It's Not About The Crowd

04 Aug 2009 12:00 AM | Anonymous
John Winsor
VP/ Executive Director of Strategy and Product Innovation
Crispin, Porter + Bogusky

I’m really excited for the conversation I’ll be having with Edward Boches in Boston entitled All About Crowdsourcing on the August 5th.  To prepare, I’ve been having lots of interesting conversations with folks on the subject. One thing that constantly surprises me is the amount of emotion around crowdsourcing. It’s made me reflect on what’s happening at a deeper level. It feels like I’ve seen this disruptive play before. On a long bike ride yesterday it came to me.

I started my first company in 1986. It was based on a radical paradigm shift and I was able to take advantage of it. I decided to buy a magazine, Rocky Mountain Running News to use it as the foundation to start a larger magazine entitled, Rocky Mountain Sports. The purchase was only possible because of a radical shift in technology. Instead of paying $35,000 for typesetting, annually, I was able to buy a Mac Plus, a 20MB hard drive and a laser writer for $23,000.  I was also able to get a beta version of Quark. Then, it was essentially a type setting program for macs. That seems surreal now, doesn’t it?

So, there I was trying to figure out how to typeset my magazine. It was trial by fire.  I was a complete amateur. While I didn’t need our typesetting house for the body copy of the magazine, I still used them for the occasional ad.

The first few issues turned out much better than I thought they would. But, you should have heard the professional typesetters. When they saw the issues they just laughed and talked about what awful kerning and leading the magazine had and that the choice of type was horrible. Every time we talked they said, “This amateur desktop publishing thing will never work. You’ll be back.”

We all know how the story ended.

My sense is that we are in the midst of another such revolution. This time, it’s all about connectivity. Now people can participate in culture by going on line. They don’t have to move to the right city or work for the right company to be involved. It doesn’t matter whether their an amateur or a professional, people now have the ability to work where they want, with whom they want and how they want. We’re evolving, as Eric Raymond so aptly put it, into a world ruled by the creative bazaar instead of the world of cathedrals that agencies have created.

You can call it crowdsourcing, co-creation or open source innovation, the crowd is here is to stay and will produce more and more creative content. The big questions are: How do you manage and inspire the crowd? How do you make meaning from all of their input? How do you build brands in such a noisy environment?

I hope you can help answer some of these questions with us either in person or via Twitter.


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