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How crowdsourcing will ultimately add value

Most publishers cringe at the thought of crowdsourcing. Publishers often believe they exclusively own the art of content curation and they feel threatened when they sense others encroaching on their turf.

It’s hard to argue with that logic, especially in our disrupted world where the publisher’s role is under attack from self-publishing, free content and authors with their own platforms. That’s why every publisher should rethink the role they play and determine how to remain relevant in the years to come.

I believe crowdsourcing will eventually be a very powerful tool for all publishers. One of the key problems with crowdsourcing today is that it’s little more than a buzzword and most crowdsourcing efforts are poorly coordinated and leveraged.

Imagine this scenario in the future: A newspaper publisher allows members of their community to create remixes of the paper’s original content. Additionally, they not only allow, but they actually encourage the community to integrate it with content from other sources, including the “competition”. These derivative works will benefit from the interests and curation skills of highly passionate community members. It’s a blend of bloggers and “professional” content, for example. 

What’s in it for the community curators? If the publishers are smart, they’ll create affiliate programs where the publisher sells access to these crowdsource remixes and the curators earn a share of the resulting revenue. This also helps those curators build brand names of their own, potentially ones the newspaper might want to hire full time. Think of it as a feeder system for new content talent.

Now let’s look at the opportunity for book publishers. What if the publisher allowed the community to create their own editions of books? Let’s say you want to read that new blockbuster book about marketing strategies. What if a marketing guru read it before you, highlighted all the critical elements and inserted additional, relevant notes from their years of experience? Now you have a book that has significantly more value than the original edition. The publisher can probably charge more for this edition and pay the marketing guru a portion of the incremental revenue. Over time you’d see multiple digital editions of books. Would you pay more for the “Seth Godin Edition” of that marketing strategy book, where Godin didn’t write it but he highlighted the important stuff and inserted a bunch of related insights?

Most existing publishers will balk at all of this, worrying about the additional layers of complexity, a modified review process, etc. As the incumbents reject it we’ll see yet another new chapter of The Innovator’s Dilemma unfolding right in front of us as startups will fill the void; after all, startups don’t worry about new processes and whether it’s OK to break the old rules.


Adam Engst

The question, as always, is if crowdsourcing will add value or not. With books, I'm dubious, not because there's anything wrong with crowdsourcing, but because books entail significant amounts of effort and attention, and my experience is that essentially no readers are willing to provide that these days. Sure, you might get someone who submits a few corrections, or sends email arguing with a particular point, but notable changes that would actually add enough value to a book for it to be saleable on its own as a new title? In my 20+ years in the technical publishing world, I've never seen that happen (though I was very happy when an MIT grad student voluntarily tech edited one of my books about the Internet, and made a ton of great, if minor, comments).

For there to be a major new work to be created in this fashion, I think you'd need a single person - the marketing guru in your example - who was willing to put in the kind of effort necessary. That's interesting, but it's also not crowdsourcing, it's relying on the motivated individual. For crowdsourcing to make a real difference, we'd need a platform that makes remixing content from books easy, much as Wikipedia provided the platform for many individuals to contribute to the overall work in very small ways. Without that platform (and without a publisher built around the concept of crowdsourcing, such that they'd be happy to waive copyright), I can't see it happening.

cheers... -Adam

Dennis Triola

I vividly remember the reaction from many traditional (print) publishers in the early 1990s. They were reluctant to embrace digital media because it would diminish readership and cannibalize advertising and subscription revenue. Does "head in the sand" ring a bell?

One of my colleagues reminded me that we needed to "do it to ourselves before someone does it to us." It took a while before I really understand what I was being told, but once I did (and applied it), our brands not only survived, but they prospered. I knew it was a new world when our digital products began increasing our print revenue! Who would have thought it?!

The lesson I learned was that we always need to be open to new/emerging ideas. Don't run from them, but figure them out. The magic is to be on the cutting edge and not the bleeding edge...

Today's audiences are more sophisticated and selective than ever. We need to provide them with content the way they want to receive and digest it.

ثبت شرکت

great post thank you for sharing

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