Business Brains

We spend more on 'free' information than we spend on food

Posting in Food

Maybe there is no such thing as a free information lunch after all

Nick Carr, author of the perception-changing books Does IT Matter? and The Big Switch: Rewiring the World, from Edison to Google, always has fun shattering conventional wisdom. And in a new post, he takes on one of the most conventional pieces of wisdom around today: that we are awash in "free" information.

His take:

Never before in history have people paid as much for information as they do today. I'm guessing that by the time you reached the end of that sentence, you found yourself ROFLAO. I mean, WTF, this the Era of Abundance, isn't it? The Age of Free. Digital manna rains from the heavens. Sorry, sucker. The joke's on you.

Do the math. Sit down right now, and add up what you pay every month for:

  • Internet service
  • Cable TV service
  • Cellular telephone service (voice, data, messaging)
  • Landline telephone service
  • Satellite radio
  • Netflix
  • Wi-Fi hotspots
  • TiVO
  • Other information services

So what's the total? $100? $200? $300? $400? Gizmodo reports that monthly information subscriptions and fees can easily run to $500 or more nowadays. A lot of people today probably spend more on information than they spend on food.

Perhaps the New York Times, mulling a pay-per-read model, has been thinking about people's willingness to shell out plenty of dollars, euros, pounds, and rupees to immerse ourselves in the information stream. And we're talking about average families, Joe/Jane Sixpack and kids, spending $500 a month -- unimaginable even a couple of decades ago.

As Carr puts it: "we place a high monetary value on the content we receive as a result of those subscriptions and fees."An interesting analogy pops up in Nick's post -- it's similar to our willingness to pay for all-you-can-eat buffets.

But, again, we're spending more on information than we spend on food.

Share this

Joe McKendrick

Contributing Editor

Joe McKendrick is an independent analyst who tracks the impact of information technology on management and markets. He is a co-author of the SOA Manifesto and has written for Forbes, ZDNet and Database Trends & Applications. He holds a degree from Temple University. He is based in Pennsylvania. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure