5 Ways to Make Money With Amazon Mechanical Turk
The Amazon Mechanical Turk or MTurk is a service that was created so that those who need work done can hire thousands of human workers for much less than minimum wage. Each task is called a HIT and it can be as simple as clicking a link and as complex as writing an entire computer program. If you are a worker in the system you will not be compensated very well, but there are quite a few ways the work requesters are profiting from this service.
1. Transcription Company
There are several transcription companies that are quite active on MTurk. They pay the MTurk workers or "Turkers" less than 50 cents for each minute of transcription and sell the end results to various clients. They do control for quality, but the profit margin on these transcriptions is at least 50% to 70% by my calculations. If you have the connections to start a transcription company or just need some transcription done then MTurk would be a great place to source your workers.
2. Content Sourcing
Many requesters seem to be building content sites and they are getting their content for dirt cheap on MTurk. Quality is an issue, but then the same requesters just have more MTurk workers do quality checks on the results they receive. It's quite funny, but I have to admit that it is effective. If you want to get a slew of cheap content fairly quickly then MTurk may be the place to go. The different types of content I have seen vary from polls, quizzes, questions and answers, and articles. Theoretically you could also build a trivia game.
There are many research projects conducted on MTurk. Some of the companies that do research on MTurk in turn sell their research results for a profit, and some are actually university researchers who are doing a project. Either way, MTurk is a good source of willing participants for research. When I was in college I often see labs pay research subjects $10 an hour or more just to answer some questions, but now on MTurk researchers can get subjects for as little as 5 cents each.
4. Data Collection and Mining
There are many tasks that ask people to find information. For example, there are batches of jobs that ask for the email address or contact information of certain politicians. Other jobs ask for the email addresses of college financial aid offices. With thousands of people collecting data the jobs are done much faster.
The Sheep Market is a quirky project done by Aaron Koblin. Basically, he commissioned 10,000 sheeps facing left on MTurk for 2 cents a piece. The end result was quite fascinating and some of the Turkers actually drew very complex sheep. Now the sheep are selling for $20 a piece and the art piece has been exhibited internationally. If he sells all the sheep he would have made a profit of 100000%.
If you are not in the mood to systematically profit from MTurk, then you could always do a few HITs for a few cents. You do have to be careful not to do the tasks posted by scammers, and these are detailed in a post at the Turker Nation forums. In my research for this article I did a variety of paying tasks and I have to admit that I actually learned quite a few things even though my effective hourly wage was below $2. Many of the tasks are great for people who are bored and want to earn a tiny bit of money. I am thinking of designing some tasks and hiring some Turkers to build something profitable. I'm not quite sure what I would do yet, but the possibilities are endless. What is your idea for using this service?