to upgrade to a commercial solution.

Free samples, in particular, caused quite a stir when companies first started to take advantage of the Web’s popularity. Over the last few years, we’ve seen a similar surge in interest as more people go online and request free stuff. In fact, the rising popularity of freebies on the Net is having an impact in the offline world, too.

We are seeing more and more companies using integrated marketing campaigns to advertise their products both online and offline. TV advertisements urging consumers to “go online” for a free sample are becoming increasingly popular, and it seems both consumers and manufacturers are benefiting from this trend.

“TV advertisements urging consumers to ‘go online’ for a free sample are becoming increasingly popular.”

Equally, companies offering free samples appear to be anticipating demand more effectively than they once did, although we feel the majority STILL underestimate demand, and as a result, find themselves out of stock much to the frustration of those who are “ready to try, ready to buy”.

Having said that, there are more freebies available online than ever before, be that product samples, magazines, DVDs, music or otherwise. An increasing number of musicians are finding that it pays to offer at least some of their songs for free. It forges closer connections with fans and helps to establish a wider audience.

Then there is free software. As packages become increasingly expensive, it seems every software vendor is urging you to choose their solution to help solve your computing dilemmas. As a result, many people are turning to the freedom of freeware, or open source software, which in many cases does a perfectly adequate job. Better still, it doesn’t come with that hefty price tag either! Free software appears to be gathering pace in the operating systems market as well, with software such as Linux becoming increasingly user-friendly. Will we ever see anybody mount a serious challenge to Microsoft Windows? Only time will tell, but there are already promising signs.

“Many people are turning to the freedom of freeware, or open source software, which in many cases does a perfectly adequate job.”

So what for the future of freebies? Here at we’ve observed a trend. Freebies remain a constant because their demand is high and the benefits of offering free stuff to consumers outweigh the cost of providing them. Secondly, especially in unfavourable economic times, people have a tendency to curb their spending and look for ways to save money. Thirdly, as technology changes, new types of freebies emerge and methods to obtain them become more varied. And so the cycle continues, which is great news for us freebie fans!

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