Internet produces virtual wealth but often little income
by Scott Burns

     There's rich. And there's virtual rich.
     That's what I am.  Virtual rich.
     According to an in-depth analysis, my virtual fortune could be as large as $30 million.  It also could be a lot smaller, but let's not talk about that.
     The story beings in  1995 when I tried to subscribe to the Internet edition of The New York Times and discovered that someone else named Scott Burns had already subscribed.  It I wanted to subscribe, an automated message informed me, I would have to use another name.
     It didn't seem right.
     Worse, this could be happening all over.  Piecemeal, I could be losing my name.
     So I checked with Network Solutions, the company that, until recently, was the sole manager of all Internet registrations and names.  I could have my own name, all over the Web, by registering myself as a domain,
     Starting from less than 100 visitors a day, visitor traffic exceeded 30,000 for July, with more that 180,000 page views.
     This is the source of my virtual fortune.
     Of course, my Web site doesn't make money.  Indeed, it is unsullied by revenue of any kind.
     Fortunately, Mr. Market has a broader perspective.  The vast majority of Web ventures are losing money, but that doesn't matter.  The Web is the future.
     Indeed, there are quite a few Web ventures with market capitalizations measured in billions that lose fashionable millions with impunity. Lycos, a media portal site, showed a loss of $13.3 million for the most recent quarter but has a market value of $4.6 billion.
     My expenses (read: losses) are running about $60 a month – $180 a quarter in IPO terms.
     Which brings us to the serious exercise of estimating the true value of my virtual fortune.
     Using figures from Business 2.0, a magazine on e-business, and Media Metrix, a company that tracks Web site operating figures, I found that the two most commonly used measures of size were the number of page views per month and the number of users per month.  Yahoo! for instance, recently had 7 billion page views in a month and more than 31 million visitors.  If you divide either of those figures into the total market value of the stock, you find that the market values Yahoo! at $1,000,105 for each 1,000 visitors and $4,476 for each 1,000 page views.
     Yahoo! is the most valued company when measured by visitors and the second most valued company when measured by page views.  CNET is the most valued when measured by page views.
     To estimate the value of my virtual fortune, I multiplied the values per 1,000 views and per 1,000 visitors for each company times the number of visitors and page views on, producing figures that ranged from a low of $334,623 (chump change these days) to a high of $30,243,163, a figure worth thinking about.  As I said, let's talk in round numbers here – give or take a few million – if you happen to have your checkbook out, searching for ground-floor investment opportunities.
     I am, however, keeping my day job.
–Scott Burns