In a recent essay I rallied against the slacker mentality on the Internet that “information should be free”.
I noted, “Dry cleaning is not free. Automobile repair is not free. Gasoline is not free. Dental work is not free. You pay your doctor for a check-up. And the grocery store wants money before you walk out with your milk and eggs.”
I then asked the question: “Why should writers and other content creators alone be expected to work for free and vilified if they ask to be paid?”
And the response from subscribers was overwhelming in support of my argument that information is a product that can and should have a price tag like any other, and that the Internet notion that “all information should be free” is absurd.
For instance, JL writes, “The people who spout the ‘all information should be free’ philosophy are people who never created anything but opinions, which they are, of course, willing to give away to anyone who will listen.”
“People’s perception of help comes in the form of, ‘My hand is out, now you must give me something and I don’t have to pay for it,’” says WQ. “It’s the nature of sheep.”
JR weighs in: “The problem with the Internet has become too many people looking for the free answer. These people are not professionals nor are they serious about business. The basic rule of business (including information producers) is to earn a profit to continue to operate and thus continue to offer goods and services.”
MC points out, correctly in my experience, that “people who want free information rarely do anything with it anyway. Even if they do read it, they discount the value of it because they got it for free.
“In regards to your information, Bob, you paid a price, in either education or experience, to learn it. Why should someone else expect to get that same information from you for free without paying some price for it? Colleges are still charging for tuition and books, aren’t they?
“I think this all ties into this entitlement, Socialist mentality where some people feel that those who have (you, in this case) should be willing to share (for free) with those who have not, for the good of the collective.”
GB chimes in: “Though our entitlement-based culture works assiduously to preserve and enhance the myth that there is free stuff and all its attendant superstitions, nobody should work for free unless he freely chooses to do so.
“But even with such a voluntary disposition, one’s compensation then typically takes a form other than immediate monetary remuneration. Nobody works for no compensation, immediate or residual. And nobody is ‘entitled’ to the product of another.”
This is just the tip of the iceberg. I could fill another couple of pages with the replies, overwhelmingly supporting the notion that writers and other content creators should be paid for their work.
“It seems the millennial generation expects everything for free,” complains CD. “I have a son who is a composer of very fine instrumental music. He has hundreds of fans who rave about his music, but has yet to see anybody buy his albums. He gets .00001% of a penny when anyone listens to his music on the radio.”
And subscriber AS wisely makes the distinction that while free information is plentiful online, knowledge is in short supply and must be paid for:
“The problem is that most people confuse information with knowledge. In reality, information alone has little value. Everyone in the world can have all the information in the world for free, but it won’t have any real value to most of them. That’s because they don’t have a clue as to how to turn that information into knowledge, which does have value.”
AS continues, “Experience and wisdom are what you need to take information and use it to create knowledge. And knowledge is what has real value. And that’s what content creators really do. They take information and apply experience and wisdom to turn it into knowledge. And knowledge is worth something.”
Yes, the Internet has created, in the words of Harlan Ellison, a “slacker mentality” where people believe information should be free. But I was happy to discover that you, my subscribers, do not share that belief.
Bob Bly is the author of “World’s Best Copywriting Secrets” and has written copy for more than 100 companies including IBM, Boardroom, Medical Economics and AT&T. He is the author of more than 75 books and a columnist for Target Marketing, Early To Rise and The Writer. McGraw-Hill calls him “America’s top copywriter”.