I heard this morning from Phil Tyler, one of the entrepreneurs behind the grocery cost-saving venture I wrote about today.

In the story, I’d included this thought from Charles Langley, who heads the gas-tracking program at the Utility Consumers Action Network:

But while UCAN’s Langley supports the idea behind their venture, he said he’s not convinced these types of consumer advocacy programs should have fees attached.

“What they’re trying to do is encourage competition, to empower people with information, but they’re saying, ‘You will pay us to get this information,’” Langley said. “In order to cut your costs, you have to become a disciple of the product, a missionary for the product.”

Tyler responded to the suggestion that he and his partner are demanding people pay them to get the competitive information.

Emphatically, that is not what we are saying. We are saying that we have (very expensively) developed cutting-edge software, which we are offering as a service. That software does manage and make available very useful information, but we are not charging for the information.

Software-as-a-service is a new, legitimate business model associated with many Web 2.0 ventures. Most software deals with information, but no argument yet has gained traction that claimed that all software should be free.

What do you think? Is that just a semantic difference — how should Internet users distinguish between free information and free access to that information, especially on something ostensibly used by people on tight budgets? If you have thoughts on those questions or on the story, I’d love to hear them. Click my name below to share your thoughts.

(Disclosure: While I was a student at Point Loma Nazarene University, I played a few semesters in the orchestra, which Tyler directs.)

And, one more thing: My colleague Andrew Donohue came up with this alternative headline for the story. I loved it too much to let it fade into obscurity in my e-mail box.

Check it out:

Pair Wants to Be Your Hamburger (and Potato Salad and Lettuce) Helper


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