Information Should Not Be Free... Says InfoWorld Columnist That You Can Read For Free
from the just-saying dept
And, of course, that's the problem with Snyder's analysis. It doesn't take into account the wider business model. The reason that Snyder's article is available for free is because InfoWorld has decided that it has a better chance of monetizing that content by offering it for free and selling advertising. It's other option would be to charge people directly to read Snyder's economically confused analysis -- but then no one might pay. So which makes more sense? According to Snyder, the latter.
Snyder also takes on the scourge of free WiFi, that pretty quickly showed that paid WiFi is a niche market, only working where you have limited and captive audiences (and even it is under greater and greater competitive threats). Unfortunately, his economic analysis is misguided:
News and Wi-Fi service are commodities, just like cars, housing, and food are commodities. Labor and raw materials, as well as the capital to buy them, are the essential ingredients of most any good or service we might care to own or consume. No money, no commodity -- that's a basic economic principle that the digital revolution has done nothing to change.Sounds good, but it's wrong. Very wrong. Yes, they're commodities, but the defining rule of a commodity is that it is priced on the marginal cost, not the fixed costs. And yet, Synder suddenly thinks that while that applies to cars, housing and food... it goes away in the digital world? The only person really claiming that the economics has changed is Snyder, in insisting that digital products do not adhere to the same laws of supply and demand.
Snyder seems positively confused that free is a part of a larger business model:
I don't write for free, my editors don't edit for free, and I'll bet your IT hands don't run networks or produce code for free.And yet, your content is available for free. Funny how that works. Why does it work? Because it makes good business sense. But, to Snyder, when this is pointed out, he gets confused and thinks that it proves his point:
I know, I know -- some of you are going to bring up open source.Snyder figured out the wrong thing. Yes, getting paid is important, but the question is what you get paid for, and he's asking people to charge for the parts of a business that make the most sense being free -- and doesn't explain why he gets to decide what should be free and what shouldn't. The answer, really, is that none of us decides: basic economics tells us. If you have a competitive product with no marginal cost, it's going to eventually get driven to free. Whether you like it or not. And then you shouldn't whine about the evils of "free." You should instead figure out ways to use that to your advantage.
Sorry, that proves my point. Open source has grown in influence and quality in the last few years as business models in the community have evolved. Not too long ago, any open source company that dared post a paid or paid-support enterprise version of its software would be pilloried. But not any more. The recession has put many excellent technologists out of work, but there would be even fewer employed if open source companies were afraid to make a profit, then plow it back into development projects and expanded infrastructure.
Just ask the open source millionaires at MySQL if they think everything they produce should be free.