Last week, I highlighted three companies that, for one reason or another, have welcomed the emergence of crowdsourcing with open arms. Video game mods allow players to add their own content, LEGO’s CUUSOO brings fan-created models to store shelves, and amateur pornography… well, enough said.
I promised you then, dear readers, to soon reveal what makes these companies so right for crowdsourcing. And so I come to you today to present the two key traits that these companies share.
The first trait is intrinsic, meaning that it has to do with the very nature of an industry; either they have it or they don’t. This trait is the fact that these industries all represent pastimes that are typically enjoyed alone.
- Lengthy single-player games like Half-Life and Skyrim can’t really be enjoyed in a large group; add to this the “geek” stigma still surrounding video gaming, and you get a hobby that tends to be solitary.
- It’s fine for kids to play with LEGO, but when it’s full-grown adults we again see a stigma preventing mass public acceptance.
- Porn? Figure it out yourself.
If you’re getting ahead of me, you’re calling BS at this point. “That’s nonsense!” you cry, “I go to LAN parties and arcades, there are a million local LEGO groups, and there’s even such a thing as adult movie theaters and kink communities…”
“Ah but you see,” I’d say in response, “those groups are specifically designed for enthusiasts.” Unless you’re a big fan of the aforementioned activity, you wouldn’t seek out these groups. And these aren’t universal interests like art, movies, or music; if you can’t find a special group with which to share your passion, you’re stuck going it alone.
This is the key element that makes these industries ripe for crowdsourcing. They have a highly passionate user base who unfortunately is largely unable to share their passion. But given a platform on which to present and the guarantee of a similarly eager audience, enthusiasts are more than willing to show the world what they’ve created.
Furthermore, we’re seeing some crowdsourcing efforts fail for the movies, music, and art industries specifically because they are so popular and universally accepted. Businesses pick up on the fact that vast amounts of money can be made, and it becomes a game based around competition instead of shared passion. Keeping the subject matter specialized guarantees that the only people who will seek it out are the truly interested.
This segues nicely into the second trait, which is less intrinsic and more reactionary. It is this: LEGO, gaming, and porn all noticed that people were getting into their products enough to want to create their own. So they let them. It’s so simple it’s hard to tell if it’s the effect or the cause. But often the only thing an industry needs to make crowdsourcing work for them is to simply let the people who want to help do so.
Let’s not be unreasonable, of course; you should still definitely make money off them. Crowdsource a LEGO set design, but sell it retail or on the official website. Allow game mods, but not without buying the “vanilla” copy of the original game. And (by all means!) solicit amateur porn, but put it on a website that’s absolutely dripping with paid ads. Profits soar, you toss the original creators a (tiny) cut of the earnings, and everyone walks away happy because they have inexpensive, high-quality new content.
After these pieces came into place for me, I had to look back and check to see how many other campaigns grew from typically insular activities that were given a chance for public recognition. It didn’t take long to find several. It would seem this is the real deal, so if you’re hoping to take advantage of crowdsourcing, here’s your bottom line. Tap into previously silenced interest groups, and simply let them help. Control the process, but if you give a passionate person the ability to enact some real positive change, you’re going to be pleasantly surprised every time.