Mining for Internet Gold

With many of us spending entire days online, it is about time we started getting more out of it than mere information.



For dreamers with an Internet connection and euro signs in their eyes, the eBay auction site has proved to be excellent moneymaking scheme. The apocryphal story is that the founder of eBay first put up a broken laser pointer for auction on his experimental website. His test went better than expected, when someone bought the item for $14.98. When he called the buyer to make sure the fact that the pointer was broken was understood, he was told ‘I'm a collector of broken laser pointers'. This attitude has inspired many people to quit their jobs to become full-time eBay sellers of weird junk and everything else besides, as there always seems to be a customer. Making money on eBay is relatively straightforward. Set up your seller account, a PayPal account to get paid, and start flogging your wares. eBay take a percentage called an insertion fee, which is what they charge for listing your item for sale, calculated on the items value. If you sell it, they take a final value fee, usually 5.25 per cent.


The newest innovation for ordinary people to make money online requires less effort than eBay but comes at the risk of your friends thinking you are a spammer. An American company called Lemonade recently signed a deal with Facebook, the burgeoning social networking site. Their arrangement enables you to set up a ‘Lemonade Stand' with the company. This ‘stand' is a virtual window that can be filled with a slideshow of products that you choose from the two million on the site. The stand is then easily added to a personal webpage or blog such as Facebook. Money is made by Joe Soap when someone clicks from their stand through to the retailers page to buy. Known as the affiliate sales approach, online retailers pay commissions of five to 15 per cent of the sale price to anyone who delivers a paying customer. Lemonade will keep 20 percent of the commission and pay the stand-owners the rest. Lemonade founders estimate that monthly sales of $50 could bring $15 in commissions. Lemonade is currently operable only from the US, but there are plans to expand around the world.

Irish Opinions

The enticing opportunity to play a part in market research should not be enough to tempt you into a deal with this company. They offer pitiful rewards in return for your participation in extremely boring surveys. Typically one to two euros, the rewards are paid in the form of vouchers for online retailers like Amazon, HMV or Tesco. They can last up to an interminable 40 minutes and involve a series of inane questions or tasks like ‘Imagine each of these soft drinks is a person. How well do you know them?'. One the other hand, it is nice to have a definite wage coming from your online work. If there were enough surveys to do, you could actually match the hourly minimum wage. If your job involves sitting in front of a computer all day you are probably already doing a lot less constructive things, like frittering away your time on Facebook or Youtube. But your sanity would suffer. Keep Irish Opinions in reserve for the truly tough times.

TOM Rowe