An infopreneur is someone who trades information over the Internet. Technically speaking, anyone who sells eBooks (non-fiction rather than fiction), runs teleseminars (e.g. Skype chats), or makes educational videos is selling information over the web. What sets infopreneurs apart from, say teachers, is that they understand the value of information in a less abstract sense. Infopreneurs are interested in getting people the specific information they need to make business decisions, purchase decisions, health care decisions, and to navigate through specific life or business events.
Becoming an infopreneur is not easy because compiling information takes time, energy, and often an eye for the unmet needs that even clients themselves aren’t aware of. Developing an information product can be difficult, particularly because the tangible benefits of such a product can be hard to grasp. This, however, is just one of the reasons you don’t hear a lot about infopreneurs. Here are a few other reasons why the term and the business model aren’t as close to the surface of public consciousness as they soon will be.
Many people aren’t aware that what they know and do can be valuable to others. Even if they do recognize the value inherent in their knowledge, many people don’t know how to sell it or who to sell it to. Determining who is a target audience for an information product can be difficult. Often, a small target audience is easily identified, but expanding to a larger audience, one that would actually make the product profitable, can be difficult. This stumbling block prevents many people from pursuing the information business.
Lack of Understanding of the Internet
Most people know that the Internet is a place to get information. It may be information about a product, a medical condition, or a favorite television show, but the Internet is where most people turn to learn. In fact, 90% of all Internet traffic is the result of people searching for information. Getting those people to a specific product, however, requires a deep understanding of social media, search engine optimization, and standard marketing practices.
Many infopreneurs are deeply knowledgeable about a particular topic, but lack the necessary understanding of how to spread the word about their product on the Internet. Many of these individuals would do well to hire experts who do understand how online marketing works, but they don’t see that as a viable business strategy. In truth, outsourcing what one isn’t skilled at is as important to running a successful business as having a marketable skill in the first place. Infopreneurs can’t do it all, but many of them attempt to and fail.
It’s an Old Job with a New Twist
The truth is that infopreneurs are nothing new. People have been trading information for centuries and have certainly been doing so since long before the Internet was around. Reports, translation services, information repackaging, bibliography compilation, cataloguing, writing, editing, and many other jobs are information-based. What has changed, however, is the fact that individuals can now do what it used to take corporations to accomplish. The Internet has lowered a number of barriers to entry (marketing costs, research costs, office costs, etc.) and thus has made it possible for people to launch their own niche businesses trading on what they know.
Because the concept of infopreneurship has been around for some time and only the tools and the lexicon are changing, it can be difficult for people in the “traditional” industry format to recognize that what they do is actually infopreneurship. This, perhaps more than any other factor, is the reason the term has been slow to spread, a phenomenon that isn’t uncommon. It has affected other industries, like journalism, that were slow to recognize changes in how individuals within the industry were operating. Simply put, the term will grow as the old guard gives way to newer, fresher ideas about how information can be traded, who can and should be doing the trading, and what it means to be a thought leader.
A good example of an information industry change would be editing and publishing. Even fifteen years ago, writing a book and getting it published meant selling it to a publisher where in-house editors would work with the author to tweak and refine the book. The costs of this process were astronomical and a lot of good books weren’t published simply because no publisher could recognize their value. Then eBooks came along and things slowly started to change. Editors could work as freelancers, which reduced costs to basically their salary and a few office supplies (e.g. computer, phone, etc.). Publishing became almost free, which meant that the public could get access to books and information they couldn’t before. This, in turn, meant that the public decided what was good and what was not. The industry went from being a behemoth with several large publishers to being a distributed enterprise where individuals work directly with one another to create unique products.
The whole infopreneurship industry is going the way of publishing. The days of large research bodies that publish white papers and set trends are gone. Individuals are starting to use their expertise to publish their own white papers and disseminate their own ideas. The result is that the field is richer and more diverse and that means the free exchange of information is increasing at an exponential rate. The tip of the iceberg has hardly been explored.
Word Is Spreading
Lest the reader start to think that there is no hope for the future of infopreneurs, he or she can take heart from the fact that the concept is now being taught both online and in university settings. There is even a journal (InfopreneurshipJournal) dedicated to the field now and it is a fully peer-reviewed journal that focuses on business research and training trends. As the field continues to gain recognition, many of the problems above will give way to standard solutions and, more importantly, society as a whole will incorporate the word and concept into is lexicon. Infopreneurship is on the cusp of becoming a household term, as common as the word “Internet” is now.