Today’s post is all about free stuff.

Free stuff you can find on the Internet, that is.

You can get almost anything for free on the Internet these days.

Sample products, domain names, subscriptions, even coffee and chequing accounts. Many whole websites and services are even free.

But is any of this free stuff really, truly, free? With no strings attached?

For the most part, NO!

Why? Well, at the end of the day someone has to pay for this stuff you’re getting for free.

There are costs associated with making the material, and then costs associated with putting that material on the internet for you to get. Which, depending on how substantial the material is, and how popular the place you’re getting it from is, the cost can be substantial.

Whatever it is you’re getting might be free as in you don’t have to open up your wallet and hand over some of your hard-earned cash, but you are still going to have tdo give up something in exchange for whatever you’re getting.

So, how does this work? Here are a few ways you might end up paying for the free stuff you get online.

The first one is..


Ad revenue

If you’re part of the generation that is used to sitting down to read the newspaper every day, you’re familiar with how all this started.

Ads are put up on the website and you have to put up with them while using whatever it is you came to use.

These ads generate revenue for the website every time you view a page on the website.

While most advertisements are fairly innocuous, advertising technology is quickly moving towards enhanced ways of figuring out what it is you like so they can show you ads for products and services you are most likely to buy.

You have to ask yourself here, is dealing with the ads worth it for what you’re getting? How about the possibility they may be tracking you?

The second is..


Giving contact information

A business needs customers, but nobody is going to freely give up their contact information and ask to be contacted about products and services they could buy, right?

I mean, how many phone calls have you picked up, discovered its a telemarketer on the other end and been excited about it?

One avenue for businesses to solve this problem is to give something away for free, in exchange for your contact information and your acceptance that they can contact you at a later date to advertise their products and services for you to buy.

Ever been asked online “to download this or that just enter your email address!” ?

This is exactly what is happening. In exchange for the free download, you’ve handing over your contact information.

The third is..


It could be a scam

I think its worth mentioning here, that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. As I mentioned above, its expensive to give away free stuff.

Ever get invited to a survey which claims that every participant that completes it will get an iPad? If that were true, not only would thousands of people complete the survey, but the company offering it would go out of business quickly due to the number of iPads they would need to purchase.

Next time you see something for free that just seems way too good, take a second and think to yourself: Is this too good? How does the company pay for this?



Giving Personal Information

The last way I wanted to highlight is similar to collecting contact information, however instead of just contact information, they ask for way more.

Ever seen an online quiz that needs to know your name, address, and income or a contest ballot that wants to know your address and occupation?

That kind of information that gets a little more personal than just how to contact you if you win.


Bottom line..

So, what I’m trying to get at in this episode is not to scare you and Im not saying that you shouldn’t give out information at all. I’m just saying that you should be careful to who and when you give it out.

While this may seem like nothing, the next time you enter your information for something free, consider these two things:

They could sell your information, or make it available to customers in some way, which means you could get even more unsolicited advertisements and emails from many third parties.
They could loose your information. Either through a hack or by accident, which means your information could get into the hands of a third party which could have sinister intentions.

Make sure that whichever company you’re giving it to is reputable and has some protections in place to protect the information you give them.

Not only that but consider if the information you’re providing is worth the benefit of whatever you’re getting in return.

Are they asking for your name, address, phone number, social status, salary and social insurance number all in return for a ballot for in contest, but the chances of winning are 1 in 50,000,000, for example?

Ask yourself if that much exposure is worth that chance of winning.


This week’s challenge

This week’s challenge is pretty simple. Think about everywhere you’ve submitted your information online in exchange for something free. Can you think of anywhere where it might have not been worth it? Going forward, is there anything you might do differently when it comes to giving up your information?