Written by Megan Samuels
Need a centuries old mathematical theorem solved or a consumer-generated commercial for a product? No problem, there’s a crowd for that.
What’s Crowdsourcing? Crowdsourcing is like outsourcing, but different. Instead of hiring an outside firm to, say make shoes or iPads, crowdsourcing relies on non-specific volunteers all over the world to perform the task via the Internet. The volunteers are not usually paid for their efforts, but projects are often incentivized with cash, prizes and/or recognition.
The term, “Crowdsourcing” was coined by Jeff Howe in Wired magazine in 2006, but it’s actually not a completely modern concept. In the 1870s, an Oxford philologist by the name of James Murray had a little project he needed help with so he took out ads in newspapers for assistance. The task? Only to index and find quotations of usage for every single known word in the English language. No biggie–and in just 60 or so years, it was finished, becoming what is now known as the Oxford English Dictionary (OED).
Obviously, things get done much faster over the Internet! There’s a modern version of the OED project that nearly everyone who goes on the Internet unknowingly participates in. Did you realize that every time you prove you’re human by entering a CAPTCHA code, it’s more than likely you are transcribing text from old books that optical character recognition was unable to pick up? It’s called “ReCAPTCHA”, a crowdsourcing project developed at Carnegie Mellon University.
Crowdsourcing for Fun and for Free: Many of our favorite online resources only exist because of Crowdsourcing. Wikipedia anyone? I don’t know about my fellow students in the MCM Program, but I have at least 10 Wikipedia references in my research papers. Granted there’s probably a fair amount of inaccuracies, but topics often include references with links, and those links lead to even more information on the subject you seek. It’s a good thing.
So is there a marketing potential for crowdsourcing? Ask the Doritos people about the Crash the Super Bowl campaign www.crashthesuperbowl.com. A Google search for this campaign receives around 6 million hits. Also referred to as “participatory marketing” the campaign has continued for the past five years and has garnered publicity and buzz way beyond any marketing budget could have hoped for. The $25,000 prize for winning is a mere pittance compared to the brand equity Frito-Lay has been able to bank. And as Frito-Lay Chief Marketing Officer Ann Mukherjee puts it, “I have 25,000 ads in the can…and they’re free!” Click here to watch a few. They’re pretty funny:
Crowdsourcing has its detractors, especially ad agencies and graphic design firms as the ad campaigns. Crowdsourcing sites like 99designs.com allow businesses to hold contests to see who comes up with the best logo from a pool of designers from all over the world. The payout to designers is pretty low and agencies feel that it is taking business away from them.
Since it looks like Crowdsourcing isn’t going anywhere, you may want to acquaint yourself with some of the finer details of what defines it. There are certain characteristics that define Crowdsourcing with corresponding examples of sites that meet some or all of the criteria:
a) There is a clearly defined crowd
b) There exists a task with a clear goal
c) The recompense received by the crowd is clear
d) The crowdsourcer is clearly identified
e) The compensation to be received by the crowdsourcer is clearly defined
f) It is an online assigned process of participative type
g) It uses an open call of variable extent
h) It uses the internet
In Conclusion: Not that this subject is anywhere near over, but this blog is. Crowdsourcing is here to stay and that doesn’t seem to be such a bad thing, especially when you consider that the concept has evolved into more benevolent channels. “Crowdfunding”, where people from all over the world donate sums from tiny to huge, can fund such endeavors as small businesses in the developing world (Kiva.org), equipment and supplies for cash-strapped public schools (Donorschoose.org) and creative projects (kickstarter.com).
Burstein, D.D. (2011). 5 lessons in participatory marketing from Doritos’ “Crash the Super Bowl” and CMO Ann Mukherjee. Fastcocreate.com
Estellés-Arolas, E and González-Ladrón-de-Guevara, F. (2012). Towards an integrated crowdsourcing definition. Journal of Information Science (38) 138. pp. 189-200.
Hongkiat.com Blog http://www.hongkiat.com/blog/what-is-crowdsourcing/