As public lead for Creative Commons South Africa, I'm often faced with content publishers asking me questions like: How can we possibly afford to stay in business while giving away the fruits of our labour for free?

I'll cover three basic ways.

1. Advertising

The most obvious answer is that you can make your money back from advertising. However, quality journalism and production is not cheap, so it is quite difficult to make sufficient profit from advertising and affiliate revenue alone if you're relying on original content to bring in your readers.  Archived content can, however, provide bonus revenue from people coming across old content that you may already have recovered your costs on.

2. E-Commerce and Affiliate Revenue


A number of publications, such as Backpackers.com are using e-commerce to fund their publications (in addition to advertising). You can also get commissions from related products and services that you recommend via your site (some publications have ethical issues with this, as it can be seen to bias the writing toward the particular products/companies that affiliations have been set up with).

3. Freemium

Some companies, such as MarketingProfs, give away some of their articles for free but charge for full access to all their articles. Others, like Trendwatching, give their content away for free, but charge a premium for high-quality summaries and live presentations of it. There are many ways to apply freemium - for example, you can give free access for a limited time only, or free digital access to drive print subsriptions or attendance at events. Andrew Chen has devised a useful little spreadsheet to help you evaluate the viability of freemium for your product or service.

Chris Anderson has identified four types of free that can work in business, an article worth checking out. I've reproduced his visual summary below:

The Four Types of Free

Lastly, you may find that giving your content away for free doesn't work for you. The fact is, that despite the overwhelming amounts of free content available online today, it's still time consuming to find the best knowledge and information that you can trust and use. People, like me, are still prepared to pay a little extra for access to well researched and produced  information. Walter Isaacson wrote an insightful piece about the need to charge for content in this week's Time magazine (which is, ironically, available for free HERE)

Oh, and by the way... Creative Commons is not all about content creators giving content away for free. Yes, you can sell your own Creative Commons licensed work, while limiting others from doing the same.  Creative Commons licenses allow others to share your work, while giving you credit for what you've done. They can only sell it if you have allowed for commercial use of it.