BusinessWeek looks at a popular internet business model in which readers contribute the content, for free or for cheap perks, resulting in “an outpouring of creativity” and a thin trickle of labor expenses. One company, Communisphere, uses social marketing tools to lure “volunteer marketing consultants.” Some contributors to shopping site ThisNext are paid in prestige — ” “I’m No. 1 in San Francisco, No. 1 in Washington, No. 2 in Denver,” boasts unpaid contributor Laura Sweet. (For the site owner, she is “just the kind of freak he was banking on,” says the magazine.)
But these companies aren’t cheapskates taking advantage of the gullible, BusinessWeek hastens to assure us: paying these imagineers wages for their expertise might “create tensions.” “It would be a jolting intrusion of the market economy,” an expert adds, which would harsh the beautiful social-networking buzz. Nonetheless Sweet expresses future ambitions of being paid for her work: “I figure that he at least owes me a sandwich one of these days.” Welcome to the New New Economy, peons! This time no internet bubble money, but you can still play foosball if you have a foosball table. Now get on your Razor scooter and make that invisible cake!