Kristine Lowe brings up a valuable (and old :-) question – to which I would like to add my perspective. Or, rather re-position the thinking around it. In her post Monetising Blogmonitoring she asks: ”why would I spend a lot of money on something I can do in a few minutes for free with the help of technorati, google, newsreaders etc?” Then she provides well worth reading arguments regarding that issue, with a couple of supporting comments from her readers. The ”something” was blog monitoring services announced by Cision (formerly The Observer group). Interestingly enough, a long time friend of mine posed similar concerns yesterday, albeit from the other side. She was afraid that the abundance of data available on the Internet would in worst case make her firms (not Cision) information services obsolete.

So, here is my stand on it. Why does not any given person, firm, organization, etc. do everything themself? Take a comparison as a starting point. Why do people pay for bottled water when they could get it for free? Simply because there is something added to the water. A brand, a nice bottle, even a particular taste. For the (Web) historically interested, John Perry Barlows The Economy of Ideas – Selling wine without the bottles on the Net offer an interesting reading. Then, why do companies buy cleaning services when they could do the cleaning themselves. Or, why do I pay for a dinner at the restaurant when I can cook? One reason is cost (compare Transaction Cost Theory). Another is interest. Another is Core competency. Regarding the restaurant it is experience – including company. Barlow early on noted that the Grateful Dead let their songs go for free, and instead made money on concerts and merchandise. That is, a different business model.

True, some services that firms like Cision used to offer can easily/seemingly be done by anyone at a lesser cost today. Yet the flux of media development, fluid conversation patterns and (currently ”free”) services like Technorati create new needs, problems, and business opportunities. I guess Cision would like to provide value in that arena. The same holds for many of us. As a founder of Podenize I am very well aware of that anyone can produce podcasts at a low cost. In fact, we tell our customers exactly that. At the same time I bet on that more (potential) customers of ours prefer to get help creating podcasts – and are willing to pay for that service. In the end, the market will decide if enough paying customers will emerge (line up at our web site :-). As a matter of fact, I personally prefer an economy where customers pay for vaule with their money. I simply do not subscribe to the growing, and illogical, idea that ad revenue is the only possible stream of revenue.

Finally, just for the fun of it. I will not tip Cision about Kristine’s post. I like commenter Kevin Bourke’s Kristine’s ending ”For one, let’s see if Cision’s wonderful blog search engine picks up on this post…. ”

(Disclaimer, I have recently done four gigs for Observer/Cision but have no other commitments for them).

[update 21:50] correctly credit the ending ”picks up”

[update 22:50] Scott Bourne, president of Podango productions, says in his Podcasting Tricks ”with 92,000 podcasts to select from on almost every subject known to man”…”with very few exceptions, it [charging for podcasts] isn’t working now”. I agree, but the problem is not the free stuff. Rather, the challenge is the virtually total lack of an efficient market infrastructure for monetary transactions on the Internet. It is soooo easy to buy a bottle of water almost anywhere. The day we can pay equally convenient for a particular piece of digital content, then things will change.