By Tom Lloyd
For every potential market that the internet creates, it also provides means to best engage and exploit it. This is best exemplified by the proliferation of crowdsourcing in recent years. In its most basic form you could describe the entire content of the internet as a form of crowdsourcing, a central hub populated with information from multiple users. Take for example Wikipedia, a central database updated with the world’s knowledge. Crowdsourcing in the sense that we are concerned with has more specific applications, but is essentially the same model, many people contributing to one location or idea.
The concept of crowdsourcing has been jumped on in particular by creative industries, as there are a number of benefits to be had in comparison to traditional models and procedures. Let us consider a couple of case studies:
Mycroburst is an online crowdsourcing platform for graphic designers, offering low cost logo and website solutions to individuals or businesses. At Mycroburst.com customers can fill out an online brief, this can outline general ideas, colour themes, company information, anything that will assist the designer. From here the brief is posted to a global community of designers for seven days, with a guarantee that at least 30 design pitches will be returned. The customer can choose between the designs and communicate directly with the designer, making any changes that they would like.
Design work can be very expensive, setting companies back hundreds if not thousands of pounds. This does not present a problem for huge multinationals, but for small start-up businesses, the expense can be too much. However, starting at just $199, Mycroburst is a viable solution for many small companies looking to revamp their business and a clear advantage to crowdsourcing.
By lowering the industry entry level, corwdsourcing can hugely reduce costs. Anyone, from any background can submit their work with the possibility of winning a contract; you do not have to be professionally qualified, or indeed work from a fancy office: a computer and a creative mind are all that is needed. With minimum overheads, creative contributors can work for much smaller rewards than would be conventionally meted out.
Mycroburst and the numerous similar sites operate with colossal crowd networks, ensuring many responses to every brief. However this can return varying standards of work, with unpredictable outcomes. Whilst this could be argued as the beauty of crowdsourcing, some companies have tried to harness the power of the crowd in a more organised and restrained way.
Guided is a creative agency that ‘guides fans to brands through a blend of digital, social, experiential, content and PR.’ ‘Social by design and creative by nature’, Guided employs a hybrid crowdsourcing model that allows them to harness the benefits of traditional creative industries, but with a wider frame of cultural reference.
Based around a central team of strategists, creative talents and project managers, Guided appears at first glance to be no different from any other creative agency in London. However, its hugely innovative take on crowdsourcing sets it apart with some spectacular results.
Rather than simply opening a brief to the floor, allowing a free-for-all among the creative community: Guided has nurtured a network of expert collaborators from every corner of the technical and cultural worlds, who work with the central team to execute projects. This controlled blend of tradition and cutting edge crowd thinking is as unique in its formula as it is in its results. Founder, Sam Reid uses the analogy; “free-range Vs battery farmed: less formulaic but with a more nourishing end product,” to describe the Guided model.
Minimising the number of in-house staff benefits creativity in the sense that you have no house-style, no same old predictability or tendency to stick to what you know. However, perhaps even more importantly, fewer permanent staff means lower running costs; Guided only hires those who are essential to an individual brief. It is this cost effectiveness that has allowed Guided to thrive in an ailing economy, offering clients tremendous value at a time when they need it most.
Guided’s outstanding performance was recognised in this years Guardian MEGA Awards for Digital Innovation, beating some very well established competition in the category for Best Digital Campaign. The winning project took a fresh approach to book signings, celebrating to great success the launch of Sir Alan Sugar’s new book with the world’s first interactive Twitter signing.
There is of course some opposition to the development of crowdsourcing, particularly in creative industries. These gripes focus primarily on the notion of unpaid labour. That is to say, some people consider the lost hours working on unsuccessful pitches as an unjust travesty. This is perhaps a valid point, with some companies like Guided bucking the trend, paying contributors for all work up until the point of their exclusion form the project. However, in the more conventional crowdfunding models, it is usually only the successful candidates that get paid. This troubles those in traditional creative companies, as the relatively low costs of crowdsourced work threatens the livelihood of their own profession. And yet a great deal of people, many thousands in fact, sign up to offer their services with companies like Mycroburst, aware of the potential risk.
All said and done, crowdsourcing offers both creative and financial incentives whilst lowering the barriers to entry in the creative industries. This can only be a good thing, and those in opposition need to adapt if they are to survive in a world where everyone can create.
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