Watt's Up!: The Power of Touch

The cost is nothing. The potential is limitless. Welcome to the future of a "touch" economy.
Magazine Contributor
3 min read

This story appears in the September 2000 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

One of the most intriguing aspects of what some call the "new " is the emergence of so many ways to create wealth and real or perceived value. We see innovative and unique ways to make almost daily. One such way is not to create, but to "touch" demand.

It makes sense, especially when you consider there's a fortune to be made just processing money. Every day, $1 trillion clears 's Federal Reserve Bank. Payments for goods and services represent only $150 billion of that, which means $850 billion clearing the New York Fed every day is there because somebody understands the value of plugging into the no-rest flow of global capital. Bankers and investors understand that by dipping their corporate toes into that financial stream, they can tap nearly incomprehensible wealth. If we touch demand for a similar length of time and channel it to where it can be fulfilled, we, too, can get rich.

Take my company's Web site (www.firstmatter.com). Because people often ask what we read and what authors we respect, we offer a list of almost 100 books we find intriguing and useful on the site. We're pretty selective, and the list itself is constantly being revised. Visitors can click through to all major online book-sellers and purchase the books. If you go from our site to, say, Amazon.com and buy anything, not just our recommendations, we get paid.

Like many of your companies, FirstMatter is relatively small, but our "pass through" to Internet book retailers has created a mid-four-figure stream. Could it get larger? Of course-if we were a little less discriminate about what we put on our list. But the actual revenue amount isn't critical. What's critical is that, without increasing our costs a dime, we've created a new revenue stream just by "touching" demand for a nanosecond.

Exactly the same principle is netting some people-albeit in the erotica sector-seven-figure revenue streams. But pornographers aren't the only ones profiting. There are "cyberclearinghouses" that create lists from hundreds or even thousands of sites. When you click through them and buy anything, the clearinghouses get digital "meter clicks," creating revenue streams just as bankers do. Think about it: A three-person company could create a multimillion-dollar revenue stream with little overhead and essentially no "cost of goods." As usual, our possibilities are only limited by our creativity.

Watts Wacker-lecturer, best-selling author, political commentator, social critic and CEO of FirstMatter-is one of the world's most respected futurists.


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