In a recent must read post on ReadWriteWeb on Semantic Web Patterns: A Guide to Semantic Technologies Alex Iskold writes "People simply do not care that a product is built on the Semantic Web, all they are looking for is utility and usefulness." Are they also willing to pay for access if the utility and usefulness meets their needs- i would venture to say yes.
Found via a new favorite blog of mine, John Breslin's Cloudlands a new website for Art fans that goes beyond traditional museum, journals and events calendars by providing a platform that users can use to create a personal lens into the Art worlds that interest them . I have not tried it myself but MutualArt.com sounds like a prefect application of "the promise" for the semantic web and perhaps? it is the first 'semantic app' that is collecting a membership fee (paying members at $300 per year).
They have a good short overview video on their web page but they don't allow you to embed or even link to it directly (or at least i couldn't figure it out so it is on the right side of the page). For Art lovers this seems like a great service because it seems to provide a very targeted service to learn and live Art.
The target audience is probably a well engaged one that would gladly pay for a premium service that helps them organize their commitments in the art world. What makes it semantic? According to their press release: The MutualArt.com site is powered by proprietary state-of-the-art semantic Web technology, uniquely filtering vast quantities of diverse art information, so that only information relevant to users' tastes and interests is delivered to them. They claim to have done two years of research and development so it isn't a simple website and probably will indeed provide a valuable resource to aggregate and make sense of the art news and events. They are claiming to have the largest collection of art related articles on the web, social features and events calendars to deliver information that is important to the specific user.
A good case study for media providers that have niche markets and increase commoditization of the content they provide? Crain's New York called it "A new Web Service promises to do for art what the Bloomberg terminal did for finance" perhaps one day in the future they will review financial niche services and say "a new service that promised to do for for finance what MutualArt.com did for Art".