A recent Information Week article (June 5, 2006) by Thomas Claburn talks about Eyeball Economics and how the evolving trend seems to be paying consumers to consume content.
He talks about Social Bookmarking sites paying contributors for adding links, cell phone companies paying customers to view ads on the phone, a similar strategy is being adopted by some websites, and search engines sharing ad-click revenues with users or giving them gifts for using their site. There are also sites that will get permission from web users to track their surfing habits and pay them for the information.
This is definitely a trend worth watching because we are at a point where we spend most of our waking time connected to one network or another via phone, internet etc. and there are companies who value information regarding what we do, and are willing to pay for the information. This is not a new idea; market research companies have been invisibly collecting this information for a very long time, but the new twist is paying the consumer directly for watching their habits.
The issue does raise privacy concerns, and it will be interesting to see how it is resolved.
Some of the links from the article:
AttentionTrust.org promotes peoples rights to any records reflecting what they pay attention to.
Last.fm online radio station where people pay to hear music, by giving attention to ads.
Blingo.com basically Google with prizes.
Simpy.com social bookmarking site that pays to share bookmarks.
RawSugar another social bookmarking site that pays.