The Economist Seeks Web Business Ideas

Project Red StripeThe Economist Group, the publisher of The Economist, has a launched a site called Project Red Stripe. Project Red Stripe is a six-member team comprised of The Economist Group's employees that has the task of creating an innovative and web-based product, service or business model by July 2007. The team is doing their own in-house research and they are also soliticing ideas from the outside. Ideas can be submitted on the Project Red Stripe website.

Some bloggers have poked fun at Economist Group's web business idea seekers. You can see a few funny headlines here on Buzzfeed. You will also see a photograph of Red Stripe beer there. Many Slashdot commenters were also critical of the new site from The Economist. Team Red Stripe discussed some the criticism on their blog.
We were not surprised, then, when many Slashdot users either derided or hammered our idea collection effort after a news item about it was posted on the site's homepage on Sunday morning. Some suggested we'd be better off drinking lots of Jamaican beer. Another commenter wrote: "This is the most stupid idea I have ever heard out of [The Economist]. They actually will compensate you, with a rocking 6-mo web-subscription to economist.com (street value: roughly $50)... Perhaps the Economist should actually talk to their economists, and ask them what 'Incentive Compatibility' means. If I were the Economist, I'd be terribly embarrassed about this."

As often with such debates on Slashdot, however, they raise an important point, which is then only superficially discussed before moving on to other more fundamental things (the debate quickly digressed to talking about democracy, Hitler, the Soviet Union and, of course, Ayn Rand). Yet the underlying issue is indeed a crucial one and one we probably need to resolve somehow if we want to make this project a success: How can we cleverly combine to mutual benefit - ultimately for-profit efforts such as Project Red Stripe and "commons-based peer production", in the words of Yochai Benkler, a professor at Yale Law School.
Apparently, you don't have to use the form if you don't want to.
And if our terms and conditions really keep you from submitting your great idea, you can always do what Jeff Jarvis, the creator of the popular blog BuzzMachine, has suggested - and some have already done: post them on you own blog. But don't forget to send us a link.
You can also post your comments on a blog like Shel Israel did here because he did not want to post it "on any steenking form." At least two of Shel's ideas involved The Economist hiring Shel or someone like Shel. It looks like they will hit their goal of 250 idea submissions. They admit their traffic has been thanks to the Slashdot post and posts from bloggers.

Posted on March 13, 2007

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