I got a comment from an executive at Weblo.com for this post. If you read my post, please make sure you read theirs so you get an accurate picture of the whole deal. As the disclaimer says, I just tell you what I think, and you make your own judgements from there. Thanks, Worst Financial Blogger Ever.
As I'm drifting off to sleep last night, the local news show I had on actually said something that made me sit up and crank the volume. There is a new website called Weblo.com that allows to you to "buy" cities and famous landmarks, then either sell them for (hopefully) a profit or keep them for the ad revenue.
Confused? So was I. It's like a monopoly game, except with real money, and you're playing with everyone in the world. You pony up real cash to buy, say, your hometown for $2. If there is someone out there who wants to pseudo-own your hometown more than you do, you can sell it to them for, say, $4. Or whatever you decide on. Or you can keep your hometown, and if that page gets enough hits, someone may want to advertise on it - and lucky you gets to keep a share of the profits.
In the interest of good investigative journalism I went undercover on the site to determine whether it was a good financial deal or not. I think we all know which way this is heading, but regardless, journalistic integrity prevailed.
The first thing is discovered is that while it is free to join an purchase property, what they really want you to do is upgrade your membership to one with a monthly fee. They range from $4.59 - $29.95. At least we know the owners of the site are making money. You get a slight discount on purchases the higher up you go. Among my free goodies, though, was some pretty random stuff, like a free celebrity fan site. Huh? Why do I want that again? Besides, Benjamin Graham is probably already taken.
Okay, so after some account activation drama I'm in the bowels of the website. It comes across as a really cheesy gaming site, so I'm pretty turned off all around. I've got my eye on my CharmingHometown, USA. Hmmm. Seems like someone beat me to it. I click "yes" when weblo asks me if I want to make an offer, and I'm immediately brought to a page where the input fields are malfunctioning.
Hmmmm. I navigate back and try to buy a Suburb of CharmingHometown, and that's available . . . for $5. I thought it was only supposed to be $2? I'm peaved about this, but I'm also caught up in the fact that my family actually owns alot of property in Suburb of Charming Hometown, and how cute would it be to virtually own it? I can kind of see the appeal of this. However, this is supposed to be a moneymaking venture.
I navigate back out of the "buy properties" page and go looking for CharmingHometown's Weblo site. This is where all those ads are going to be posted that are going to be the income stream for the owner . . . and there are certainly some ads here. I'm also seeing space for a future community forum, a poll, and a place for community members to post their profiles.
Well, I thought I'd have to hunt for this information, but there it is right there: the owner of CharmingHometown has made
$.089 thus far. I'm going to assume that he paid the advertised $2 fee for the property. So far he's gotten a 4% return on his money - better than most banks are paying on a savings account. Since it's ony been up for maybe a month (not sure when this wesite was born), that's really not bad. If his inital $2 investment continutes to make him .08 cents a month for five years, he will have made $4.80. Not really worth writing your virtual home about.
While I can't sneeze at a 4% return, the micro "investments" mean you'll have to buy a ton of stuff on Weblo to make any real money. You're also taking a risk that the venture will continue - as far as I can see on CharmingHometown's Weblo site, there is NO reason for me to go back. I seriously doubt it will take off as a social networking site, a poll site, an online yellow pages of business ads, or any of the multitude of things it's trying to be. The design of the site is very poor, and since you have to be a member of Weblo to see a property's homepage anyway, not alot of people are just going to drop by. (According to the response I got from Weblo, it IS possible to "just drop by." I guess I didn't spend enough time trying to figure it out, so went back. Yes, you can look at properties without logging in - I'm sorry for the error, you're investigative journalist has failed you. However, most of the homepage is dedicated to getting people to sign up, so browsing isn't immediately apparent. I had to LOOK for a way to do it among the multitude of tiny links at the top of the page. In my opinion, that's a bad thing.) All you've got left are the "bragging rights" to pretend-owning a particular place, and since the few people I've explained Weblo to were completely unimpressed, well, you don't even have that.
I'm putting a big bullsh*t stamp on this one.