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Net Worth

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Net Worth: Shaping Markets When Customers Make the Rules is divided into three parts. The first defines the central term “infomediaries” (business entities that would intercede between consumers and businesses, allowing individuals to control and maximize the value of the data that make up their own consumption patterns and histories), explains the roles of these new entities in today’s business world and predicts their increasing importance. The second section offers strategies to take advantage of the new business climate that is coming. The third section analyzes the ways in which infomediaries are likely to affect traditional ways of doing business.

The need for information is clear, since most consumers have experienced unwanted intrusions in the form of junk mail and E-mail “spam,” and many now worry about the privacy concerns raised as more and more businesses maintain databases on consumers. Net Worth points to a future in which consumers harness the power of the Internet to share their personal information with infomediaries, who then pass it along only to businesses of the consumer’s choosing. In this scenario, everybody wins: the consumers because they are on the receiving end of fewer unwanted solicitations and intrusive information gathering; businesses because they can much more efficiently target their efforts and create corresponding goodwill in the marketplace. The book also challenges the dominant view touting the Internet as a means for more direct contact between businesses and consumers, without acknowledging the expediency of a means of mediation.

While Net Worth provides a great deal of insight into the future of business on the Internet, it is clearly not intended for a general audience. The language tends to be stilted and laced with business school jargon, and the sometimes esoteric task of describing an economic model that has not yet taken shape often makes for a challenging read.