How to Pay for Information

The old adage “you get what you pay for” is getting a real workout as two philosophical viewpoints on the Internet vie for dominance in the Web  marketplace. First, there is the journalistic community which is arguing it cannot rely on the current payment  model which now uses primarily advertising and a few special services to pay for the costs of gathering and delivering information to customers.  Prominent news organizations argue that free information built on the Open Source Software model (no direct charge for Software or Information on the Internet with revenues to be derived from advertising, support services, analysis services and other downstream sources) will not work and will be the downfall of major sources of public information and monitoring of the contemporary social, economic, political, technical and other important scenes/events.

On the other side of the the ledger is various Free Information providers and supporters who argue that Open Source Software model has worked well, prevents information monopolies from forming, and offers vigorous and innovative development of  information, software and other data resources. These two viewpoint are fast coming to loggerheads. The current economic downturn has just accelerated the trend to conflict.

7 Dimensions of Information Implies Value

Now this blog has already done an article which conjectures seven dimensions for information – and suggests that better information has a measure and worth. No less an authority that 12th century Mongol Warlord Ghengis Khan testified to the value of scouts and timely information in the phenomenal  success of Mongol campaigns. And even Free Software Foundation board member Lawrence Lessig has written extensively on the value of information and its readiness for analysis. So that information can have great value is not under dispute. But what is under contention is how do you collect/pay for the gathering , updating, storage and making ready of information for analysis.

On the Web, where the ethos is all should be provided for free or nominal fees at most, the problem is how to a)pay for valuable information and b)how to not kill the current news and information providers before  creating huge info monopolies among the few survivors – and just making matters worse just when the World need good information as it is confronted by complex, wicked problems like global warming, huge resource imbalances among regions and countries or complex global health and welfare problems. Here is another example where classic, free markets, if allowed to run their course (like the recent mitigation of financial risk becoming a  near free market disaster) can be highly dysfunctional and can inflict globalized disaster consequences. So put paying for information on your Web radar screens – and be prepared to take a position in the near future.

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