New Site To Offer Information To Highest Bidder

Information Markets Corp. launched a beta test version of its site this week, allowing information seekers to bid for expert answers with play money. The real deal, with real money, is slated to launch early next year. operates on the assumption that people will pay top dollar for quality answers to tough questions. “Human intelligence allows nuanced, interpreted response more sophisticated than any computer could hope to produce,” the company says.

The company also seeks to leverage the Internet as a growing community of people with varied backgrounds. “Unlike services which hire banks of experts to answer your questions, recognizes the power that millions of Internet users have to answer each other’s questions.”

As a promotional stunt, the company has been asking visitors to New York City’s Empire State Building how much they would be willing to pay for certain bits of information, such as pop singer Ricky Martin’s telephone number. The average bid was $68,000 (US$).

Respondents said they would pay nearly $39,000 to know how many affairs Bill Clinton has had since becoming president in 1993, but offered only $90 to find out if Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush has used cocaine.

Seeking Real Experts

While the whimsical survey produced only hypothetical answers, Information Markets believes that people will pay real money for real answers once they know about the service.

The key, however, is having “experts” provide the answers. Although the company acknowledges a person’s willingness to pay for information will hinge upon the quality of that information, Information Markets does not screen its so-called experts before allowing them to market their brain power on the site.

The only background information requested by the company is the expert’s employer and position, or the name of the person’s school or college area of study and class level. The company is also offering site visitors the opportunity to win prizes for referring “experts” to the site.

Quality control is provided by the buyers. Information buyers are asked to rate the people they have purchased information from, and those ratings will be posted on the site, the company says. “Be wary of buying information from people who don’t have track records,” the company warns visitors.

If an information buyer gets a bum deal, even after reviewing the expert’s credentials and track record, the buyer’s primary recourse is simply to rate the expert poorly to “hurt his or her ability to sell information in the market in the future,” Information Markets says.

Revenue Sources

The online information service makes its money like many consumer goods auction sites — through commissions. The standard rate is $1 plus 20 percent of the transaction amount. The fee is taken from the seller’s total, so the buyers only pay the amount they have bid for the information.

Information Markets says it plans to run special offers of lower commission rates periodically to build question and answer activity in certain subject areas.

Information Markets Corp. is a private company with investments from venture capital firms such as NextPoint Partners.

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