Radical media, politics and culture.

Leander Kahney, "Westerners Pretty Rich"

"Westerners Pretty Rich"

Leander Kahney, Wired News, Sep. 11, 2003

You may think your salary is paltry, but compared with most of the
world's population, you're up there with Bill Gates.

A new website, the Global Rich List,
starkly illustrates the worldwide distribution of wealth.You simply plug in your annual income, and the site tells you where
you rank among the world's richest people.

For example, individuals in the United States who make less than
$9,300 are officially poor, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's
definition of poverty. But compared with the rest of the world, their
income is in the top 12 percent.

An annual household income of $42,200 -- the U.S. median in 2001 --
is enough to land someone in the world's richest 1 percent, according
to the site.

"The idea is to really make people think about how rich they are
compared to the rest of the world," said Nicolas Roope, one of the
site's creators. "In the West, we tend to obsess about celebrities
and the super-rich. This is a really simple way to turn that on its

The site was created by Roope and several others from Poke, a London
interactive media company.

Roope, 32, Poke's creative director, said the site was launched to
coincide with this week's World Trade Organization summit in Cancun,
Mexico, where, increasingly, poor countries are pitting themselves
against rich. Key issues are cheap generic drugs for developing
nations, an end to richer nations' huge farm subsidies, reshuffling
of trade tariffs between rich and poor countries, and special
economic concessions for developing nations.

The site uses figures from the World Bank's Development Research
Group, which estimates that for the world's 6 billion people, average
annual income is $5,000.

Roope said he and his colleagues dreamed up the idea for the site
last year. They shopped it around to several charities but none was
interested without changing it significantly to fit their campaigns.
Reluctant to adapt the idea, Poke launched the site on its own. It
soon caught the eye of Care International, an international aid
agency, which asked to be associated with it. Roope said it turned
out to be "the perfect match."

Since going live last Monday, the site has attracted 120,000 unique
visitors. It has earned a few brief mentions in the press -- the
London Guardian, USA Today -- but most traffic has come from word of
mouth, weblogs and newsgroups.

With Poke's keen interest in viral marketing, the team was delighted
when the site topped the weblog popularity indices -- Daypop,
Blogdex, Popdex -- late last week.

The site has received lots of positive e-mail, but also some hate
mail. Most is from U.S. citizens who perceive an anti-American slant,
Roope said.

However, despite the attention, the site has raised relatively little
money for Care. So far, donations total about $1,700.

"It's a very small amount per visitor," said Roope. "I'm a bit
surprised we didn't get more."

Roope said there was initially a problem with the site's "donate"
button, which wasn't very prominent.

Denise Pritchard, spokeswoman for Care International, said the dearth
of donations could be partly attributed to people's wariness of
electronic transactions. Nonetheless, she said the site is proving to
be a very effective, low-cost way to promote the charity.

"It helps raise our profile," she said. "We're well-known in the
field in the countries we work in, but we're not as well-known in the
West. It's a crowded marketplace, and we send 91 percent of our funds
overseas, so there's not a lot to spend on marketing or promotion."