How much would you be willing to pay for information?


How much would you be willing to pay for information? This has been a constant question that is discussed amongst the various professional associations I’m connected with. At one of the instructor certification advisory boards, we have a no-collusion, non-competition, and open collaboration charter that is read before we start a meeting. At an international board meeting, we did not have a charter but once payment was discussed, a verbalization of expectation of free sharing of information became a point of contention. These two experiences made me think of valuating information in the first place.

One of the builders of the CEU (continuing education units) accreditation association in the States informed me that if you don’t charge a high amount people will think that there is no value to your information. Contradicting this thought of payment-for-information is Marshall Goldsmith who will provide you freebies to information on his website as he extends his belief in coaching-for-fee with a price determined by the audience without prodding from him, online.

I have two questions to ask you then ~

1. Would you provide information freely to your colleagues knowing that you are going to be sharing copyrighted intellectual property?

2. If you were to pay for information, what steps do you take to identify how much people would be willing to pay for it?

Let me know if you agree to my thought on this as my answer is “depending on which stage in life you are in.” Depending on which of the four generations (Boomer, X, Y, Millenials) you are in, you’d respond differently to this question. Someone like Marshall who has decades of experience and have a lucrative business, providing information for free may be a gregarious and noble move. Someone else who may be in midlife may feel otherwise and want to have better control of how one’s information is distributed because of how one productises their thoughts. The Millenials I’ve worked with have no issue with sharing and think they should share in the first place anyway so monies are not exchanged but word of mouth on who has the free information does. So its your turn, what do you think of paying for information?

photo by bookgrl

3 comments to How much would you be willing to pay for information?

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  • Really intersting questions, Robin. I have worked in non-profit firms for a number of years, and while I teach in a business school and do extensive for-profit consulting, I always feel as a tecaher at heart, and tend to share whatever work I am speaking about or doing with those around me. From my prespective, I am intersted in helping others and only hope that they do not charge for or otherwise make a profit for things I have freely shared.

    Of course, this is easier to do when I have a steady income stream and am not working hard to grow my business or otherwise purposively increase in some way.

    I do agree with the sense that you get what you pay for, so getting knowledge or information without paying for it somehow devalues it in some ways. Exceptions are when the giver has some internal obligation to give things away (such as spiritual credo for it or the love of teaching others). Then again, while I love to teach, I do usually get paid for it . . .

  • This is a fascinating question.
    I do not believe that their is a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ answer. It just depends upon the individual’s (or organization’s) values and strategy.
    In my case, I am a Buddhist.
    Many wonderful people have shared their ideas with me (e.g. Peter Drucker, Frances Hesselbein, Paul Hersey, Thich Nhat Hanh, Buddha). None has ever asked me to send them money.
    My goal is to help others in the same way that these nice people have helped me.
    On my website,, visitors from 188 different countries have viewed, listened to, downloaded, or watched over 1.2 million articles, audios or videos. Most of these people could not have afforded to pay for this material.
    My feeling is that ‘if it doesn’t hurt me’ and ‘if it does help them’ – why not give it away?
    I am not judging anyone else. It is not immoral, illegal or unethical to charge for material.
    Some people have told me how stupid I am to give everything away.
    When I am on my death bed, I doubt I will be angry with myself for being ‘too generous’.
    In the end that is all that matters.