The Cool Tool blog has an interesting writeup of Uclue – a beta which is offering a similar (paid) research service to the now defunct Google Answers. You ask your question, nominate the fee you’re willing to pay, and if a researcher thinks the fee is worth it, you’ll get an answer posted on the site.
“If you want advice, go to the free and free-wheeling Yahoo Answers. You’ll get your money’s worth. If you want help on a particular question that the exact right person can answer quickly, I think Ask Metafilter is by far the best guru (and it is free for members). But if what you need is some real research and serious sleuthing, the kind of answer that is not just sitting in someone’s head, I believe your best bet will be Uclue.”
One potential stumbling block is the fact that the research you commission is publicly posted on the Uclue website, rather than provided to you personally. I’d imagine that (particularly if you’re doing research for business reasons) there woudl be advantages in not publicly posting the results. But it’s an interesting business model – you pay them for the privilege of providing them with content!