Monday, June 18, 2007

Crowdsourcing with the interweb


With the ushering of Web 2.0 and giants like Flickr and YouTube, the hot thing in interactive advertising is user created/generated content. Merging entertainment with utility, the companies launching these sites have managed to create low-overhead by placing the onus of fresh, engaging material on their own user base. The fact that this even works in the first place is pretty impressive, considering cited malaise of internet users, and moreover is exciting in the fact that it demonstrates the millions of online users want something to do. No one has been more successful at converting this desire to "do something" into direct profits than Threadless. On the online t-shirt retailer solicits designs from their user base. Every single t-shirt Threadless produces was designed by a member of the site, who was rewarded with $1,500 in cash and another $500 in merch.

Today's Post, which can be woefully out-of-date in reporting the goings on in the interactive front, has a decent article chronicling Threadless' rise as well as tracking how other companies are trying to leverage the burgeoning internet work force into doing all of the work for them. For each company that achieves wide-spread success there are a dozen more that failed miserably attempting the same.

What separates one campaign from another?
Clearly, to achieve some kind of success with user-generated content your offering needs to fall into one of two categories:

  • 1. pay money for winning submissions

  • 2. provide content that is intrinsically desired by online users ~ which probably has a traditional market analog (video, imagery, video games)


  • The idea of paying for the material is becoming even more dominant as firms look to pay at least a small proceed to producers of ideas, video and imagery that contribute. By paying a premium for fresh content from your users, you in turn drive up traffic, which results in higher advertising returns. It's akin to banking loans. The bank pays you a small amount of interest to keep your money in the bank, which they are then able to loan out at higher rates. Banks are really profitable. An model that follows a bank's model is good. Ergo, paid user generated content is good.

    Simple. As. That.

    Incidentally, my buddy Eric designed a shirt that Threadless produced. It's almost out of print though, so better get it now.

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