Does Information Want To Be Free Or Expensive?

If you’re a budding entrepeneur or writer, or you just like knowing about random things going on in the world, then this one’s for you.

Malcolm Gladwell, of Tipping Point, Blink, and Outliers fame has written an article in The New Yorker (online) in which he discusses whether information wants to be free or expensive. He also busts the chops of Wired editor Chris Anderson. Gladwell addresses the increasing marginalization of newspapers, and their future in a society that is getting (and seems to desperately want) its information more and more quickly. How do you change a business model that used to rely on a monopoly of information and attention? Good question. No one has answers, and no one is happy.

Newspapers are beginning to realize the importance of distributing their information through the World Wide Web, but the web is full of people just dying to share everything and anything they know (or hear) out there. There is just too much information! The classic laws of supply and demand dictate that since the supply of information is at an all-time glut, that information should be really cheap, right? But wait, getting legitimate news information is anything but cheap. And herein lies the crux of the newspapers’ problem. Getting reliable and credible news is not cheap, but people think it should be since there’s so much news/information floating around the interwebs, so they don’t want to pay for it.

The fundamental discussion revolves around Stewart Brand’s oft-quoted “Information wants to be free.” pronouncement. Brand also mentioned, in the same breath, that information wants to be expensive, since what you do with it can make it exceedingly valuable.

If you get through Gladwell’s article, you can go ahead and read Chris Anderson’s response too. It’s a fascinating bit of back and forth that contains some important ideas to keep in mind if you want to be a journalist, writer, blogger or any kind of entrepeneur that deals in information (that’s a lot of companies, btw).


P.S. Happy Canada Day =)


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