Starting points, part two: the Value of information

Traditional media is struggling to survive for the most part for the simple reason that people think information should be free, and they work hard to make sure that it is free by using the internet to circumvent having to pay for content.  Sometimes searching for that free information can be difficult with all the paywalls and firewalls that publications put up to block it.  EE Times is famous for not allowing most of it's content to see the light of Google searches, to the point that it is often hard to find their content within their own search engine.  But at least they have the reader captured, right?

Not so much.  There are a lot of readers for EE Times... and for Electronic Products... and for all the publications that compete for eyeballs.  When the truth is told, pretty much everyone who reads one of those publications is reading the other.  They have to to be able to find what they are looking for because they really want information.  It's important and valuable, they just don't want to pay for it.

The question is, then: What is the value of information if not monetary?

Information is only valuable if it moves something forward and you don't know if the journey is worth the price until you get to the end.  You don't want to pay for a subscription if you aren't sure that you will be better for the experience.

At the same time, while you might know that one publication might have a lot of the answers your are looking for, you're pretty sure that they don't have everything.  That's pretty much what my virtual focus group of engineers said to me about B2B publications. So no matter how much a particular publication or website wants to monopolize a particular audience, it just ain't gonna happen.

You cannot, however, get a publisher or editor in chief to admit to that.  Just earlier today, the EiC of a start-up online publication was bragging to me about how they can compete "head to head" with a major publication.  When I asked him, "Why would you want to?" he didn't know what to say.

Every company would like to have customers that ONLY buy from them.  That's not going to happen.  So why do publications believe that it might be possible for them to control the readership in a certain demographic?  It's just as fruitless a desire.  But you cannot tell either the companies or the publications how fruitless it is.

But what if there were an organization that was dedicated to finding information for the readers?  What if this organization was not restricted to a particular information outlet? What if this organization was not constrained by circulation wars or advertising revenue?  What if it didn't compete with other media outlets but shared the content it developed willingly?

What if?