Is Charging for Information Right or Wrong?

Recently, Google+ has been the topic of conversation – ya know, part of that same conversation people have claimed was on Twitter (yet, impossible to follow due to Twitter not having a UX to support conversations).

I’ve been having a blast with my Plus profile – interspersing fun and functional, day in and day out. It’s insanely addictive, reminiscent of so many other social platforms in their nascent stages. We’ve been posting a flurry of helpful Google+ articles on LockerGnome over the past week or so. Why? Because people are looking for help.

My friend Chris Brogan is taking flak for wanting to teach people how to effectively use Google Plus. The arguments seem to be of one of two types: (1) It’s too early, don’t waste your money on something that could change, or the traditional blogger argument that (2) Information should be free, and Chris is a “douchebag” for charging anything for what could be given for free.

Apparently, his two-hour webinar is $47. You probably spend more on a large popcorn at a 3D movie with a date than you would on this two-hour discussion, so it’s not that a lack of money would be an issue. When you consider the lost opportunity of not being on the platform early, getting a foothold in the community could be huge if this thing is as big as everyone thinks it will be. And if Google+ flops, it would have been $47 spent – the cost of treating your family to see “Cars 2” in theaters today (which may prove to be an even bigger waste of two hours and money).

As to the charging for his intelligence? Of course he is going to charge! If you give stuff away for free, people don’t put ANY value on it. Information is power, and the power doesn’t come cheap. If you aren’t wanting to invest in yourself or your business by leveraging someone else’s known experience, then this isn’t the seminar for you. If so, quit raining on everyone else’s parade.

And when people look for help, you can provide it – or not. You can even charge for that help – or not. And it’s the former decision, not the latter, which has seemingly given rise to a situation. Chris Brogan is under attack for planning a paid webinar around his intelligence – and his gathered intelligence, at this stage, is likely no more deep than any other Google+ user.

The platform is too new to understand it completely – but that doesn’t mean that you should wait before you NEED to begin to understand its current promise and potential. Don’t you wish you had been in early on Twitter so that you could have been on the Suggested Lists? And so that you would have built community there when the followers were high quality and the spam ratio was low?

Either way, Chris is under attack by extremely smart people who make money online by other means. This is where I’m a bit lost. What right do I have, as anybody, to tell someone what they can and cannot do with their time? What right do I have, as a person who needs to make money SOME way to pay the bills, to tell someone else how much their own time and intelligence are worth?

It’s just… rude.

I faced this type of insolence every single year I was involved in the production of the Gnomedex conference. Despite bending over backwards to create a VIP-level event for a peanut-butter price point, I had a slew of people tell me that I was doing it wrong. And Chris Brogan, by the way, was a Gnomedex attendee long before he became the person people know him as today – supportive, intelligent, and savvy.

My business organized a meetup a few weeks back with several dozen registrants, both free and paid. Interesting statistic: over 90% of the people who didn’t pay anything for a ticket didn’t bother to show up, whereas 100% of the people who purchased a pass actually attended. It was only ~$20, largely to cover their parking and a drinking ticket – there was no real profit made, and (honestly) LockerGnome probably lost money on the meetup due to the time we spent on putting it together. Thus marked the last time I ever do anything for people for free. This week’s meetup is about Google+ in Seattle (of all things).

Put up, or shut up.

If you don’t think your time is worth anything, that’s fine – it’s your time. But you can’t sit there and claim that someone else’s time is worth nothing – especially when that someone has gone to great lengths to share so much intelligence *without* charging for it!

I probably know just about as much about Google+ at this point as anybody does, but that doesn’t mean that EVERYBODY understands why this is likely to become increasingly relevant. Still, I have half a mind to pay for Chris’s webinar because I support what he’s doing for people who don’t quite understand

NEWS FLASH: Companies make an obscene amount of money by doing what you do for your personal account for free. Like, to the tune of several THOUSAND dollars to manage a Twitter and Facebook account. I’m not kidding. I’m not even close to kidding. And here’s the thing: those businesses are NOT overpaying for such services.

Here’s the thing: Chris isn’t promising an all-out guide to would-be or active Google+ users. He’s offering guidance. There’s a gigantic difference.

I wound up “plussing” what was going to be a longer piece on my Google+ profile a few minutes back, but decided to keep the update succinct: “Is it because Google+ is ‘too young,’ or because people believe that just because THEY get social media without paying for it that everybody should get social media without paying for it?”

A few notable comments have come from this…

Tim Czerwinski:

I don’t see anything wrong with what he is doing. He doesn’t appear to be misleading anyone about the product he is selling. He does not appear to be making unsupportable claims. This is in line with what he does for a living. If the knowledge he is selling is worth the price, people will pursue it. if not, it will go away. that is what markets are for. There is a huge industry built around facebook. Why would Google+ be different?

Ravarius Castor:

Well I definitely think it’s a little foolish to offer ‘expert’ device about a service that isnt’t even close to fully realized, but as already said as well I think this is a case of supply and demand. He feels he can supply guidance worth paying for, and it’s credibility and value falls on the consumers and their demand for what he is offering.

Tim Goebel:

If Mr. Brogan offers a service that others find worth exchanging their money with him to receive, I have no idea why that would be of interest to anyone else? No one is forced to do business with him, as far as I understand the situation, and if his clients feel that they receive value for their money, what can anyone outside of the transaction possibly be objecting to?

Dunno. I’m largely in the camp of “Let Chris Do What Chris Wants to Do” – which intersects with the “Do What You Want to Do but Don’t Piss in Someone’s Cheerios” camp. I’m not here to claim that what Chris has to share is anything more than Chris’s insights on Google’s new social network, but… hey, how much is two hours of your time worth? If it’s nowhere near $47, maybe you should spend less time bitching and more time moving your hourly rate north.