34% Buy Premium Features and Services

Social networking sometimes looks like a feature rather than a full business model, with the perhaps obvious exception of the leading portals. But affiliate advertising, virtual goods, micropayments, social network site merchandising, and data mining might emerge as viable alternatives to traditional revenue models, say researchers at In-Stat.

But there's some evidence the "give the base service away free, make money on upgrades" strategy does work. In-Stat notes that 66.6 percent of respondents to a recent consumer survey do not pay for premium services or features. But that leaves about 34 percent who do buy upgraded features.

Of course, much the same sort of analysis might be made of email or blogging. There are lots of business models of an indirect nature; some of a direct nature. About 16.7 percent of survey respondents use a mobile phone to participate in online social networking or video content sites. At the very least, that means more use of mobile data and mobile Web services.

In-Stat forecasts 92.2 million social networking users in the United States by 2012.
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