So why can't a business accountant in New Hampshire sell his knowledge directly to that newly prosperous Honduran carpet weaver?
What about the things we have to say; the wisdom, advice, and insights all of us have accumulated over a lifetime?
The surge of blogging over the past few years – over 50 million blogs, a new one created every second – has revealed
a vast pool of expression and knowledge that for the most part has yet to find a proper commercial outlet. The sale of insights
and expertise – the service economy – is actually bigger than the physical-goods market. So why haven't we yet seen
it blossom online?
The answer is that the tools to sell services online are more complex than the tools to sell things. To deliver computer help,
tax advice, diet tips or wine recommendations, you have to talk with your customers, which still isn't so easy over the Web.
You could put your phone number online, but then you'd get calls at all hours from all kinds of people, some with no intention
of paying you, and you'd lack the ability to easily collect payment even from real customers. Ideally there'd be a way to only
receive calls from paying customers during the hours you choose, with a billing system that automatically collects payment for
the time you spend talking.
And since, unlike physical goods, services can be transmitted digitally, knowledge can and will be bought and sold by buyers and
sellers on opposite sides of the world. A Manhattan therapist working in the morning will counsel an Australian housewife who's
having an anxiety attack in the middle of the night. A Bangladeshi math major will tutor a London schoolchild. And yes, that
New Hampshire accountant will help balance the books of that newly prosperous Honduran carpet-weaver – though they might
need to conference in a Spanish-English translator for 25 cents per minute.
And Ether's current
offerings are just the first step – the tools we offer to sell what you say will only get better. Soon you'll have
video tools to offer face-to-face conversations. You'll even be able to service many people at a time. A motivational
speaker could offer a lecture to 100 people at once. A tour guide in China could take Chicago schoolkids on a video tour
of the Great Wall, and they could direct him where to walk: "Look up to the left and zoom in on that tower."
Who wants to give a one-minute pep talk to that Red Sox pitcher between the eighth and ninth innings? Announce it before
the commercial break and hold an instant online charity auction to determine which superfan's phone will ring.
So what do you say? Offer it out into the ether.