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Give It Away

by Doug Davidoff | Aug 2, 2007 1:23:23 PM

Many of you may be familiar with the television show, JerichoJericho was canceled recently, only to have that decision reversed when viewers rallied and flooded CBS with demands that the show continue.  While I was always intrigued by Jericho, and further intrigued since the rally, I’ve never watched the show.

The reason for this (and this may sound strange) is that there was too much risk in watching.  The show was always on when I was doing (or watching) other things, and I wasn’t sure I’d like the show.  Then, when preparing for a business trip, I went to iTunes to upload some video to watch on the flight.  While shopping the iTunes Store, I came across Jericho’s pilot episode for free.

Suddenly, there wasn’t any risk in giving the show a try.  I’d be on a plane, watching it on my iPhone.  I wouldn’t be sacrificing anything for it – money, time or opportunity.  So if I didn’t like Jericho, I could just delete it.

Those of you who frequent the iTunes Store know that pilot episodes for several shows are offered for free.  I’m sure there was some finance person at CBS or Apple that screamed bloody murder about this.  They probably ran the numbers and projected how much revenue they’d lose.  In an effort to be ‘helpful’, they looked for alternatives and probably asked something like, “Why don’t we give away a preview of the show, or a series of highlights?”  They, like many executives in highly competitive markets, are deathly afraid of ‘giving their intellectual capital away.’

They shouldn’t be.  Because by reducing the risk of trying the show, Jericho gained a new fan.  I’ve now downloaded all of Season One and will be watching it on the plane to St. Thomas where I am taking some time off next week.  By ‘giving away’ $2, they made $26.

A final note: There may be those reading this who are asking, “What kind of risk is $2?”  And that’s a legitimate question.  But, if iTunes hadn’t given the show away, the cost would have been $2.  I have to admit that in hindsight, $2 doesn’t seem like much risk.  However, you and I both know this is not how decisions are made.  I wrote about mental accounting before.  Since Jericho wasn’t in my entertainment ‘account,’ there wasn’t much emotional difference between $2 and $200.

Here’s my challenge to you.  What could you give away that would make it easier for a prospective buyer to try you?