The fascinating new business that allows you to buy personal advice from a Nobel Prize-winning economist or a poker champion.
But other challenges loom. The experts on offer might not lower their prices enough to make a market. Even if they're happy to receive the occasional $1,000 appointment, that might not be enough to sustain Expert Insight as a business. For that reason, Adams has plans to expand the site—and in the meantime has encouraged the experts to lower their prices into white-shoe-lawyer (and affordable-luxury) territory. What's the site's best value for your money, in his mind? Famed Harvard economist Jeffrey Miron, available for $400 an hour.
Another problem is that nothing stops Adams' experts—or any others—from offering private video consulting, advice, or instruction on their own websites, where they would not need to give a third party a cut. (Skype and PayPal are all you would really need to make it work.) One could also imagine niche trade, fan, or industry sites—jazz pianists, Python coders, bocce players—setting up their own marketplaces, attracting the leaders in the field, and advertising to their pre-existing fan bases.
One way or another, even if Expert Insight falters, Adams is right that the Internet provides a naturally fluid, responsive, and big marketplace for such previously niche services. Maybe you won't be asking Steven Levitt all your hard questions on video chat anytime soon. But if you are looking to up your chess or poker game, you'd be foolish not to look for help online.
Annie Lowrey, formerly Slate’s Moneybox columnist, is economic policy reporter for the New York Times.
Photograph of poker player by Jupiterimages/Thinkstock.