Google Selling Answers
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Upstart search engine Google this week unveiled an ingenious way to make money from its searches. Charge the user $.050 to ask a question.
The Mountain View, Calif.-based company Thursday began Beta testing its new Google Answers program. The fee-based answering service charges a non-refundable $0.50 to ask a question, which then gets passed off to staff researchers who will look up the answer for you from readily available sources on the Web.
"We received several requests for a service like this," said Google spokesperson Eileen Rodriguez. "This is an extension of the basic Google search offerings. We know some people are limited to time or may have limited searching skills. Google Answers is a great service for them."
When you post a question to Google Answers, you specify how much you're willing to pay for an answer - somewhere between $4 and $50 - and how quickly you need that information.
The researcher will search for the answer and send you the information you're seeking, as well as useful links to Web pages on the topic. If you're satisfied with that answer, the amount you specified gets charged to your credit card.
The question will also be published on the Google Answers Web site so registered users can add their insights and comment on the research. Users who provide comments will not be paid for their posts, but they may add interesting perspectives to the data gathered by the researcher. The poster's identity and personal information will not be revealed to either the researcher or the community of registered users at any time; instead users are identified only by a 'Nickname'.
Three-quarters of the fee goes directly to the researcher who answers your question; the other 25 percent is used by Google to support the service.
Google said it has hired a contracted staff in house of more than a dozen people, but is looking for more that do not have to be based in the Silicon Valley.
Not everyone has been impressed with the service so far. One anonymous poster complained after a question on the best way to help find a long lost relative.
"What seemed exciting to me was that Google had created a service that would help further sort out the junk flotsam and jetsam and weird commercial sites. Perhaps it is too much to expect for $10 -- but I won't pay $10 for a simple search that turns up USA Today articles and easy to find commercial sites," the poster said.
In those cases, the poster can ask that the question be re-posted once again. If the second answer is still vague, the poster can apply for a full refund, less the non-refundable $0.50 listing fee.
The poster also has the option of rating the researcher using a star rating system.
"This way we can track the progress of the researchers and make sure they are giving helpful service and good search results," said Rodriguez.
Google said it is way too early to gage how much money it expects to pull in from the venture.