Free Media Finds That Are Priceless Year-Round

free signDec. 16, 2009 Got gifts? Not sure when we jumped from “Black Friday/Cyber Monday” to bold-type headlines of “last minute gifts!”—but I’m still holding my own on the ‘haven’t stepped in a mall’ front…

So today I’m going to add a few FREE ‘last minute finds’ that are literally and figuratively priceless.

To up the ante and make it tougher, I’ll remove the physical ‘givens’ like hugs and help and chore coupons and focus exclusively on media freebies beyond the obvious ‘iPhone apps’ since not everyone is a mobile maven.

First on my list? An excellent post by Koka Sexton (an avatar sounding name if ever I’ve heard one!) on “22 most unknown free things anyone can have,” ranging from distinguished MIT open courses to comic books, BBC language lessons to Sephora samples. Quite frankly, it puts my picks to shame…but since I’m focusing only on MEDIA magic, we’ll start off with free gaming that uses a charity spin!

Games That is a new site where worthy causes receive the ad revenue which makes the games free! Their theme line? “What are you playing for?” Choose which cause to champion, and their newly launched site (already about to turn over the $10K mark in donations!) will donate 70% of their ad rev to the charity of your choice on the site. So if kids are  gonna have extra screen time, blizzards or not this winter break…make it count! Here’s more about their team. Second find?

tsgFree reads. Not sample chapters or teasers, FULL books!

You can even print ‘em out and tie ‘em with a bow if you want or turn ‘em into a handcrafted ‘paper as art form’ project.

Check out ebookmall where you can score free reads like Jane Eyre or Secret Garden, but here are a few personal picks from pals of mine…

All 166pp of The Teen Survival Guide to Dating & Relating is a FREE gift, by parenting pro Annie Fox of ‘Middle School Confidential’ series fame. This title which was previously published is now out of print and being offered free, along with useful podcast interviews and other Q&A forum style tips…

Similarly, an ebook download for guys (boys to men/sons out there) is Gavin Heaton’s The Perfect Gift for a Man collaboration (FREE download here) –30 stories and poignant voices of men reinventing masculinity. (you can also purchase probono formats to benefit The Inspire Foundation)

Of course, CREATING a book is a great way to go as well…self-publishing via, or fabulous artistic collaborative storytelling communtities like!

Third find? Free advice. Well-written tips that soothe the senses, give you a holiday bracer and make you ho-ho-ho simultaneously.

This one about a “martyr, er…mom” made me (nervously) laugh out loud…In Holiday Help is Hard to Find posted by Annie Fox via, she pithily describes an all too familiar family scene:

“…Frazzled and frustrated she slumps to the kitchen floor in her gravy-stained apron and whimpers like a pathetic dog. At which point the princesses exchange eye-rolls and deign to lift sponge or dish towel.”

Ahem. If you see yourself anywhere in this description, the read could be a six-point starter plan for change in the New Year.


Free Music: Project Playlist (in beta) offers ways to discover, create, share playlists in a social networking meets music fans format.

LastFm and are favorites too…(2006 flashback of being lucky to share lunch seated between LaLa founder Bill Nguyen and Gina Bianchini of Ning at the Guidewire Group Fall Leadership forum of serial entrepreneurs and VC backed brainiacs) and NOW, lookie there: Apple has just bought LaLa’s music model for streaming, which prompts a “hmn” and “where is this all headed” cacophony of high notes…

packaging boyhoodFree Giveaways: A few blog searches in your interest areas (kids, green, whatever) and chances are you’ll find contests, drawings, freebies for everything from tees to gizmos, movies/CDs, books/apps…

Yep, even right here on Shaping Youth!

Recall my Packaging Boyhood posts every Tuesday? All you have to do is leave a comment or a tweet to further the conversation and you’ll be entered to win. We’ll be drawing 3 FREE winners by year’s end!

Free Time Savers: and have great tips on how to set up your own round-robin ideas for lifting the load and staying healthy to boot…Job sharing works for childcare, “kids night out” doing holiday crafts/movie hosting, pet walking you name it. Helps build community too, giving you more face time with your loved ones over the holidays in ‘it takes a village’ mode.


Free Media Self Expression: What words would you use to describe how you feel about someone? Great. Now tell ‘em…use FREE media tools to morph into a keepsake suitable for framing.

Try for lovely word clouds, to express feelings, commemorate a family reunion or keepsake of a special event, or in this case above, I used it to list authors in Jasmin Tragas’ probono ebook (again, FREE download!) called WorldShapers: Women Wired to Make a Difference!

storybird storyYou could also write a poem and share it with the world via free online poetry communities like, PoetryPoems or MoonTown Cafe with its teens and childrens’ contests, free verse, haiku, and much more. There are tons of cool literary freebie sites and ezine communities to ‘show and tell’ the world how you feel like a published pro…and as I’ve written, Storybird (shown above) is a favorite for creating a connected-familial collaborative project. FREE and FUN!

gleeFree Media Themed Events & Excursions:

From a ‘Glee’ karaoke outing or song fest around the holiday tree to a Gilmore Girls getaway (or even an iCarly lesson in user generated content on cam to teach grandma how to use Facebook, Flickr or other skill sets–if she doesn’t teach you first) use your imagination to package media in a presentation format that’s fun…

Life is one big reality show of free, unscripted fun, right? You can’t make this stuff up—so let it go where it takes you!

Free Santa Tracking, Letters, Holiday Cheer: NORAD . Highly recommend this site, hands down. Now in seven different languages with snazzy satelllite integration. Don’t leave childhood without it.

Free Animoto personalized video gifts I love, love LOVE the Animoto site for personalizing free photo montages into wow-pow movie trailers rivaling an action flick, complete with soundtrack and text comments if you want. I’ve sent them as video greetings, e-cards, gifts, teasers, used them as school media literacy projects you name it. They rock. Literally.

yelpFree Props: Give someone you admire the gift of permanent kudos for their hard work in a lasting web tribute that uses the power of media to ‘stick’ in all the right ways.

From colleagues to service providers (dentists, salons, whatever) putting it ‘on the record’ is a helpful gift for all. Whether it’s Yelp, a LinkedIn recommendation, a Mr. Tweet ‘follow this person’ permanent ‘Follow Friday’ recommendation, or a blog post recommendation of “Women to Follow dedicated to inspiring girls” curate, connect, and give kudos when they’re merited. (NOT gratuitously!)

Even just a thoughtful comment on a blog you adore is guaranteed to bring a smile to the face of the recipient who in turn will appreciate YOU for taking the time to acknowledge their efforts. (I know I do everytime someone leaves a comment on this blog—as this is a lot of unpaid WORK and that ‘joy juice’ of being heard reaches far beyond any big analytics hooie! )

wiglingtonFree Learning Fun Free Virtual World Access:

No secret that I prefer to support the fun finds that bridge from free play to ‘premium content’ subscriptions for a nominal ‘monthly pass’ so families can ‘try it out’ and keep commercialism at bay. (see this new one about to premiere on Christmas Eve called “Wiglington & Wenks” for edu-fun!)

There are still ways to keep it ‘free’ like the SmartyCard quizzes that let kids ‘earn’ their screen time to receive ‘premium passes’ into virtual worlds they enjoy…I think it’s a cool concept…Still, I wish SmartyCard’s quiz portal housed a ‘tiered’ approach for more meaningful media so parents could find it at a glance…Hey, we’re busy and want ‘one click’ portals to find SAFE, WORTHY communities where kids balance fun and safety.

I know there are a TON of FREE Virtual Worlds touted as ‘top picks’ and “most popular”…(Club Penguin, BuildABear, Webkinz, yadayada) but personally, I feel some of those ‘free’ revenue models come at a very high price…(brandwashing, consumption cues, large commercial entities begging kids to buy)

fireplacePersonally, I prefer to support the fun ones that bridge from free play to ‘premium content’ subscriptions for a nominal ‘monthly pass’ so families can ‘try it out’ and keep commercialism at bay. (Dizzywood, Xeko/Elf Island, Webosaurs, now W&W etc.)

More on that in my next post about some new meaningful virtual worlds with education elements that segue into premium pass programs…From to W&W.

Perfect for winter break/snowbound holiday fun (if you still have power from the blizzards, that is) 😉 And if you don’t!? So much the better…

Light a fire, play board games, get back to basics and enjoy the spirit of the season in the glow of the flames with friends and family.

Good tidings and comfort and joy to all.

Free is fabulous!

Visual Credits: Fireplace (cool website too!) lead ‘freebie’ photo, as linked prior



  1. Reading through my RSS and what do I see? You mentioned WorldShapers! Thanks Amy!
    Have a wonderful holiday season and thanks for your online friendship this year. I hope great things happen for you and through you in 2010.

    .-= Jasmin´s last blog ..What Matters Now in Five Words =-.

  2. Well, yes, I mentioned Worldshapers indeed, but now see I linked to MY POST about it rather than the book itself, so I’m adding that link now too! 🙂

    Great to hear from you, and thrilled to hear your thumbs up on Seth Godin’s “What matters now” as it could serve us all well for gearing up for the next Age of Conversation 3, n’est ce pas?

    Seems the simple, easy to find factor was lacking in AOC2 and ‘curation’ is key…Hopefully the ‘best practices’ can be applied, hmn? Anxious to click through your links about the details, and to respond with my ‘5 words’ according to your link above! Back atcha soon. Thanks for taking the time to comment…see? Made my day! Appreciatively, –A.

  3. Finally got my iPhone so I can check out your blog on the move.

  4. Actually, we now have the WordPress iPhone ‘THEME’ installed so you can read it with ease sans graphics and much more legibility. Hope that helps…(there’s a toggle to go back and forth with it if you want to see the visuals, too; in the footer)

  5. Some great stuff there, especially the free Ebooks.
    .-= Joseph Condron´s last blog ..Top Gun Film Review: Can The Fascination Be Explained =-.

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