MAKING MONEY ON THE INTERNET

By Brad Jones

People have been trying to figure out ways to make money through the Internet ever since it was opened for commerce in 1991. Many companies and private individuals have taken their best shots at getting ahead of the competition and accumulating money through this relatively new medium. Since no one owns the Internet and it has remained largely unregulated, this money quest, cyberspace style, is to many people a logical turn of events.

Whether at the corporate or individual level, many entrepreneurial-minded types are making significant money on the Internet and have the bucks to prove it. Their methods range from the obvious to the ingenious, the mundane to the exhilarating, but all involved parties believe they are riding a new wave of capitalism that is only in its infancy. They believe the best is yet to come with the functional anarchy of the Internet.

Many reasons are currently espoused about how and why people are making money through the Internet and World Wide Web, and the more pervading notions will be discussed.

Perhaps the pertinent reasons explaining this phenomenon are these four facts: (1) The Internet is a business playground for people who have ideas; (2) Computer expertise is not a necessity for successful commercial uses of the Internet; (3) The Internet has none of the geographic boundaries of conventional businesses; (4) The Internet has few of the startup costs of conventional businesses (Tuckwiller, p. 12).

Affordable access to the World Wide Web is a big plus for both entrepreneurs and small businesses. Cost-efficient, everyday Internet use enables them to take full advantage of the Web's proven powers: online research, customer support and networking with like-minded souls and potential clients (Mannix, p. 87).

This networking of individuals with common interests helps people find business partners. These people would probably never have met due to time and space constraints, but are now able to become partners thanks to consistent meetings via the Internet (Hart, p. 71). The use of the Internet also saves people time and therefore money when doing research, and many small companies are making the Internet their mainframe (Mannix, p. 88). People who learn to use the Internet's search tools to their advantage at the work place will invariably find quick answers for their boss, an invaluable asset at salary review time (Rankin, p. 8).

Many businesses are now benefitting from having all of their employees trained in the use of electronic delivery and the information superhighway. Furthermore, corporate human resource departments have become truly cyber-savvy and taken to the World Wide Web with online recruiting, networking and information gathering, trying to hire the ideal employee (Greengard, p. 55).

Potential employees can also pinpoint their ideal employers through the World Wide Web and quickly respond to job opportunities and save time and money in doing so. The Web site 100hot/jobs/ keeps track of the 100 Hottest Job Sites, listing a veritable cornucopia of information for the job seeker (Web21, 11/10/96).

With a little bit of surfing on the Internet, a person can also find job openings in very specific niches, no matter how obscure. For example, in the field of sports-related World Wide Web jobs, Web sites maintained by Starwave Corporation and SportsLine USA, Inc. have many job openings in this specialized area (Starwave Corporation, 9/20/96; SportsLine USA, Inc., 9/20/96). By giving people the tools to act as their own one-person, professional headhunting office, the World Wide Web enables people to save time, energy and money -- and position themselves for a chance at high-paying, cutting-edge jobs.

An amazing success story regarding making money through the World Wide Web involves an individual by the name of Stephen Jenkins. In his first year of the Brigham Young University MBA program in 1995, Jenkins started his Web site, Welcome to Windows95.com. The site took off and is now the biggest virtual clearinghouse in the world for shareware -- software that users download and test before purchasing -- and it made him a millionaire. Jenkins was earning six figures a month from the Web site during his last few months of college (Tuckwiller, p. 12).

Big keys to Jenkins' success were getting cash-heavy advertisers like Microsoft to add their names to his Web site and creating and selling a new shareware compilation CD every three months. He also garnered considerable positive publicity from many magazine articles extolling the virtues of his Web site (Tuckwiller, p. 12).

They may not pay six figures a month, but right now some of the hottest jobs anywhere directly relate to the World Wide Web. In fact, one of the most highly desirable new jobs in the corporate world is Webmaster, a person who builds and remodels virtual facades -- home pages, World Wide Web sites, information showcases -- for companies and institutions on the Internet. This newfangled job pays well, with entry-level salaries ranging from $30,000 to $50,000 and -- by some higher estimates -- $100,000 per year (Kleiiman, p. E-1).

Greg Neise, owner of G.E. Neise Digital Communications in Chicago, is a case in point. "Right now, the World Wide Web is in its infancy, and it has been described as a Wild West -- a gold rush kind of situation -- and it truly is," says Neise, who creates Web sites for corporations and nonprofit groups. He charges from $1,000 to several thousand dollars if he does his complete package of creating and maintaining Web sites (Kleiiman, p. E-1).

Internet surfer and cyberdetective are two more great job opportunities currently available through the World Wide Web. P.O.V., a magazine, ranked Internet surfer as its sixth-hottest job in the country in its 1995 study, while cyberdetective ranked tenth (Fatsis, pp. 55-58).

The field of Internet surfing is nebulous, as exact job descriptions do not exist for its workers. Nevertheless, whether these people are called cyberspace librarians, Web entrepreneurs or professional Net surfers, if they possess the skills to navigate the Internet or filter and package information to sell to subscribers, great career opportunities abound. P.O.V. gives the job of Internet surfing a "coolness factor" of 10 (on a scale of 10, with 10 being the highest) and a "burnout factor" of three. Over the next decade, the magazine predicts 250% job growth in the field, with a potential salary of $100,000 per year (Fatsis, pp. 55-56).

With the tremendous growth in the Internet, it is becoming a prime target for technocriminals, which requires the need for cyberdetectives to prevent cyberspace crime. Just about every big company that needs to protect its electronic assets is hiring cyberdetectives. Credit card numbers, phone credit card numbers and data security secrets are popular targets of the criminals, whose nefarious activities have lead to a huge surge in the hiring of cyberdetectives, many of whom are computer scientists and systems analysts who don't necessarily want to work as programmers or technicians. The magazine gives the job of cyberdetective a "coolness factor" of six, a "burnout factor" of three, a 10-year job growth of 45% and a potential salary of $80,000 (Fatsis, p. 58).

People are not just making money through work on the World Wide Web, as free contests on Web sites can be a fun and highly lucrative way to make some extra cash. A company called Alpha Sports, for instance, has a Web site, ALPHA SPORTS GAMES, featuring a free weekly fare of three Alpha Sports Games, with cash prizes ranging from $5 all the way up to $10,000 per week (Hays Internet Marketing, 9/20/96).

Players compete nationwide for the prize money, and picking the winners of sporting events played every weekend is the thrust of the site's three games. Selected professional and college football and basketball games and Monday Night Football are the current focuses of the Web site; Major League Baseball was the featured sport in the summer.

Another Web site offering expensive prizes -- although not cash -- is Riddler.Com, maintained by the company Interactive Imaginations. Single-person trivia, chat-room trivia played against several people simultaneously, crossword puzzles, riddles and palindromes are a few of the games offered at this site. Prizes awarded range from Ford Explorers and laptop computers to cameras, watches and T-shirts (Interactive Imaginations, 11/10/96).

Rosalind Resnick reports in her by-subscription, online publication, Interactive Publishing Alert, (excerpted for free viewing on the World Wide Web every two weeks) that the Riddler.Com Web site is a grassroots moneymaking strategy currently being tested as a form of content syndication on the World Wide Web. She notes that Interactive Imaginations claims to have awarded more than $250,000 in prizes so far this year (Resnick, 11/10/96).

The World Wide Web can even be used to find long ago lost money, or maybe funds people never knew were theirs. The Web site Discover Hidden Treasures! is maintained by Found Money International Ltd., which states each year hundreds of thousands of dollars in unclaimed cash are left in banks and other institutions by unknowing individuals (Found Money International Ltd., 9/15/96).

Users can initiate a free search to see if they have any "forgotten" money by entering their name into the site's database for a particular state (not all states are currently available for all searches) or Canada. After the name is processed, the site then shows whether that particular name came up as a positive match in the database search. If a matching name is found, the company requests payment before it will direct the user to the exact bank or institution holding their "lost" money. Charges to complete the search roughly range from $10 to $50, so a person must weigh the likelihood that the cash gained will be more than the monies spent in the retrieval process (Found Money International Ltd., 9/15/96).

While everyone may not find hidden money through using the World Wide Web, there is little doubting the notion that the Internet is a futuristic provider of a way of life and income. Many people have compared the growth of the World Wide Web in popularity as a moneymaking device to the invention of movable type and what that 15th century breakthrough did for book publishing and reading.

However, people have always doubted new innovations. When Henry Ford invented the car, huge numbers of people would not believe that the car could ever be indispensable and refused to learn how to drive. Some people have made the comparison that Microsoft Co-founder Bill Gates is a modern-day Henry Ford.

Despite the nay sayers kicking and screaming all the way down the information superhighway, computers, the Internet and World Wide Web are here to stay. As we head into the year 2000 and beyond, the scenario for making money through the latest technologies is only going to become more lucrative than it is now. People are making money through the Internet and World Wide Web this very moment, and their abilities to do so will only increase with time and ever-advancing breakthroughs, from the individual entrepreneur all the way to the hulking corporate behemoths.

Plenty of profit will be around to make all concerned quite happy -- and no Internet search is necessary to figure out that the wealthy/happy thing is a happening combination for the human condition.



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