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Startup promises money for fanbois

Cash in on being one of the crowd

Field Agent is an iPhone app that presents the user with questions or tasks, then pays the user a minimum of two quid for completing them in the name of market research.

The questions and tasks come from companies that want to know what UK consumers are thinking, or what's happening somewhere. Users can ask for pushed alerts, or just run the app every now and then to see what's what - with the latter adding location-specific tasks to the list. Complete the task, or answer the questions, and Field Agent will pay you at least £2, which you can pull into your PayPal account on demand.

The operation has been running on the other side of the pond for the last six months, but today launches in the UK with the app already in the iTunes store. Tasks might include taking snaps of a particular advertising display, or just answering a few questions. Reliable respondents are rewarded with an increased rep, which leads to first refusal on later work.

£2, at minimum, might seem a lot - especially when compared with the 50 pence or so that YouGov will pay for a survey response, and YouGov is increasingly offering entry into prize draws in lieu of cash. But a secret-shopper might get £30 for visiting a store and counting bottles, making Field Agent a bargain for companies that want specific information.

Supermarkets, for example, now rent out shelf space to companies - a wine merchant might pay for a specific amount of shelf space which they can then stock with products they think will do well. Such a merchant might decide to check to see if they're getting the promised exposure, so the secret shopper drops in and counts the bottles.

A secret shopper might be required to do more, such as identify themselves to store staff or check paperwork, but often they just count items on display - something that Field Agent reckons can be done better, and more cheaply, with a photograph.

The use of photographs could be important, cos even secret shopping services constantly wrestle with unreliable and/or untrustworthy staff. Using photographs should make it easier to check that the work is being done, though it limits the kind of task that can be performed.

The real question is whether or not Field Agent can drum up enough companies interested in knowing what's going on, but we'll be watching with interest just in case this writing gig doesn't pay off. ®

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