The Internet is very nearly a frictionless market, a place without artificial resistance to innovation and choice. Bandwidth limitations sometimes create artificial burdens in that overtaxed servers can no longer efficiently pipe packets of data to the client, and can't receive incoming packets.
This one little barrier, being quietly straightened out by the technical innovations of an unlimited amount of competitors in various industries such as the hosting servers, will soon give way to allow high amounts of traffic to visit web pages at no wait. Once everyone is more or less equally adept in cutting lag and accepting high loads of visitors, the next concern for any web host or hostess is to provide more appealing content than one's closest competitors. Finding niches and making one's pages accessible are fine, but one can be sure competitors for eyeballs exist for anything. For every Fictionpress there is an Author's Den, and for every Friendster there's a piece of crap, and if Walmart is online, so are stores without a brick and mortar heritage.
The competition for views have dramatically destroyed the traditional payment methods for information content. Today, to read opinion, one no longer buys a subscription, a fact of life currently denied by the New York Times, but one online sources such as Microsoft's Slate have acknowledged and decided to work around, becoming advertisement-supported.
And that brings us to the problem with small amateur self-publishing, the competition for grabbing eyeballs from traditional media has driven profit margins to exactly zero, as not only is the consumer not paying a fee, but the competition favors the providers of content with the least intrusive ads running on site, to the point that the only ads running on popular sites are usually text or small banner sorts, such as Adsense from Google. The problem is that these ad programs pay so poorly, because they don't generate enough attention to earn real money. They only pay for "click-throughs," when a visitor actually clicks an advertisement, and visits wherever the banner link takes one.
Online capitalism has made the consumer king like never before, but none of us are paying back, none of us are clicking the donate buttons, and none of us are buying an online entertainer something on his wish list.
We the online consumers have every right to be selfish, and not to donate to some keyboardist in the ether that occasionally alters our perceptions and gives us a hearty laugh with satirical commentary and coarse animations. Frankly, most of us wonder at those that donate to public broadcasting, and chortled at the phrase "open your hearts and wallets" that surfaced with the beached bodies after the Christmas Tsunami in late 2005. I'm one of you, a proud in-activist that doesn't flinch to dodge taxes or pass on the collection plate without first digging into a pocket.
However, today, donations of a sort are easier than ever, and could foster a new sort of hyper activism.
A brief thought experiment: You visit your small cultural society newsgroup to find a message asking you to visit a handful of web pages that share the cause of your group. The message requests that you click through the advertisements on these sites, in order to generate advertisement revenue to the 'greater cause.' One thousand people are in your group, and at worst one-tenth respond with clicks to ten sites on the list. One hundred clicking through one ad on one site may not earn much for one individual, for I've heard of rates as bad as $200 for that many unique clickers (as opposed to the same guy doing it repetitively), but that 100 going through a list of affiliates could reasonably fund a web-based movement, or at least get it started.
Now, imagine the message cross-posted to every newsgroup, forum, community, chat, and mailing list involved with some movement, grabbing the same ten percent out of a ten thousand member loose coalition, pitching a bloated list of sites needing such support. Suddenly, you have a fundraising swarm. You encourage members to repost and chain letter it, expanding the effect widely enough that you've spawned an emergent fundraising army, one that's created a devastating feedback loop; members visit sites, which increases the stat meters, increasing the values of the ads, members click the ads, supplying revenue, and members repost the original message in a likeminded community so far un harvested.
Eventually, the list expands or branches into new movements, perhaps even into movement in opposition to yours. That's ok, because the growth of your opposition doesn't diminish your own growth, and your movement got to run through the program before the law of diminishing returns saps the growth cycle.
And this will happen. Currently, online advertising programs ban members that beg people to click their ads on their sites, and those that game the system in other way. In time, they'll find ways to protect their capital against swarming runs, and the growth trend will soon die. However, in the age when some guy calling himself Buckethead on Free Republic can post a message that will eventually change the outcome of a presidential election, advertisers must surely be too slow to prevent a web 2.0 run on their money.
Two years after Buckethead initiated what became the destruction of Dan Rather's career at CBS, no one has yet used a swarm to generate revenue, except through the traditional donation drive. We can organize mobs, and we can command them to organize revenue. I think we should, and at last redistribute capital into the new media.