Free-dom's just another word for easier to use

Fred Wilson’s post riffing on Stewart Brand’s quote that "Information wants to be free" has been sitting in my Bloglines queue, taunting me all week.

We’re fervent believers in that concept, and yet we’re charging for subscriptions. I initially had a hard time reconciling those two notions.

Then, on a sixth reading this afternoon, I caught the key differentiator (emphasis mine):

[Craig Newmark] has kept it mostly free with the exception of certain categories,
Jobs to start, and soon Real Estate, where a paid model turned out to
be a benefit to the community
That last point, that a paid model can actually be beneficial, is really interesting and needs to be better understood.

That’s the key. Information doesn’t want to be free. It wants to be of the greatest benefit possible, without being constrained by its price or lack therof.

In some cases, like not forcing someone coming to your site off a link or a Google search to register just to read one story, free is the way to go. But without going deeper into our business model than I’m prepared to do right now, the only reason we’re charging for subscriptions is that the act of payment (as opposed to the revenue accrued) will make our service far cooler for our subscribers. That’s why it’s so durn cheap.

A good test of our model versus our principles. I’ll sleep well tonight.

Mike Orren is the Chief Product Officer of The Dallas Morning News; President of Belo Business Intelligence; husband to Crystal Orren; and a Mungarian at Munger Place Church in Dallas, TX. All opinions herein are mine alone.