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iMooch offers micromarkets for original content

This social community and content micropayment site has launched a public beta version and for a limited time is waiving the posting fee.


iMooch, an online community where users can sell and pay for content using a concept called "mooches," launched a new public beta version of its today. Most importantly, iMooch is temporarily letting users post content for free and make real money from it.

Usually, iMooch lets you create a mooch for $6. One dollar pays for posting your content, and then you are required to use the rest of your funds to give $1 to five other mooches within 30 days. As I mentioned, however, to build a larger community the site is letting users post free for a limited time.

I'm not sure how current users of iMooch (who've paid for their mooches) will feel about the new promotion, but if you've got content you think people will pay for, you may as well post a mooch for free and reward other moochers with the free $5. And if you want to tip my Old Man Magoo limerick, I could always use the money! The one difference I noted between my mooches and existing mooches is that mine will expire in 30 days; others already on the site have later expiration dates.

iMooch sympathy buck
Some mooches last longer than 30 days. iMooch

The name of iMooch conjures up memories of famous Internet beggars like, but in reality, founder Nalin Patel was inspired by the street performers on the Santa Monica Promenade. The various musicians, magicians, artists, and straight-up beggars created a loose economy of tippers and micropayments. That functioning street economy gave him the idea of taking a similar idea to the Web, where anyone could submit entertaining content and other people could pay for it.

One of the biggest facets of "Web 2.0" is user-generated content, and several sites--such as YouTube, MySpace, and Flickr--have become extremely successful because of it. However, no one has established a good method for users to actually earn money from the content that they provide. Snocap is attempting to monetize the MySpace music market...but it also laid off 57 percent of its employees last week. Sites like Shutterpoint let photographers sell images, but they also charge a flat hosting fee.

There's still certainly a huge potential for micropayments to content creators online, but iMooch certainly has some hurdles to navigate, the largest being the $6 entry price. I like the idea of paying a flat fee ($1) to submit a mooch; I'm not sold on the five forced mooches you have to give. I know that iMooch is simply trying to jump-start their virtual economy, and I don't have any better ideas for how to do it, but it will obviously turn off some users of the service.

iMooch create a mooch app
The interface for creating an iMooch is well designed and easy to use. CNET Networks

Creating an iMooch is a bit of a process, but the app is very slick. The interface is well organized into tabs and numerical steps, and the helpful, well written explanations on the right side of the screen will walk you through the entire process.

You can use six types of media in a mooch: text, images, video, audio, dating, and download. Video and download files must be hosted on another site, and "dating" mooches must be hosted on iMooch. Text, images, and audio can either be hosted on iMooch or on another Web site of your choice. Audio files are limited to three per user and cannot be larger than 10MB. Images in mooches are also limited to 10 per user and have a maximum file size of 5MB.

After you select the type of media and where it will be hosted, you must choose whether moochers can see your content before paying or reward you after viewing, similar to a tip. Then you'll upload or add a URL for your content, preview your mooch, and testify that your content is not a copyright violation nor does it include adult/mature content.

Dating mooches are kind of funky. Essentially, you enter your characteristics like height, body type, and age, then add a short description. You can also add three images to the dating mooch, and you must add at least one. Then you'll select what you're looking for, such as "Man Seeking Woman" or "Strictly Platonic." You can see my dating mooch here. Awww. It seems like an interesting dating concept, but it also seems quite different than the other types of mooches you can submit. Unfortunately, I couldn't figure out how to edit my mooch after posting, which is why it has that unusual title.

Although iMooch is in public beta release, the site and application worked flawlessly for me, and I found the support content to be insightful, helpful, and well thought out. The whole site in general has a very friendly, funny style that should appeal to veteran Web surfers with a sense of humor, as well as to newbies looking for someone to hold their hands.

I'm not sure about the long-term financial viability of iMooch (it obviously can't keep giving away $5 to every user), but it's a very cool concept, and I had a great time creating my two mooches. Who will I pay with my free $5? Well, it will depend on the quality of the content. If you do post a mooch to the site, post a link here so that I can check it out and tip you as I see fit. (Seriously, my Old Man Magoo limerick has to be worth at least a few bucks. *hint hint*)