What Is Zero Marginal Cost? Definition, Overview, 5 Facts

Producing anything having a zero marginal cost (ZMC) incurs no additional costs. When your marginal cost is zero, you may sell more things at the same or higher price without raising your costs.

In some ways, nothing is truly free until it has a zero marginal cost. Find out more in the article below.

What Is Zero Marginal Cost?

The term “marginal cost” refers to the increased cost of production that occurs when a single more unit of a products or service is created. When the cost of creating an extra unit does not grow as a result of generating more of them, we say that the marginal cost of production is zero.

What Is Zero Marginal Cost?

Producing another unit of a non-rivalrous good can have zero marginal costs since one person’s use of the item does not diminish the ability of other persons to utilize the good at the same time.

Is Marginal Cost The Same As Average Cost Of A Unit?

Because of variables such as fixed costs and economies or diseconomies of scale, the marginal cost of each new unit may fluctuate as the total quantity varies, resulting in a marginal cost that differs from the average cost of a unit.

For example, if a factory is already built up to manufacture metal soda cans but isn’t constantly operating at full capacity, the marginal cost of making an extra can is low (since each can only requires a few cents’ worth of metal).

The factory’s marginal cost of making its first can, on the other hand, was exceptionally high since shifting from producing no cans at all to creating even one can required the payment of a significant fixed cost.

The initial fixed cost comprised not just the expense of constructing the plant, but also the cost of hiring the necessary labor to get the machinery up and operating.

Understanding Zero Marginal Cost

When we say that an extra unit of a commodity can be produced at zero marginal cost, we don’t mean that the product itself can be produced for free.

Even if there are no additional costs associated in creating a non-rivalrous item, its manufacturer must nonetheless cover its original, fixed costs.

What Is Zero Marginal Cost?

Products that may be created in greater quantities at no additional cost per unit are not ones that the consumer genuinely owns, as this would result in an inequitable distribution of the product. They are instead things like experiences, services, and events.

Many items have a maximum capacity beyond which manufacture incurs no further cost. If a movie theater is already screening a film, the marginal cost to the theater of showing it to one additional spectator is zero as long as the film has not sold out.

This is because the theater’s costs are constant regardless of how many people are at the theater.

However, once the theater is full, the marginal cost of allowing one more person to view the film climbs to one dollar, making the good rivalry more intense because it is no longer feasible for one more person to watch the film without driving someone else out of the theater.

Because adding a new audience member means either conducting further screenings of the film or adding seats to the theater, the marginal cost of the next ticket sold is now more than zero.

When capacity is increased in this manner, the incremental cost of manufacturing more units falls to zero and remains there until the entire supply is requested again.

Use Of  Zero Marginal Cost

When the marginal cost of manufacturing the item is near to zero but not precisely zero, the marginal cost per unit of the good is sometimes considered to be zero, and the term “zero marginal costs” is used to describe this circumstance.

What Is Zero Marginal Cost?

If a passenger train has vacant seats, for example, adding people will increase the quantity of gasoline necessary to get there by a minimal amount due to the increased mass that the engine must move.

However, because the increased bulk of a passenger is minimal in relation to the total mass of the train, this expenditure is mainly insignificant.

The marginal cost of generating an additional copy of an item that can be sold and distributed through the Internet is low, but computer software or an electronic book still need bandwidth and electricity for each copy.

Example Of Zero Marginal Cost Company

When it comes to business models, one of the most powerful qualities of platforms is their ability to grow without incurring additional costs.

Consider Wikipedia as an example. Despite being non-profit and user-friendly, it receives hundreds of millions of monthly visitors. I’m not sure how Wikipedia achieved it. A business platform must be built in order to do this.

Because of network effects, the value of a platform to its users grows as more people join its ecosystem, and its marginal cost is almost $0.

What Is Zero Marginal Cost?

Let’s do some quick math.

According to Wikipedia’s Annual Plan for 2013-2014, the website’s operational budget for the year is $42.1 million. This involves about $3.5 million every month. Based on predicted monthly traffic since the beginning of the year, we may estimate that there were around 495 million users in January.

According to Wikipedia’s Annual Plan for 2013-2014, the website’s operational budget for the year is $42.1 million. This involves about $3.5 million every month. Based on predicted monthly traffic since the beginning of the year, we may estimate that there were around 495 million users in January.

Platform Business Average Cost (With Logo)

Compare this to a sequential organization, such as the Encyclopedia Britannica.

Throughout its existence, Britannica has been responsible for creating all of the information presented in its encyclopedia.

The acquisition expenses were considerable because a large sales crew was required to market Britannica’s products to new clients. Due to the introduction of Wikipedia as a serious new platform competition, this economic model quickly ran into insurmountable issues.

In this scenario, Wikipedia’s uniqueness was not limited to the creation of cutting-edge software. The key to success was combining the technology with an altogether new business approach.

What Is Zero Marginal Cost?

Rather of hiring full-time editors and authors, Wikipedia generates, reviews, and distributes its material through an external ecosystem of content providers, moderators, and users. Wikipedia’s expansion eventually allowed it to compete with Britannica’s quality and coverage at a fraction of the price.

This indicates that ecosystems have superseded economies of scale as a major source of competitive advantage. Platforms can grow as a result of them without incurring extra costs.

The platform business model and ecosystem of users that maintain and use the site are what make Wikipedia a zero-marginal-cost corporation and a trusted resource for hundreds of millions of people worldwide.


The marginal cost is zero when selling an extra unit of an item or service results in the same amount of money.

As a result, the company will be encouraged to expand output. As a result, if you are starting a new business, it is critical to understand what may be done with no additional cash investment.

It may appear to be a lot of labor, but the arithmetic is straightforward. Understanding zero marginal cost and its consequences for your company is critical to its success.

A business will often specialize on a specific product or service sector. This might be due to their position as industry leaders or the requirement for a large volume of transactions to maintain profitability.

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Pat Moriarty
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