Does All (Metals) Information Want To Be Free?

Whether you’re a Republican, a Democrat, an atheist, a banker or a plumber and you’re vaguely familiar with what a newspaper is and does you’d likely concede that the New York Times is the overall standard bearer in American (and perhaps global) journalism, even if in name only. Regardless of political bent (and whether you agree with it or not), the Times is a brand synonymous with extensive coverage and information.

So that’s why the news that the Times is (finally) beginning a “metered paywall along the lines of the Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times two more paragons of print is read as somewhat of a big deal. But is it really?

The paper, also known as the Gray Lady, first announced their paywall ideas in January 2010, and then pretty much didn’t divulge a peep about it until now. Times Publisher Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, Jr. finally wrote a piece about the plan recently, and the Economist picked up on it here. The writers of the latter go into why this might not be such a big thing, as it may be rewarding the light readers who “snack on content and punishing the heavy readers who gorge. (Essentially, the model will allow pretty much everyone from web to smartphone to tablet users and even Google searchers and Facebook friends some degree of free access.) As the Economist writes: “[The Internet] is a shop window, not a business.

In a seminal piece on this issue titled “Free! Why $0.00 Is The Future of Business, Chris Anderson, former editor of the magazine Wired, contends that not only are cross-subsidies (getting one thing free if you buy another) less attractive, but the prices of products are falling fast. He quotes Stewart Brand’s original 1984 aphorism: “Information wants to be free. Information also wants to be expensive … That tension will not go away.”

So what does this have to do with metals? Plenty. Think about it. Where do you get your pricing or trend information, or where do you source the commentary and forecasting that matters to you? How much do you pay for it? Many metals news sites require paid subscriptions for content or pricing. For example, American Metal Market’s basic access subscription starts at $1675 per year, going up to $2490; and Metal Bulletin’s subscriptions begin at £1175 or $2787 at today’s rates.

MetalMiner doesn’t do any of that. Like many other media companies both in the B2B and B2C spheres we grapple with these questions as well. We understand that some services are different than others, but we currently operate on creating and recreating new ways to bring you high-quality, valuable and actionable content that is free.

Does all information “want to be free? If not, what will you pay for? Are there kinds of information uniformly worth paying for over others, in any circumstance?

Tell us what you think!

–Taras Berezowsky

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