The Internet, alongside other technological innovations, has undoubtedly provided entrepreneurs profitable opportunities that have totally disrupted traditional business models. Digital disruption, according to Oxford College of Marketing, marks the transformative changes in consumer needs caused by the emerging digital technologies, and therefore, working with the tide requires entrepreneurs to fulfill these emerging needs.
Digital disruption as driven by consumers’ behavioral change in the use of digital technologies, and hence, service expectations, has resulted in the notable success of businesses such as – Airbnb (the largest provider of accommodations without any investment in real estate), Facebook (the most popular media company without creating its content), Uber, (the biggest transportation company that does not invest in vehicles), and Bitcoin (a multibillion-dollar bank investment without actual cash) among others.
However, the increasing popularity of Internet as a medium of commerce has put forward serious security and other risks such as scams and frauds. Interestingly, it has also served an avenue for a digital shadow economy to thrive while a new breed of entrepreneurs amasses lucrative business profits.
While this article identifies a few businesses that are profitable yet will definitely raise your eyebrows, this does not encourage a startup of another one, rather promote awareness on the exploitation by entrepreneurs behind and somehow mitigate, if not totally prevent, the worst possible socioeconomic impact.
Fake News Peddling | Sensational Blogging
Blogging has become a big business. Around the world, there are over 1 billion websites and blogs hosted in various platforms – many which eat up the billion-dollar pie of online advertisement industry dominated by the giant businesses such as Google and Facebook.
To outwit competitors, many bloggers have devised dirty tactics to increase their startup blog traffic and earn a fortune from ad clicks and impressions. Usually, they pick stories up from decent news sources, repackage and sensationalize them on their self-hosted blogs, share and make them viral on Facebook and other social media platforms, and drive tremendous audience traffic back to their pages where ads can be viewed and accidentally clicked.
As per Collins Dictionary, fake news is “a false, often sensational information disseminated under the guise of news reporting.” Those who peddle fake news “can be motivated by financial incentives, individual political motivations, attracting clicks, or all of the above,” Facebook says. Motivated by financial incentives, fake news bloggers amass over a hundred thousand pesos of ad revenues a month. What a lucrative business then!
Predatory Publishers and Conferences
If you are an academic, then you’ve since been perturbed by the ‘publish or perish’ imperative. More troubled, you might have been receiving a bunch of dodgy email invitations to publish with open-access journals or present your papers in research conferences. Take note, with around $200, you can have your paper approved in a few days, as if the scholarly peer review happens just overnight.
Iowan State University library, in Understanding Predatory Publishers, defines predatory publisher as “an opportunistic publishing venue that exploits the academic need to publish but offers little reward for those using their services.”
As an organized business, the number of predatory and bogus journals has exploded to over thousands, with nearly as many as the legitimate ones. Publishers earn a fortune from exploiting academics who want to decorate their résumés with credentials and scholarly publications. In the same way, most of these publishers hold conferences that demand presenters a substantial fee for certificate grants, sometimes even without actual conference participation.
Manila’s Counterfeit Documents Market
Name it, and you can have any custom order counterfeit document in Recto Avenue, Manila. Yes, you’ve just read it right. Claro M. Recto Avenue, or simply Recto Avenue, is a principal commercial thoroughfare in north central Manila and widely known as the forgery capital where fake documents of all kinds – government and nongovernment IDs, birth certificates, counterfeit receipts, university diplomas, professional licenses, and even school registration forms (when students want kickbacks from tuition fees) – can be custom-made in an hour or less.
Illegal yes, but these counterfeit documents have constituted profitable businesses among streetwise master forgers and digital graphic artists. For instance, a regular counterfeit sales receipt or a university diploma costs around PHP350.00 (anyway, the format has long been available) while other high-end documents that contain more intricate formats and designs usually cost around PHP1,000.00 or even more.
Anne Quinto, in The Forgery Market, writes about the express services, “It generally takes about a week to obtain a copy of one’s diploma for employment purposes, up to two weeks to get a birth certificate from the National Statistics Office, and a full day of queues, forms, a mandatory medical examination and road test to get a driving license from the Land Transportation Office. In Recto, all this can be ready in an hour or less.”
Online Essay and Thesis Writing Services
In recent years, online freelance writing services have mushroomed. Initially, these services were intended for business professionals who would seek professional help in crafting better résumés and other technical documents. However, there has been an alarming shift in demand from these services to student essay assignments. Accordingly, the shift has been attributed to serious issues in the educational system.
Nancy Laws, in The Shocking Truth About Essay Writing Services, has shed light on the implications of such burgeoning businesses, speaking from both ends of the argument (plagiarism and right to use) that while great weaknesses of the educational system have put students through a great deal of stress, these convenient services create lazy students and help to grow an unprepared workforce.
Absolutely legal yet constituting ethical issues, online essay writing services have been undoubtedly fueling the technical writing skills and passion of many freelance ghost writers who also earn hundreds of dollars a month. Well, it’s the business operators who make more!
Naked Pyramid Schemes
With a simple concept however usually disguised using technical terms, a pyramid scheme typically starts with an initial recruiter who sits on the apex and who recruits more investors distributed across the different levels of the business pyramid. Obligated to shell out, participating investors make money by recruiting more members. Several pyramid schemes and models have been introduced in the investment market, but the two basic models are – the product-based and the naked (no-product) schemes.
While a small group of investors at the top of the naked pyramid makes money from the commissions paid by the downline recruits, the most vulnerable of losing invested money are those toward the bottom who struggle making more new recruits. The collapse of the pyramid happens when there are no more recruits caused by the finite number of community members willing to join.
Although pyramid schemes and other multilevel marketing businesses can be easily comprehended, many still fall prey primarily because of their quick-money promises. Given the economic conditions for instance, many Filipinos venture into less technical and less sophisticated investment opportunities. Also, collectivism and strong family ties have contributed to the bandwagon effect – when people give in and join because of encouragements from family members, friends, and acquaintances.