The use of crowdsourcing in traditional media enterprises


Published on

Final thesis - Master's degree in Marketing and Corporate Communication

Published in: Technology
1 Like
  • Be the first to comment

No Downloads
Total views
On SlideShare
From Embeds
Number of Embeds
Embeds 0
No embeds

No notes for slide

The use of crowdsourcing in traditional media enterprises

  2. 2. There were never in the world two opinionsalike; anymore than two hairs or two grains. The most universal quality is diversity. Michel De Montaigne
  3. 3. TABLE OF CONTENTSINTRODUCTION 7PART ONE 11Chapter 1 - The rise of crowdsourcing 111.1 What Crowdsourcing is 111.2 The importance of the one percent 131.3 The role of cooperation 15 1.3.1 Barnard and his systems of cooperation as forerunner of crowdsourcing theories 18Chapter 2 - Examples of excellence in crowdsourcing 232.1 Threadless. Excellence in crowd-fashion 232.2 iStockPhoto. How stock photography has changed 252.3 InnoCentive. Crowdsourcing in R&D 28Chapter 3 - Why people collaborate 313.1 Hard work, no money 313.2 The role of motivation 32 3.2.1 Maslow’s hierarchy of needs 32Chapter 4 - Criticism and risks of crowdsourcing 354.1 Criticisms of the crowdsourcing concept 354.2 The debate about intellectual property 40 3
  4. 4. PART TWO 43Chapter 5 - Crowdsourcing in the television industry 455.1 Current TV 455.2 Glocal information in Italy 485.3 Utopia TV. Spanish journalists gathering around a new platform 505.4 YouReporter. Citizen journalism in Italy 535.5 Considerations about crowdsourcing in the television industry 54Chapter 6 - Crowdsourcing in the movie industry 576.1 Life In A Day. The story of a single day on Earth 57 6.1.2 Interview with Andrea Dalla Costa, co-director of Life In A Day 616.2 Live Music. The crowd of animation 636.3 Considerations about crowdsourcing in the movie industry 65Chapter 7 - Crowdsourcing in the press industry 677.1 CaféBabel. The European magazine 677.2 How newspapers can take advantage of the crowd 697.3 Considerations about crowdsourcing in the press industry 71Chapter 8 - Crowdsourcing in advertising 738.1 Chevrolet and the Super Bowl 2012 738.2 Zooppa. An Italian example of excellence in advertising 758.3 Victors & Spoils. An ad agency, almost just like any other one 778.4 Considerations about crowdsourcing in advertising 79 4
  5. 5. Chapter 9 - Crowdsourcing in radio enterprises 819.1 The web radio as a means of user participation 81 9.1.1 Spreaker. Users becoming deejays 839.2 Considerations about crowdsourcing in radio enterprises 84CONCLUSIONS 87ADDENDUMInterview with Andrea Dalla Costa, co-director of Life In A Day 91REFERENCES 99WEBSITES 101 5
  6. 6. INTRODUCTION This thesis provides an analysis of the phenomenon of crowdsourcing,theorized for the first time in 2006 by the journalist Jeff Howe, by studying its rolein traditional media enterprises. The work is divided into two parts. The first part defines crowdsourcing andanalyzes the relevant literature. Special attention is paid to Jeff Howe’s book“Crowdsourcing. How the Power of Crowd is Driving the Future of Business”,which extensively analyzes the subject. We also study the role of cooperation andhow it changes organization environments. In section 1.3, we compare twoopposite points of view: from the one side, James Surowiecki’s vision of a wisecrowd able to solve problems individuals cannot solve, described in his 2007 book“The wisdom of crowds”; from the other side, the completely different positionfound in “The cult of the amateur” by Andrew Keen. Here, the author harshlycriticizes the whole concept of web 2.0, stating that it is destroying our culture andour economy, throughout allowing anyone to participate, even without anyparticular proficiency. Then, we introduce the theory of cooperation of ChesterBarnard, by seeing him as forerunner of crowdsourcing theories. In his book “Thefunctions of the executive” of 1938, Barnard studies cooperation as a means bywhich people working in an organization can overtake their personal limitations. In Chapter 2, we analyze the cases of Threadless, iStockPhoto andInnoCentive, three completely different realities that allow us to understand howcrowdsourcing may be successfully applied to several diverse fields – i.e. fashion,stock photography and scientific R&D, respectively. The third chapter focuses on the role of motivation, trying therefore tounderstand what motivates people to participate in crowdsourcing projects, alsowhere economic incomes are very low or even absents. Through studyingMaslow’s hierarchy of needs, we come to a conclusion, with the hypothesis thatcrowdsourcing is a way through which people can satisfy their needs, allowingthem to find self-satisfaction by working in something they do like. 7
  7. 7. Finally, the first part presents risks and criticisms about crowdsourcingconcept, by reporting the opinion shared by many people according to whom it isa means of exploitation, through which firms obtain workforce and contributionsfor free, or by paying only little money. Here, the above mentioned Keen’s opinionhas a central role, since he affirms that collaboration is leading us to an age ofmass mediocrity. However, Jeff Howe replies to this opinion by affirming thatinstead of leading to mediocrity, crowdsourcing guides us toward a perfectmeritocracy, wherein anyone can participate and where every effort is valued forwhat it actually is. The second part of this work focuses on the real core of the thesis, which ishow crowdsourcing is used in traditional media enterprises. Every chapter studiesa specific medium, through the analysis of diverse projects, both successful andunsuccessful. In particular, the thesis describes the setting of television, cinema, pressindustry, advertising and radio. At the end of each chapter, there are some shortconsiderations about how crowdsourcing is used in the respective medium, tryingto understand whether it can be a helpful solution or not. We therefore discover how crowdsourcing projects can be suitable intelevision programs but at the same time how some ideas turn out to be a failure,because of legal and bureaucratic problems. We see how collaboration strugglesto be successfully used in radio enterprises, perhaps because of the nature of themedium itself. On the other hand, it is pointed out how the press industrypresents several examples of capacity in taking advantage of the crowd and wefocus in the case of CaféBabel, a European online magazine. Regarding advertising,we see how its need of creativity finds in the crowd a perfect source of innovationand new ideas. Finally, large space is dedicated to cinema industry. This mediumseems to be the one where skills and knowledge of professionals are neededmost, but the success of Life In A Day (§ 6.1) shows how people from all over theworld can contribute to make a great movie, even though they do not useprofessional instruments or the quality of images is not perfect. 8
  8. 8. The cases and experiences presented in this work belong to differentinternational realities. There are projects coming from United States and UnitedKingdom, where crowdsourcing is more widespread, from Italy and from Spain,due to my studying experience in Madrid during the first semester 2011/2012. Inthis way, we also try to understand the differences among which crowdsourcingprojects are put into practice and we see if there are national contexts moresuitable than others for this subject. 9
  9. 9. PART ONEChapter 1The rise of crowdsourcing1.1 What crowdsourcing is The Encyclopædia Britannica does not provide a definition of the word“crowdsourcing”. This is probably the most emblematic way through which we canunderstand what it exactly is. Indeed a proper definition cannot find space in thetraditional and former most important encyclopedia of the world. The term was first used in an article published in the magazine Wired in2006 by the journalist Jeff Howe, “The rise of crowdsourcing” (Howe 2006), and itis composed by the words Crowd and Outsourcing. The latter is an economicdefinition that describes the arrangement made by an employer who decides tohire a contractor outside his firm to perform part of the production process. This isnowadays a widespread practice, since its nature may be very different andtherefore it can be applied to any production field. Through the outsourcing a firmis able to improve his production chain, using an external source in order to realizebenefits. These can be sought in cost savings, improvement of quality, thepossibility to focus on the core business, the access to talent and to newknowledge, the possibility to consult with experts and tax benefits. Starting form this definition, crowdsourcing is a form of outsourcing givento a multitude of people through the web. The concept of crowdsourcing isdefined by the crowd itself. The people give it a shape, being the makers, theexperts, the protagonists of the project. Crowdsourcing is when a company takes a job that was once performed by employees and outsources it in the 11
  10. 10. form of an “open call” to a large, undefined group of people, generally using the internet.1 As a matter of fact, this is in nowadays reality a proper model of makingbusiness. Through this practice, an organization of any nature may appeal to anexternal community of users to participate in the creation of a content or to ratethe value of the contribution of the other users. It is basically a work made bypeers, by the people who benefit from the product or service itself. Therefore, it is very important to set up and manage a network of peoplewho participate in an active and moreover spontaneous way to the project. Technological advances broke down the cost barriers and as aconsequence, it results easier for everyone to own technology products. Theavailability of these products reduces the boundaries between amateurs andprofessionals and the spread of know-how makes everyone potentially able tocontribute to a product or service. Moreover, those who have always performed a specific practice only as ahobby, they now have the chance of leading their efforts to solve specific needs,often helping those companies that have seen in crowdsourcing a way forimproving their knowledge. From the firms’ perspective, crowdsourcing is of course a great chance,since they can actually bring fresh innovation into their work and with very lowcosts. Crowdsourcing is a wide practice that Jeff Howe has subdivided into fourdifferent categories: crowd wisdom or collective intelligence, crowd creation,crowd voting and crowdfounding (Howe 2009). The crowd wisdom contains the key principle of crowdsourcing, accordingto which, the groups have more knowledge comparing to individuals. Whatcompanies need to do is only creating the conditions in which people can express1 Definition of Crowdsourcing provided by Jeff Howe. Taken from: 12
  11. 11. themselves. The role of collective intelligence will be better analyzed later in thisthesis (§ 1.3). The second category, the crowd creation, consists in allowing the crowd toeffectively create products or services. This is particularly interesting for thepurposes of this work and all the second part, when we will describe the use ofcrowdsourcing in traditional media enterprises, contains example of this principle. The crowd voting is maybe the most used form of collaboration. In thiscase, people are required to judge and rank other people’s contributions. It resultsvery useful especially when there is need to organize a large amount of ideas. Finally, crowdfounding consists in supporting a project throughout afinancial cooperation. Here, people help an organization, a company or generallyspeaking a project, by economically participating in it. Crowdfounding isparticularly used in citizen journalism and scientific R&D, but of course, it is easy toapply it in any crowdsourcing project.1.2 The importance of the one percent With the practice of crowdsourcing, each person becomes fundamental inthe creation of contents and anyone can potentially contribute to the final project,evenly within his or her virtual co-workers. The success of the web 2.0 in all itsfields, may be them online videogames, blogs, internet forums and socialnetworking, confirms us that users do want to participate in the creation ofcontents, they do want to make themselves their part. Basically, crowdsourcing has noticed this users’ attitude and it hasdeveloped it inside firms’ boundaries. What it is important then, is to be able topick the right crowd (Howe 2009). Alpheus Bingham, CEO and founder ofInnoCentive, an R&D company that will be described in the second chapter of thisthesis, stated that the optimum size of a user-base for crowdsourcing purposes isaround 5,000 people. Therefore, quoting Bingham himself, 13
  12. 12. […] This means that if you can entice even one percent of one percent of the crowd, you would still have twice as many contributors as you ostensibly need. Now here’s the bad news: it needs to be the right people.2 Being able to address the project to the right crowd is not easy at all. Thenumber of people around the world with an internet access is around two billion.However, those who might actually be useful to the purpose are very few, butanyway potentially more than the employees of the firm. This is related to pickingthe right crowdsourcing model. In the web it is possible to find many differentkinds of crowd, hence organizations need to be capable to address their projectsto the right people, otherwise the search of collective knowledge would beuseless. The interesting fact of crowdsourcing is that the one percent wementioned quoting Alpheus Bingham can really make the difference. In addition,users who want to participate in the collective intelligence are constantlyincreasing and consequently that one percent is bound to raise. The Pew Research Center published in 2009 a survey reporting data aboutthe usage of internet between teenagers and young adults3. According to thesurvey, ninety-three percent of teens daily accesses to the web and thepercentage increased of twenty points from 2000. Between these young people,over the sixty percent of them creates contents for the web, throughoutcooperating with their peers. These data have clear implications for our economy.When these teenagers will enter the working world, they will bring their naturalweb proficiencies in the organizations, and therefore practices like crowdsourcingand collective intelligence are bound to be always more used.2 Howe 2009: 282.3 14
  13. 13. The American science fiction author Theodore Sturgeon, answering tosome people who stated that the ninety percent of science fiction is rubbish,wrote that the ninety percent of everything, such as literature, cinema andconsumer goods, can be considered rubbish. This funny quotation that becamefamous as Sturgeon’s law, results useful to describe the situation incrowdsourcing. Since the ninety percent of contributions are worthless, there isneed to rely on the remaining ten percent, which often brings even to the onepercent. Numbers may hence appear rather meager, however, sometimes onlyone contribution can be worth a project.1.3 The role of cooperation In 2004, the American journalist James Surowiecki published “The wisdomof crowds”, a very interesting book where it is analyzed the central role ofcooperation inside our everyday culture. Surowiecki upholds the idea that largegroups of people are collectively smarter than a few experts, no matter howbrilliant they are considered. Afterwards, he continues describing four conditionsfavoring the wisdom of the crowd: the diversity of opinion within the members,the independence of people’s opinion, the decentralization of knowledge and themechanism of aggregation (Surowiecki 2007). It is very interesting to compare Surowiecki and Keen’s opinions aboutGoogle and how cooperation affects the most powerful search engine. Accordingto Surowiecki, when Google was born, in 1998, Yahoo! seemed to be the topamong search engines. After less than two years though, Google became far moreused than Yahoo!, overtaking also two other search engines at that time verypopular: AltaVista and Lycos. All internet users started to prefer Page and Brin’sproduct, because it allowed them to find the sought page in less time. The reasonof its strength is indeed in the wisdom of crowds. 15
  14. 14. Andrew Keen, in his “The cult of the amateur” (Keen 2007), utterlydisagrees with this opinion, moving a sharp criticism toward Google. He writesthat the giant of Mountain View does not provide us the most reliable and usefulinformation, but only the most popular one. Keen continues his analysis affirmingthat Google is our electronic mirror, where we can find a registration of ourprevious researches. Keen’s point of view will be analyzed also hereinafter in thefourth chapter, when criticisms of the crowdsourcing concept will be studied. Surowiecki keeps upholding his opinion by reporting the example of achess expert. This might know everything about chess, but maybe only about this.He might be an extraordinary specific proficiency but it could be very limited. Andthe game of chess requires specific and localized knowledge. For other kind ofknowledge, the expert’s opinion may result insufficient. Competences like decisiontaking and political or strategic choices belong to very wide areas of knowledgeand therefore, it is difficult for a single person to become an expert in such fields.All the experiences we have had so far bring us to believe that a group of peoplecan afford better these kinds of situations, and the shared knowledge leads themto a better and smarter decision-making process. Both Surowiecki and Howe use the example of ants’ colonies to explainhow important the role of cooperation can be. The author of “The wisdom ofcrowds” quotes Steven Johnson and his book “Emergence: The connected lives ofants, brains, cities, and software”, where the American popular science authordescribes how ants behave even though there is no leader and any ant, separately,knows almost nothing about where to go (Johnson 2001). Ants never actindividually and everything they do depends on the other insects. Of course,humans can act individually as well, but ants serve as a good example tounderstand the importance of cooperation. However, in order to take smartdecisions, the independence of people keeps being a central attribute, avoidingerrors to spread over the whole group, like in the case of ants wandering in circletoward the death when they miss their colony and no one can lead the others. For 16
  15. 15. this reason, it results that the most efficient groups are made up of people havingdifferent points of view. For the British edition of his book “Crowdsourcing. How the power of thecrowd is driving the future of business”, Jeff Howe decided to crowdsource thecover design. He created a competition where anyone who wanted could submitdesigns and the crowd would vote on their favorites. As a result, four hundredartists uploaded their ideas and a crowd of around 10.000 people voted and chosetwenty finalists. After that, a jury, composed among the others by Howe himself,selected the winning cover. It portrays indeed some ants. According to the jury ofthe contest, ants represent a clever way of communicating the concept of thebook. Ants are “a sly reference to that particular insect’s use of distributedcognition to accomplish tasks no individual ant could hope to perform.” (Howe2009: 312). Beyond this example, Jeff Howe stresses the point that the cooperation isentering out lives is a continuously wider way, evolving itself and becomingsomething absolutely natural. As demonstration of this, he suggests the exampleof digital natives, who “live on the same planet of digital immigrants, but inhabit avery different universe”. They are able to concentrate on multiple projectssimultaneously and to collaborate spontaneously with people they have nevermet. For them, cooperation has always been something natural. As aconsequence, future generations will collaborate always more easily. Many examples of the use of crowdsourcing will be presented ahead in thisthesis, but already from the first pages, it is possible to understand the changes inorganizational systems. The access to external workforce and the massive use ofcollaboration bring to the evolution of human resources management inside theenterprises. Employers and employees need to deal with a larger amount ofpeople, not anymore exclusively between themselves. They face new realities thatcan also represent a threat in the organization. Therefore, companies will have tomodify their human resources management (HRM), in order to balance the risksand the rewards of the new staffing model. Employees have new coworkers and 17
  16. 16. the group dynamics change, increasing consequently the management complexity.Those who are not able to deal with the new working structure and who do notanswer quickly to the need of change will find themselves with problems in themanagement of the organization. Moreover, the HRM finds itself with the need of developing newproficiencies, which can be found once again within the crowd. If it is led towardthe right direction, the crowd is able to manage itself. Of course, there are risks offailure, but we will see ahead, by analyzing excellence cases of crowdsourcing, thatsometimes the best results are obtained when the crowd is left free to collaborateand participate. Between the advantages brought by the collaboration, there is also theunderlying improvement of the customer relationship management (CRM), sincethose who collaborate and participate in the creation of contents are oftencustomers of the organization, who want to improve products or services they willbuy or use afterwards. It starts a dialogue between clients and enterprises, leadingto a better relationship, especially through social media platforms. However, onceagain, if this opportunity is not well managed, it can lead to a worsening of therelationship.1.3.1 Barnard and his systems of cooperation as forerunner ofcrowdsourcing theories In 1938, Chester Barnard published his most successful work, “Thefunctions of the executive”, anticipating somehow many theories which havebecome the core of crowdsourcing projects (Barnard 1938). For the purpose of this thesis, it is interesting to focus especially on the firstpart of the book, where Barnard exposes a theory of cooperation andorganization. He looks at organizations as systems of cooperation where there isneed to be sought efficiency and effectiveness. The concept of effectiveness is the 18
  17. 17. same as usual, that is being able to accomplish specific stated goals. Withefficiency though, he refers to the ability of an organization to satisfy the motivesof individuals, in order to allow the organization itself to last. In the first stage of a cooperative system, choices taken by individuals havepersonal nature. With a joint effort, the individual situation of each personimproves, thanks to the higher proficiency of the collaboration. At this point,organizations reach efficiency when members find satisfaction in the cooperativeprocess, due to a shared pursued aim and a bigger confidence in the decisions.According to Barnard, there is not any cooperative system without biological,physical, personal and social elements. Every individual action brings effectiveness to the cooperation and itsefficiency is made by the joint efforts of each one. If a person finds his motivessatisfied, he continues in the effort. Otherwise, the cooperative system cannot goon. From this point of view, the efficiency of a collaborative process consists inproviding personal satisfactions for its members. Furthermore, in order to reachefficiency, an organization needs to be able to share benefits between all thepeople. The distribution process has to assure sufficient benefits for everymember of the cooperation. The amount of benefits can be either higher or lowerthan those that would be achieved individually, therefore, quoting Barnardhimself: […] In the latter case, other satisfactions secured or produced through cooperation are basis of efficiency. These other satisfactions are social.4 Social benefits assume hence a crucial role in the collaborative process andthey can substitute material good as satisfaction elements. However, in the firstchapters of his work, Barnard analyzes the effectiveness of cooperation withoutconsidering the social aspect. In this way, cooperation has its reason for being only4 Barnard 1938: 61. 19
  18. 18. when it can do what an individual cannot do, as a means of overcoming individuallimitations. Systems of cooperation are never stable, because of changes in theenvironment. Consequently, adjustments of cooperative systems imply amanagement capable to reply to these changes and, in some organizations, properexecutive figures responsible for managing them. This concept results particularlyinteresting if thought inside a crowdsourcing project. As it will be possible to see inthe paragraph about risks and criticisms of crowdsourcing (§ 4.1), the crowd needsto be guided, but in the meanwhile there is the need of a management not toointrusive, that leaves it space of direction and that can keep it inside the discussionfield. The proficiency of being able to answer these needs is one of the reasonswhy in some environments crowdsourcing succeeds, whereas in others it doesnot. Cooperation introduces changes in individuals’ motives. When thesechanges assume an unfavorable direction, they are not anymore positive to thecooperation. In crowdsourcing, this may represent a risk. Cooperation is usefulonly when it improves the motivation of participating people. According to Barnard, people cooperate to try to overtake their personallimitations, whether they are physical, biological or mental. These theories are ananticipation of what crowdsourcing actually is nowadays. Collaboration betweenpeople helps them and the organization to which they belong to overtakemembers’ limitations. If workers cannot solve a specific situation, addressingoutside the firm’s boundaries can be an excellent solution. In the followingchapter it will be analyzed the case of InnoCentive, a perfect example tounderstand this situation. As it will be shown, important firms apply toInnoCentive platform when their R&D departments are not able to find specificsolutions to their needs. It results interesting to report Google executive chairman and former CEOEric Schmidt’s idea of collaboration, who stated that generally, with the word“collaboration” people identify a group of people seated at a table talking and 20
  19. 19. sharing ideas to reach together a common aim. Differently, he refers to anotherconcept: for Schmidt, collaboration means being able to use proficiency, creativityand human intelligence with efficiency and effectiveness never seen so far.(Tapscott, Williams 2008). 21
  20. 20. Chapter 2Examples of excellence in crowdsourcing2.1 Threadless. Excellence in crowd-fashion As already mentioned, crowdsourcing can be adopted in markets veryheterogeneous between them. One of the first success cases in this field, an e-commerce website but moreover an online communityaround which artists gather together with people interested in fashion from allover the world. Jake Nickell and Jacob DeHart, or better known as “The Jakes”, startedtheir little company in Chicago, in 2000. Threadless began as a hobby and itevolved into a proper business activity after a few years. Nickell and DeHart were two dropouts at the college, though their strongpassion for everything regarding the subculture and fashion drove them to start adesign competition, letting other designers instead of a common jury to pick thewinner. In this competition, anyone could design his or her own t-shirt and afterthe judgment of the community members, the winner would have got a free t-shirt with his or her design and the proper production would have start, so thatanyone could buy it. After more than ten years, the way by which this website works is prettymuch the same and it is rather simple. Users still submit their artworks, which arevoted on for a week by other community members. Afterwards, any designreceives a score from zero to five and the design with the higher score will be printin a proper t-shirt. Due to the success of the website, Threadless increased andexpanded its production toward other objects, such as bags, fashion accessories,books and notebooks’ covers, water bottles and dishes. 23
  21. 21. You are Threadless. You make the ideas, you pick what we sell, you’re why we exist.5 The founders of this reality focus a lot in the artistic side of their project.The diffusion of underground artistic forms of expression was indeed one of thefirst reasons of the birth of Threadless. In their website, Nickell and DeHart remarktheir will to support the artist community in every way possible, trying to helpunknown arts becoming worldwide known. This is the reason why every productcarries its artist’s name. The growth of the company was very quick. Just in the two-year period2004 - 2006, Threadless had an increase in sales of five million dollars, specificallyits income jumped from $1.5 million to $6.5 million and the website registeredone million users so far (Kalmikoff and Nickell 2010). The revenues were growing500 percent every year, even though they have not employed any professionaldesigners, they have not enjoyed any retail distribution and especially they havenever advertised Threadless’ products. In this way, costs of the company are verylow and profit margins are around 30 percent. Moreover, since only theproduction of the required designs started, the firm never produces a flop. Thanks to its extraordinary quick growth, SkinnyCorp, the web agencyfounded by Nickell and DeHart to whom Threadless belong, was named in 2008“The most innovative small company in America” by the magazine Inc. Eric Von Hippel, economist and professor at the MIT Sloan School ofManagement who developed already in the 70s the concept of User Innovation,said that Threadless is the perfect example of a new way of thinking aboutinnovation, because the idea for the products comes directly from the people whouse them, instead of coming out from an expensive and risky corporate research. According to the founders, the secret behind the success of the company isthe working combination between an online art community and a highlysuccessful e-commerce business model.5 Answer at the question “What is Threadless?” in 24
  22. 22. Designers who submit their artworks to Threadless keep the legal propertyof their designs until they are selected to be printed on a t-shirt or another object.From that moment, SkinnyCorp registers the copyright of the artwork, specifyingthe company as claimant and the designer as author. Furthermore, designers whowin the competitions receive at once $2.000 cash and $500 to be used in thepurchase of any SkinnyCorp product. In addition, they receive other $500 everytime their artwork is reprinted on clothing. Hence, the motivation to participate in a Threadless contest can be eitherfor self-satisfaction, seeing a personal artwork on clothing and objects all over theworld, and for economic profit, since winners receive a fair amount of money fortheir effort. Once the design is selected, the artist cannot use, or allow others touse the design on any items, reproduce and sell it for other commercial purpose.2.2 iStockPhoto. How stock photography has changed In May 2000, Bruce Livingstone created iStockPhoto, a stock imageswebsite in which it was possible to find galleries of photos and to download themfor free. Livingstone originally wanted to join the traditional business of stockphotography, but he started having problems selling his images. He decidedtherefore to upload all the images on a website for free, persuaded by the ideathat the old way of distributing images was about to stop working. Web designersliked this project at once and they started downloading all the images they could. The following year, iStockPhoto started charging a few amount of moneythrough a micropayment model, due to the fact that Livingstone was paying$10.000 every month for the bandwidth to support the website traffic. The freemethod started to be unbearable. He did not want to take advertising to cover thecost of hosting, because he felt that it would violate the spirit of the company. Itwas then possible to buy a high-definition digital picture for less than one dollar. 25
  23. 23. People who uploaded their images on, making them public andavailable to be downloaded, got paid a royalty. The basic idea of the website is to make available a range of high qualityready-made images, suitable to be used for products, promotion, concept oradvertising. The files contained in iStockPhoto are royalty-free. It means that users whodownload them only have to pay once, even though they use the files multipletimes. The payment method works through a credit system. It means that userswho want to download an image or any other file from need tosign in and to buy an amount of credit, which price vary according to the kind ofpurchase (95 cents or 24 cents in case of subscription). The credit cost of each filedepends on its size and its complexity, from a minimum of one to 200 credits.Anyhow, this micropayment system is cheaper than any other traditional way ofpurchasing images. Besides the micropayment system, iStockPhoto take advantage of the non-monetary exchange that grew up alongside the web as well. For instance, aphotographer, either professional and amateur, is interested on uploading his orher images, because the more these are downloaded by other users, the morecredits they earn, so that they can download other images to use in their designs.Furthermore, in this way photographers increase their chances to be recognizedinside the World Wide Web. The terms of use of the material contained in iStockPhoto are not thatrestrictive. Once a user downloads a file, he downloads its license, hence thepossibility to use it in different ways. Of course, there are some prohibited uses forthis license. It is not possible to use it in any logo or trademark, pornographic orobscene works and to sub-license the files. There are now nearly fifty thousand contributors to the website. And it ispossible to find not only images, but also video and audio files and logos.IStockPhoto in a few years changed completely the way of stocking photographs,making easier for users to find what they need and giving the possibility to 26
  24. 24. thousands of professional or amateur photographers to make their images publicand to receive a royalty from them. The community has a primary role on the firm, so that Bruce Livingstonkeeps underlining its importance and the fact that users are the decision-makersof the company. They don’t work for us. We work for them.6 Thanks to its big success, in 2006 iStockPhoto was bought by Getty Imagesfor $50 million. The ownership of one of the biggest company of stock photoagency improved even more the quality of Livingstone’s project. Furthermore,iStockPhoto could implement the control and the management of the researches,making the website more reliable for its users. The success of iStockPhoto is a clear signal of how the world of stockphotography changed and all these facts demonstrate the positive results ofmaking users active participants of an online activity. More in details, with hisplatform Bruce Livingstone crowdsources to professional or amateur contributorsall the contents of the website, leaving all the other users free of downloading andusing files contained in for a very little price. Bruce’s brilliance is that he turned community into commerce.7 In all the previous systems of stocking photos, it was very expensive both inmoney and time to find images and besides the restrictions for using them werequite strict.6 Interview to Bruce Livingstone, founder and CEO of from Howe 2009: 191.7 Jonathan Kein, founder and CEO of Getty Images, speaking about Bruce Livingstone’s company.Taken from Howe 2009: 191. 27
  25. 25. 2.3 InnoCentive. Crowdsourcing in R&D Crowdsourcing may be used with excellent results also in scientific fieldand InnoCentive is an emblematic demonstration of it. is an online company born in 2001 as a start-up of EllyLilly and Company, an American pharmaceutical firm, while Alpheus Bingham andDarren Carroll were trying to find a new way through which using the internet intobusiness. They hence had the idea of creating a platform where any business couldoutsource their problems and the community could participate and try to solvethem. Basically, what they do is to connect firms with unknown and externaldevelopers. It was immediately a successful idea and in a few years, InnoCentivebecame a very reliable reality in crowdsourcing scientific matters. InnoCentive is the open innovation and crowdsourcing pioneer that enables to solve their key problems by connecting them to diverse sources of innovation including employees, customers, partners, and the world’s largest problem solving marketplace.8 InnoCentive’s methodology consists in creating a network of problemsolvers to whom any company can ask to try to develop a new solution aboutinnovation and R&D. The majority of firms that use InnoCentive (seekers, as called by thewebsite) are those that heavily rely on R&D as core value to overtake theircompetitors. Of course, research is very expensive and through InnoCentive theycan discover new tactics and find new solutions to their problems. There are morethan 250.000 scientists from nearly 200 countries to whom a firm can apply. Sofar, there have been more than 1.400 public challenges in andover 30.000 solution submissions. Data about this reality are incredible, especially8 Description of InnoCentive taken from: 28
  26. 26. if we read about the companies that everyday apply to the online community:Procter & Gamble, NASA, DuPont, BASF and Dow AgroSciences are only the mostfamous names among the thousands of companies that relied on InnoCentive sofar. Within the advantages that users can obtain by participating to a challenge,InnoCentive itself underlines three basic reasons: to make a positive impact, toexercise the brain and to promote oneself. Winning a challenge published guarantees attention and as a consequence promotion at thewinner. Many people who succeeded resolving brilliantly a challenge have beenhired from important companies or anyway they obtained job interviews withseveral firms. Just reporting on the CV the success of an InnoCentive challengemay give many opportunities in a job search. Furthermore, it is possible to winmoney prizes from $10.000 to $1.000.000. I’ve been interviewed by several magazines and periodicals, including Forbes, Business Week, Business 2.0, MIT Technology Review, The Wall Street Journal and The Boston Globe. […] I’ve been mentioned in two books describing crowdsourcing, including “We are smarter than me” and “The open innovation marketplace”. […] It gives me some cachet as a patent attorney, because it shows that I have the requisite technical background to understand my clients’ inventions. So, I have greatly benefitted from being an InnoCentive problem solver, much more than by the financial award I received.9 These just mentioned lines testify us how money is not a priority aspect forpeople who participate in any crowdsourcing project. As it will be better explained9 David Bradin, winner of an InnoCentive challenge. From: 29
  27. 27. in the following chapter of this thesis, motivations that guide them must be foundsomewhere else. Solvers that participate in the challenges are researchers, professors,inventors, students or generally speaking, people who have passion in scientific orbusiness fields and want to find a solution to a problem. A very interesting factabout this way of making research is that often people that win a challenge arethose that usually work in a different subject respect the one they participate for(e.g. geologists resolving chemistry challenges). This aspect might be consideredan example to understand how sometimes is useful addressing to external solvers,in order to bring new ideas and to foster innovation. In fact, trying to go outsidethe boundaries of the company, looking for new people and technologies capableto open the innovation toward new target, is the first target of a firm that decidesto crowdsource a part of its supply chain. Giorgia Sgargetta is an Italian chemist, but moreover she is the perfectexample of how InnoCentive and generally crowdsourcing work. After a Ph.D. atPerugia University and many years of experience in research laboratories ofdifferent Italian firms, she now works for as quality manager in a firm near herhome. Since she misses a lot the laboratory work, she found the opportunity tokeep making research by participating in InnoCentive challenges, “to challengemyself and for curiosity”10. In 2008 she won $30.000 by finding the solution to aProcter&Gamble problem. Working in her kitchen, become a laboratory for theoccasion, she created a dishwasher detergent that could reveal when more soapwas needed.10 From I’m a Solver – Giorgia Sgargetta, in InnoCentive Blog, 30
  28. 28. Chapter 3Why people collaborate3.1 Hard work, no money The common belief makes us thinking that one of the priorities of doingany kind of job is a gain in terms of money. Though, firms which crowdsource partof their activity, they not always give a financial prize to who participate or find anew solution. Therefore, there must be something else that motivates people toparticipate in a crowdsourcing project. As a proof of this, Jeff Howe, while analyzing the online community ofiStockPhoto, argues that people in such communities react with great hostility tothe idea that crowdsourcing is a means by which companies save their costs. Hesays they do not feel exploited (Howe 2009). Nevertheless, Howe affirms that thecrowd is willing to dedicate its time and its capacity enthusiastically, but of coursenot for free. It has to be a meaningful exchange. The meaning becomes thecurrency by which people measure their contributions. In order to understand the marginal role of money in crowdsourcing, it isinteresting to quote the funny sentence with which Howe concludes his book:“And, oh yeah, maybe make a few bucks on the side”. The choice of writing thissentence as the very last one in the first and most important book aboutcrowdsourcing is meaningful to understand how money is not so important forpeople who decide to participate in this kind of projects. Of course, it oftenhappens that firms offer them a reward for the best contributions, but this is notcertainly the reason why people decide to collaborate. From the point of view of organizations, they do need to motivate thecrowd, it is part of their interests. When firms are able to foster the participation,they find themselves in a new situation, fulfilling their needs of talent andinnovation and moreover, with very low costs. 31
  29. 29. No matter who you are, most of the smartest people work for someone else.11 The sentence just mentioned is enlightening in order to explain theadvantages that crowdsourcing can bring into organizations. In many fields, thecrowd will likely outperform the employees, sometimes even where proficiency ofexperts is essential, as demonstrated by describing InnoCentive (§ 2.3). Of course, there are risks as well linked with the decision of crowdsourcingpart of the supply chain. In particular, it happened that organizations have beenaccused of using it as a mere means of exploitation, with the only purpose ofhaving innovation and new ideas without paying for them. This case will be betteranalyzed in the following chapter.3.2 The role of motivation3.2.1 Maslow’s hierarchy of needs In 1943, the psychologist Abraham Harold Maslow proposed the theorycalled “Hierarchy of needs”, which provides an explanation of the needs that guidehuman behaviors. According to Maslow, the hierarchy has a shape of a pyramid, inwhich at the bottom it could be found the basic levels of needs. Once satisfied thefirst need, it is possible to move upwards in the pyramid to satisfy the followinglayers. The self-satisfaction of a person is reached throughout the various layers ofthe pyramid. The whole pyramid is sustained by physiological needs, such as breathing,feeding, sleeping, sexual satisfaction and all the other basic needs necessary forsurviving. The second layer regards the safety needs, hence including health andwell-being, personal security, financial and employment security and the11 Bill Joy, cofounder of Sun Microsystems. Taken from Howe 2009: 11. 32
  30. 30. possibility of living in a safe area. If a person feels threatened, it is not possible forhim or her to reach the self-satisfaction. Further up, there are the social needs,such as love and belongingness. Concepts like family, friendship and sense ofbelonging to a social group are included in this level. Being in a social group, mightbe professional, sportive, religious or any other smaller group, avoids people socialanxiety and loneliness. The following Maslow’s level regards esteem needs. Thesecan be categorized as external and internal motivators. The first ones are those ofreputation, recognition and generally the sense of esteem coming from the otherpeople, whereas the latter ones are part of the individual, such as self-esteem,self-respect and accomplishment. The levels mentioned so far belong to the deficitneeds. According to Maslow, it means that if you are not able to satisfy them, youhave a deficit, you feel the need. Finally, only once satisfied the deficit needs, it is possible to reach the topof the pyramid, made by self-actualization needs, the development of a person’spotential. This level regards each one’s desires and it is never fully satisfied,because there are always new opportunities to continue to grow. Only a smallpercentage of people reaches this last lever in the hierarchy pyramid. Of course, Maslow developed his theory sixty years ago and there aremany criticisms about it. The theory makes sense from an intuitive point of view,but many critics affirmed there is little evidence to support its functionality.Others accused the American psychologist to have a very individualisticperspective, since he analyzed only his country setting and therefore the theorycannot be applied to other cultures. Maslow himself changed it and implementedit in his following works. He added for instance the need for aesthetic andknowledge before the self-satisfaction one. Anyway, for the purpose of this thesis, this theory is very helpful to let usbetter understand what motivates people to collaborate. Dropping the gaps thisMaslow’s theory has, we have to focus on the role of need contained in it.According to Maslow, a need arises when an individual realizes the differencebetween a real situation and a desired condition of things. Moreover, a need 33
  31. 31. satisfied is not motivating anymore and thus, from the opposite point of view, aneed is not motivating until the previous ones are satisfied. These conditions help us to understand what motivates people toparticipate in collaborative projects like crowdsourcing ones. If a person is not ableto reach the self-satisfaction level with his daily occupation, he or she very likelywill tend to find it somewhere else. For instance, it often happens that a persondoes not work in the field he/she wanted or in the one he studied for. To satisfyhis deficit needs, there has to be found any other occupation that consents him tosurvive. Thus, this person will seek the satisfaction by doing what he really likes.Crowdsourcing may represent an opportunity to him and he will be well-disposedto work in a project even though he will not get paid. The crucial point is thatpeople, when they are not able to fulfill their satisfaction needs inside theboundaries of the workplace, they seek more meaningful work outside their dailyoccupation. In paragraph 2.3, while analyzing InnoCentive website, it was mentionedthe example of Giorgia Sgargetta. She represents an emblematic case about thistheory. As a matter of fact, she participated in the challenge after leaving thelaboratory job for working as quality manager near her home, so that she couldbetter dedicate to her family. Anyway, she was still willing to go back to her oldoccupation, since she missed a lot the laboratory activity and she found inInnoCentive the opportunity to do it. In this way, she has been able to satisfy herdeficit needs with her daily job and her self-satisfaction ones by participating inInnoCentive challenges. 34
  32. 32. Chapter 4Criticisms and risks of crowdsourcing4.1 Criticisms of the crowdsourcing concept Since the beginning of its use, there are a lot people who have seen incrowdsourcing a means by which organizations can bring very low cost innovationin their products or services. In these terms, to crowdsource an activity is seen as exploitation, sincefirms that use it address to the general public, either professionals or amateurs,students or people working in completely different fields. InnoCentive, the caseexplained in the second chapter, is an emblematic example of this theory. It isseen merely as a shortcut to have creativity and innovation at a very low prize. Asa consequence, those whose primary activity is the one is crowdsourced, arguethat their professionalism fades into the background, leaving space to everyone toparticipate in the creative contribution. On the other hand, organizations that daily use crowdsourcing assert that itis just a way to bring creativity, fresh ideas into the companies and to involve usersinto everyday processes. In this way, the customer becomes a real co-worker, notonly somebody who buys a service or a product. Being able to use this workforce, spontaneous and qualified, is a great opportunity through which small and medium enterprises may become competitive, also comparing to the bigger ones.12 Speaking about exploitation becomes meaningless when we considercrowdsourcing as a new business model, which gives to the firms the chance to12 Interview with Gioacchino La Vecchia, CEO of CrowdEngineering, during the Milan Social MediaWeek of 2010. Taken from: 35
  33. 33. improve their production system. The expertise of professionals is not replaced. Itwould simply work together with the “wisdom of the crowd”. The change is very fast and clients’ requests are evolving in a completelyradical way. Hence, firms cannot restrict themselves to their internal proficienciesand resources to satisfy external needs. What they need to do is to develop adynamic relationship with all their stakeholders, clients, competitors, partners andpublic administration. (Tapscott, Williams 2008). In 2004, the American journalist of “The New Yorker” James Surowieckipublished a book called “The wisdom of crowds”, in which he analyzes the powerof crowds in resolving problems of any nature. According to Surowiecki, thecollective thought of a group of people could be more helpful than the opinion ofan expert. On the web, it is possible to find thousands of cases in which this concept isdemonstrated, from blogs to wikis, from forums to social networks, and maybethe success of Wikipedia is the best one to understand it. Firms use this conceptthrough crowdsourcing their activities, in order to bring new creativity or to solveproblems their employees are not able to solve. Of course, this may cause severaldoubts and discussions within professionals and experts. In the summer 2011, The Italian Minister of Labour and Social Politics,through its agency “Italia Lavoro”, published on, a social advertisingplatform that will be analyzed later, a contest for the creation of a spot video, acommercial art and a graphic art, in order to promote the system “BuonoLavoro”.13 To whom that would have won the contest, “Italia Lavoro” raffled off22,000 ZOOP$, shared within the three sub-contests.14 Despite the quite high amount of money, this competition has generated abig debate within the professionals of communication. Many of them assertedthat the contest of a public authority would have reduced the value of the creativeartists. Ilenia Boschin, community manager of Zooppa Europe, tried to solve thegenerated polemic by explaining that it is not possible to lead the discussion to a13 Complete brief of the contest: For the explanation of Zooppa economic system see §8.2. 36
  34. 34. choice between not considering the professionalism of experts and exploiting thecreativity of the crowd not paying them or paying very little. Zooppa is anadvertising platform itself, it means that the Minister of Labour or any other firmthat publishes a contest in the website has already programmed his advertisingstrategy, through the opinion of experts. Publishing a contest is already anadvertising campaign itself. Furthermore, the communities who participate inZooppa contests are very often made by professionals.15 Other criticisms about the concept of crowdsourcing regard the waysources are checked and how reliable the contents coming from the crowd can be.About this debating point, it is very interesting to quote the opinion of FriedaBrioschi, founder of Wikimedia Italia. To control the reliability of the contents, you just need to let the crowd doing it. And this is the way Wikipedia works. Everyone can write but everyone can also check the articles. Clearly, people have different interests. Not everyone writes and not everyone check. […] Having a potentially countless number of writers and editors allows us to obtain many information and to have them constantly checked and adjusted. Therefore, in the long term Wikipedia becomes a reliable product. […] The crowd rewards you, but only if you play with its rules.16 This quote introduces the risks and the drawbacks that can be found incrowdsourcing an activity. Of course, what the crowd creates should be constantlychecked, but on the other hand, it is very important to let the crowd leading thecreation of contents. The role of the firm that decides to crowdsource an activity is15 For the whole debate and Zooppa’s answer see Interview with Frieda Brioschi, founder of Wikimedia Italia, during the Milan Social Media Weekof 2010. Taken from: 37
  35. 35. to stay behind the scenes and to provide only the guidelines the crowd needs tofollow. Another crucial problem might be given by times and deadlines. Leavingthe crowd leading the creation of contents sometimes means not having thecorrect perception of what is happening and of when the final results will beavailable. Thus, it is important to fix deadlines for submitting the contributions,even though this can lead to the loss of precious contributions or collaborators. Inaddition, the quality of results is not always guaranteed. Often, it happened thatmany projects did not reach the waited success or anyway the results were notthe ones useful to the final activity. Nicholas Carr, the American writer who published in “The Atlantic”magazine the provocative article “Is Google making us stupid?”, was the first onewho talked about a “cult of the amateur”. In 2005, he wrote on his blog,, an essay titled “The amorality of Web 2.0”. Through this text, Carrexplains his criticism against the limitation of the blogosphere, accusing it to besuperficial and affirming that “the promoters of Web 2.0 venerate the amateurand distrust the professional”17. In his book “The cult of the amateur” of 2007, Andrew Keen reopens Carr’sarguments, moving a strong criticism toward the celebration of collaborationthrough the web. He argues that we are diving headlong into an age of massmediocrity, in which the crowd replaces experts. He continues his analysis arguingthat the digital revolution is destroying our culture and our economy, leadingtoward an age of “mobocracy” (Keen 2007). Of course Keen is really skepticalabout all the positive contributions that can be found by addressing to a multitudeof people. It is interesting to see how Jeff Howe, in his book “Crowdsourcing. Howthe power of the crowd is driving the future of business”, deals with Keen’sanalysis, considering it a nice critical point of view but providing in the same timehis answer in favor once again of his ideas.17 38
  36. 36. I share Keen’s concern, if not his general condemnation of social media. Google, YouTube and Digg all constitute a form of mob rule, and as their importance increases, so does the mob’s influence. But there’s a fine line between mobocracy and democracy, and some tolerance of the former is generally required to achieve the latter. Crowdsourcing […] corrects a long-standing inequity. The culture industry has long been controlled by a select few, and as any tour of prime-time network television reveals, they haven’t had too much trouble finding the lowest common denominator all on their own. If anything, a dose of democracy could be just the tonic the culture industry needs.18 Instead of talking about “mobocracy”, Howe prefers referring tocrowdsourcing as a way by which moving toward a perfect meritocracy. On July 5th1993, around the time Internet was first making its way into mainstream culture,Peter Steiner published in The New Yorker a cartoon featuring a dog sitting in frontof a computer saying “On the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog”19. The cartoonbecame rather popular and it can well describe the situation of peopleparticipating in collaborative projects and how crowdsourcing leads to a perfectmeritocracy. With it, nobody knows whether people participating areprofessionals or not. Works are evaluated just for what they are.18 Howe 2009: 246.19 39
  37. 37. 4.2 The debate about intellectual property Together with the criticisms just above mentioned, crowdsourcing raised aswell problems dealing with the property of the contents. It is difficult to assign theownership of a collective work to a single person. There is a big debate around theintellectual property of the contents on the web. Andrew Keen upholds again that the web 2.0 and all the cooperativeprojects are seriously compromising the intellectual property. He states that itresults impossible to determine to whom the collaborative works belong. And so itis for the reliability of contents. At this purpose, Keen shows the example of blogs.It is not possible to know whether the contributes come actually from people,from the crowd or if they are the work of paid spin doctors or even of the authorhimself. (Keen 2007). It is interesting to quote Frieda Brioschi’s answer, founder and president ofWikimedia Italia, when she was asked to whom it belongs what is created by thecrowd. She used the metaphor of a jigsaw puzzle, imagining a group of peoplecompleting it together. It is impossible to say who has the ownership of the finalwork. The value of intellectual property in cooperative works is meaningless. Whatis important is the value of content.20 Already in 2005, the novelist William Gibson publishes in Wired magazine“God’s Little Toys. Confessions of a cut & paste artist”, an article which tried tosolve these arguments. He wrote that it does not make sense anymore to discussabout the property of contents, basically because people care about participationmore than they do about the ownership of their creative works. Our culture no longer bothers to use words like appropriation or borrowing to describe those very activities. Today’s audience isn’t listening at all – it’s participating. Indeed, audience is as antique as term as20 Taken from: 40
  38. 38. record, the one archaically passive, the other archaically physical. The record, not the remix is the anomaly today. The remix is the very nature of digital. […] The recombinant (the bootleg, the remix, the mash-up) has become the characteristic pivot at the turn of our two centuries.21 Keen quotes the same paragraph, but of course with a completely differentattitude, complaining about how the “Cut & paste culture” is destroying the wholecreative world. It is very interesting how Gibson closed his article, by affirming thatwe are living in a particular moment, where the record (an object) and therecombinant (a process) still coexist. Nevertheless, it seems to him to be clear thedirection toward which things are going. It is true that who participates in crowdsourcing, or generally speakingcollaborative projects, does not claim the ownership of his or her work. As wehave seen in the chapter dedicated to the role of motivation, the primary aim ofthe crowd is to take part in a cooperative project and to feel member of acommunity. In any case - and this theory will be confirmed in the second part of thethesis, when single cases will be analyzed - most of the times, when a contributereaches good results, organizations recognize the ownership of the idea and aneconomical reward is usually granted.21 Gibson 2005. Also available at 41
  39. 39. PART TWO This thesis has analyzed so far some excellent cases regarding theapplication of crowdsourcing in different fields such as scientific R&D,photography and fashion, achieving excellent results. In the web then, it ispossible to find other thousands of notable examples and every week newwebsites dedicated to this subject rise. The analysis now moves over, focusing on the core of this work: how mediaconsidered traditional ones crowdsource their activities or part of them. In the digital age, traditional media enterprises need to reorganizethemselves. For this purpose, crowdsourcing may represent a means by whichmedia can use a new approach in order to involve their users in the change ofsetting we are experiencing due to the web. We try to understand whether this concept can be applied to mediaindustries like television, radio, journalism and cinema, fields where the feedbackof users and their contributions have always been a key resource to reach qualityresults. The analysis proceeds through dedicating a chapter to each traditionalmedium and describing every time cases of excellence in their fields, in order tounderstand better the situation. At the end of each chapter, there is a paragraphreporting some considerations. 43
  40. 40. Chapter 5Crowdsourcing in the television industry5.1 Current TV Current TV is an independent television network founded in 2005 by theformer American Vice President Al Gore and the politician Joel Hyatt. They had theidea of creating a new channel after been continuously disappointed by theexisting ones. Their aim was to launch a viewer-generated television that couldbroadcast people voices, away from any political orientation. Unlike most other cable networks on the dials, we are not owned by one of the large media conglomerates. We are independent and that means we have the freedom to air programming that shines a light where others won’t dare and boldly explores important subjects through intelligent commentary.22 Since its beginning, Current TV has always tried to bring the intelligentinternet into the television. What distinguishes Current from the othercrowdsourcing TV platforms is the high quality of its contents. The videos are inmost cases finely made from a technical point of view. This is due to the fact thatoften collaborators who decide to participate in Current projects are video makersindeed. The quality of contents is witnessed also by the Emmy Award received in2007 as “Best Interactive Television Service”. Current has a well-defined target, the young-adults between eighteen andthirty-five year-old. The audience is therefore used to simultaneously use differenttechnologies and moreover is a well-educated audience. This fact gave a goodcontribution to the development and success of the channel.22 Taken from: 45
  41. 41. Outside the United States, Current TV was available in the United Kingdomand in Ireland, where it closed in March 2011, in Italy and it is currently availablein Canada and South Africa. Even though in Italy Current finished its broadcasting on July 31st 2011, itrepresented an utterly new television experience in the country. When Current arrives in Italy in 2008 [May 8th], the country finds itself in front of a completely different market situation, comparing to the one the channel found itself in more developed media markets such as in US and UK. Therefore, offering to a target defined as young- adults (18-35) independent information and in-depth documentary offer, was something utterly new and the idea was followed by other media in the following two years. We’ve found somehow favorable circumstances. Our mission was a very high and difficult one, which was proposing to an audience usually not interested in in- depth news and cultural-political journalism, exactly that kind of offer, wrapped up, communicated and somehow reported in a new way. A way that no one had experienced yet, either in Italy or in other countries.23 In Current TV website, the word “crowdsourcing” is never mentioned. Theyprefer referring to Current always as Viewer Created Content platform, in order tounderline the role of the viewers-collaboborators. Across the years, Currentbecame a real cross-media platform, perfectly integrating internet and televisionand other media. An example of this is given during the inauguration of Barack23 Taken from the interview with Paolo Lorenzon, marketing director of Current Italia, made by th“Wikiclasse” on November 24 2010, during the course “Methods and Techniques ofCommunication” of Edoardo Fleischner.The whole interview is available on “Ariel 2.0” ( for students and teachers ofUniversity of Milan. 46
  42. 42. Obama as President in January 2009, broadcasting the event simultaneously ontelevision, web streaming, web radio and liveblogging on Twitter. In the United States, Current is a rather big reality, counting on around fourhundred employees. The channels does not deal only with user generated contentor crowdsourcing. Many of its services, as for instance the investigative journalismprogram Vanguard, are realized by professional reporters, from differentcountries. The collaborative model of Current improved across the years, in fact nowit does not speak anymore of Viewer Created, but of local reportage. Among thecollaborators, many of them are professional filmmakers, communicationstudents, freelance journalists who effectively live the stories they tell in theirterritory, but they cannot find any room in mainstream media to present them. Current is anyway first of all a television channel, offering a televisionschedule. The distinguishing aspect from other TVs or web TVs can be found in thefact that often Current draws its contents from censured and unedited material. Filmmakers participating in the project know the topics wherein Current isworking, through a shared agenda, and they find in the channel the platformwhere they can share their experiences. Despite presenting itself as a bottom-up television, only the thirty percentof what is broadcasted is actually made by viewers. As a consequence, Current isnot a fully channel with contents realized by users, but anyhow it results a veryinteresting reality to understand how the crowd contributed to its success. Since2009, the way of creating contents has evolved and many videos are substitutedby authentic documentaries, acquiring also unedited material. Current integrates its crowdsourcing model by giving the possibility tousers to create commercial ads themselves. With the VCAM (Viewer Created AdMessage) projects, the crowd can indeed create and submit commercials24. Thebest submissions will be acquired and broadcasted, giving, beyond a financialearning of thousands of dollars, also a great visibility to the winners, since the24 47
  43. 43. name, nickname and picture of them are always inserted at the end of the spot.Together with its commercial brands, Current relies on the fact that theparticipative advertising model is nowadays the best one. To testify the success ofthis way of advertising, brands like Warner Bros, Canon, Mini and Samsung areamong the ones that participated in VCAM project.5.2 Glocal information in Italy is an Italian web television channel that deals with local videojournalism. For now, it is only available for the cities of Milan and Rome, but thegoal is of course of spreading all over Italy, with newsrooms in all the mostimportant cities. The objective of the project is to report the realities of Milan and Romethrough the direct eyes of their citizens. As indicated in the website: is made by people for people themselves.25 The editorial staff, made up of professional journalists, manages a team ofvideo reporters. The most interesting aspect of the project though, is the fact thatthe newsroom crowdsources part of the phase of collecting news, by allowinganyone who has shot a video to submit it to the website, either broadcasting it liveor uploading it on the website. Who decides to participate in the project bysubmitting videos, does not receive any income, unless the video is sold toanother network. In this case, the author receives the sixty percent of the totalamount. Contents of can regard any form of information, from culture topolitics, from fashion to sport, from music to technology. In any case, everythinghas always a local connotation.25 48
  44. 44. The eighty percent of the videos present in the website is made byprofessionals. Therefore, only a part of the contents is crowdsourced. However,amateur journalists or video reporters have the possibility of becomingcorrespondents of their own geographical areas, or collaborators for a specificfield. During the course “Methods and Techniques of Communication” ofprofessor Fleischner, the “Wikiclasse” had an interview with Marco Di Gregorio,founder and director of C6.tv26. In the interview, Di Gregorio was asked whetherthe citizen journalism model, with anyone allowed of making information, couldbelittle the profession of journalism. He stated that the participation just makesthe journalism different. The profession itself has changes. Journalists do not seekanymore news directly themselves. For economical reasons, they wait pressagencies to send them pieces of news. As several time underlined in this thesis, inthe time we are currently living, anyone with a cellphone or a cheap camera ispotentially able of becoming a reporter. However, the reliability of sources andthe authenticity of information are still fundamental. This is where the figure andthe proficiency of professional journalists have a central role. The duty of newsrooms might somehow leave the traditional tasks ofwriting articles or shooting news services. However, they need to control thecontents, of course not in order to censure them, but to check their reliability. It isvery important to understand where the video comes from, who shot it. Duringthe interview above cited, Marco Di Gregorio underlined this aspect, quoting theexample of a political demonstration. If they publish a video submitted by aparticipant of the protest, they do clarify the author, so that viewers canunderstand without being afraid or having doubts about the newsroom’s politicalideas., through its model of business, is a successful demonstration of howthe way of making journalism has changed and how it is currently evolving towardan always more collaborative one. Their idea is that having a higher amount of26 th The interview took place on November 24 2010 and it is available on “Ariel 2.0”( for students and teachers of University of Milan. 49
  45. 45. users, they would logically have a higher level of pluralism of information. Thecollaborative journalism can be the solution to the dictatorship of information. Consequently, aims at enlarging its number of collaborators, coveringmore cities in Italy and finally trying to overtake the boundaries of the web tobroadcast in television as well.5.3 Utopía TV. Spanish journalists gathering around a new platform Utopía TV is a Spanish web television channel born in November 2011 froman idea of the journalist Enrique Meneses, together with his colleagues KikeÁlvarez, Pepa Gonzáles, Lola García-Ajofrín and Rosa Jiménez Cano. Their projectwas born after being disappointed by the Spanish networks situation, where theycould not find space anymore to express their ideas freely. A TV which is an adventure. A team looking for ideas and solutions. Join us and participate.27 Those who participate in Utopía TV are mainly Spanish journalists tired ofthe existing press situation. The whole idea rose during the 15M Movement andthe Indignados one, as part of a series of demonstration in 2011 and 2012 inSpain. Since the political and economical situation is rather difficult nowadays inthe country, people try to find ways to change it peacefully. Utopía TV is exactlyone the results of these protest movements. Enrique Meneses and his colleagues decided hence to create a televisionchannel, because this is the most followed medium in Spain and moreover it is themost accessible one to everybody.27 Description of the project in its Facebook page. Taken 50
  46. 46. Decided to demonstrate what I’m saying, I suggested myself to seek a crazy idea and, as defender and lover of adventure, I decided to create a television channel. […] Everybody thinks there is need of a million Euros to do it and the first solution that always comes to mind is to apply for a bank loan. I chose another solution, a way of thinking more “reasonable”.28 As stated by the founder Meneses, Utopía TV wants to be a televisiondifferent from those already existing in Spain, with the will of being close topeople protesting against the Spanish situation, broadcasting national andinternational informative news and cultural programs. Furthermore, one of theaims that guide the whole project is to show people how it would be possible tocreate a TV channel without much money.29 The voluntary collaborators were paidwith a currency created for the occasion, the “Pichulin”. The name comes from theword with which Spanish soldiers used to call the foreign currency during the warin Bosnia between 1992 and 1995. One “Pichulin” corresponds to one Euro andthe idea is to change them one day, when the project will achieve a biggeraudience and consequently higher benefits. Meneses decided not to receive anyincome from advertising, in order to be as free and independent as possible. Already since the early beginning of the project, Utopía TV could count onalmost fifty collaborators between journalists and computer technicians. Themajority of participants were professionals, but of course, anyone may find spacein Utopía TV to tell his own opinion and to become himself a voluntary journalist.The only prerequisite was to truly believe in the cause. In an interview, the website of the press association of Madrid, Meneses affirmedthat since the beginning, there were about four hundred requests of collaboration,28 Taken from: Source: 51
  47. 47. from journalists from Morocco, Egypt, Persian Gulf, Palestine and other countrieswith difficult political situations.30 This may be considered a demonstration to understand that people weremotivated to participate in Utopía TV because of the will to change and to actuallydo something in order to modify a situation they could not bear anymore. Everything in the project was rather easy, without requiring any specificproficiency or the use of professional instrument. They simply opened a YouTubechannel wherein they posted all the videos and the interviews.31 The purpose of Enrique Meneses and his team was to enlarge the project,becoming a sort of crossmedia platform, adding to the television channel also aweb radio and informative magazines, everything with the form of voluntarycollaboration. However, since the end of the year 2011, it is not possible to find any newcontribute, either in the website or in the YouTube channel. They did not publishany official piece of news declaring the end of the project. In a post published inhis own blog, dated 24th December 2011, Enrique Meneses wrote that after thenew Spanish government from November 2011, the bureaucracy difficultiesincreased and it resulted very difficult to sustain a voluntary project like UtopíaTV.32 According to what he wrote, it would seem that, at least for now, the wholeproject has been interrupted. Nevertheless, Utopía TV has been a demonstration of how crowdsourcingand collaboration may result useful also in circumstances where people cannotfind their information space or when they attempt to change a situation.30 Source: Source: 52
  48. 48. 5.4 YouReporter. Citizen journalism in Italy is an Italian good working project of citizen journalism. It isa bit different from a mere concept of crowdsourcing, since there is not a properfirm that outsources a part of its supply chain to the crowd. It might be consideredmore as a user generated platform. Anyway, it still is an excellent example of howparticipation and crowd contents are used with success in television and more indetail in television journalism. Users are allowed to upload into the website videosrecorded with any kind of camera, either professional ones or, more frequently,compacts ones and cellphones. The primary aim of YouReporter is to gather many pieces of news from allover the country and from different points of view, throughout the contributionsof anyone. Together with you, we aim to enrich the world of communication. We want to give a face and voice also to those small pieces of news which do not become national cases, maybe only for the distance or distraction of professional journalism troupes.33 Of course, the quality of the images is generally quite low, but the successof YouReporter is due to its ability of being always among the first news agenciesshowing a fact. Moreover, it allows national and local newscasts to use andbroadcast videos uploaded in the website, with the unique condition ofmentioning website and of displaying the logo. The same rule isavailable to be applied also to any other website. One of the strengths ofYouReporter is in fact the possibility that it gives to other websites and especiallyto national newscasts to broadcast its videos. Because of this, YouReporterreceives a huge visibility and therefore always more amateur video reporters33 Taken from “Company Overview” in 53
  49. 49. upload their video in this platform. Furthermore, they have recently released amobile application. However, for now it is available only for iPhone and iPad.Through the app, contributions of users are even simpler, since they can uploadtheir news videos directly from the mobile device and consequently the idea ofimmediacy of YouReporter becomes even more concrete. The success of the project is witnessed by the media channels that havebroadcasted YouReporter videos so far. Between them, the most important Italiannewscasts, such as TG5 and TG1 and also international ones, from the British BBCto the American CNN and NBC, until the Arabian Al Jazeera. As we have seen, YouReporter is a reality constantly improving, thanks alsoin this situation to the increase of availability of camera-provided devices, so thatmore users who witness and record a fact can easily upload their contributions.This is a good example of how crowdsourcing can be used in a very useful way ininformation too. Here, users are definitely not replacing professional newsreporters’ work, but they only add more pieces of news providing them from adifferent point of view. Professional journalism will not be threatened by this formof reporting, since the quality of work is very different. While one is focused onreliability of information, good quality services and control of sources, theamateur journalism of YouReporter results useful and important for its immediacyand its proficiency of reaching a massive amount of information, even in hiddenpart of the country.5.5 Considerations about crowdsourcing in the television industry Television is probably the medium where the evolution brought by web 2.0is felt most. Since its debut in 2005, YouTube utterly changed the way of watchingvideos, arriving to producing itself TV series available only on YouTube. Of course,the Google’s video-sharing website refers more to UGC (User-generated contents)rather than to crowdsourcing, the crowd is not asked to participate in a specific 54
  50. 50. project. Nevertheless, its popularity and its dimensions are helpful to understandhow much people want to create themselves videos and to be part of the change.John Seabrook published an article in Wired Italia magazine, in the number of May2012, where he forecasts a future where the television as traditionally known willbe entirely substituted by YouTube (Seabrook 2012: 66-71). In the article, it isreported an interview with Robert Kyncl, vice-president of Google’s department“TV and entertainment”, who states that the television is always more dealingwith niche markets, allowing advertising to reach a specific audience. The web isthe best medium able to satisfy these niches. Users create themselves what theywill watch afterwards, without much attention to the quality of images. Inaddition, contents cost almost nothing in terms of production and anyone cansubmit his or her contributions. Speaking more specifically about crowdsourcing, all the cases analyzed inthe previous paragraphs (Current TV,, Utopía TV and YouReporter)demonstrate how these kinds of projects could work on television. This is still themost followed medium, the one where prizes for advertising spaces are highest.The big potential of the medium though, brings also to big threats and risks. Manyprojects are short-lived, ending after a few months. Utopía TV for instance,seemed to be a brilliant idea, and it apparently had a fairly high amount offollowers since its beginning. However, the last video uploaded on the YouTube’schannels is dated December 2011. Therefore, as better explained in paragraph 5.3,the project lasted only a short time. Regarding traditional television channels, the situation is more elaborated.Usually, the television industry is a very concentrated one, where professionalsstill have a central role in the creation of contents. Since times are very narrow,users’ participation is less direct, at least concerning the actual creation ofprograms. Between 2005 and 2009, it was broadcasted in Italy the channel QoobTV, launched by MTV Italy, where all the contents, both music videoclips andprograms, were made by users through collaboration. This channel obtain asatisfying success, especially within the Italian underground music scene, thanks to 55
  51. 51. its schedule, which gave space to niche realities broadcasting independent short-movies and videoclips of unknown musicians. However, also this project endedbecause of bureaucratic and legal difficulties. Although we have seen how sometimes it can be complex for users toparticipate in the creation of contents, they are involved in traditional televisionchannels in another way. The large majority of successful programs takeadvantage of the crowd, throughout asking them to rank participants in theshows, especially in talent ones. As stated also by Jeff Howe, people have theopportunity to vote on the protagonists of the shows they like, and the act ofputting such decision on a vote is a form of crowdsourcing (Howe 2009). 56
  52. 52. Chapter 6Crowdsourcing in the movie industry6.1 Life In A Day. The story of a single day on Earth On June 6th 2010, an advertisement appeared on YouTube, announcing theproject of a collective movie. It was about Life In A Day, the first social movie ever.The original idea came from Kevin Macdonald, British director who won theAcademy Award for best documentary feature in 1999. He initially wanted to seeka way to elevate the amateur YouTube videos into an art form. YouTube viewerswere therefore asked to film their whole day on the following July 24th and tosubmit their videos within the end of the month. What I want to do is to make a film, unlike any film, I think, that’s ever been made before, which is to ask thousands of people, everywhere in the world, on a single day, to film some aspect of their day and to post that material onto YouTube. […] It’ll be kind of like a time capsule, which people in the future could look at that and say “Oh my god, that’s what it was like”. A portrait of the world in a day.34 Macdonald’s aim was hence to provide a snapshot of a single day of the lifeon Earth lived by any person in the world. It was given absolute freedom to theparticipant in the shooting. They were only asked to answer three questions: whatthey fear the most, what they love and what they had in their pocket in thatprecise moment. Above that, they needed to film an ordinary day of them, whatthey normally do in their life.34 Kevin Macdonald speaking about Life In A Day. Taken 57
  53. 53. More than 80,000 people from 192 different countries of the worldanswered the claim and submitted over 4,500 hours of footage35. For the finaledition, they were selected videos of 334 people. Between them, there wereprofessional filmmakers and directors but also amateurs of the video camera. Theresult that came out from all this material is a ninety-five minutes documentaryfilm. The movie was produced by Ridley Scott and his movie productioncompany Scott Free, together with YouTube. After a huge editing work of fourmonths36 by Macdonald and the editor Joe Walker, the film received a greatsuccess at its premiere at Sundance Film Festival in 2011. Macdonald and Walker used a sort of restricted crowdsourcing also in theediting phase of the movie. They asked indeed film students, filmmakers anddocumentary makers with languages proficiency, since videos came from all overthe world, to watch the clips, to rate and to tag them, in order to make the finaledition easier. The selection stage was the longest one and certainly it wasimpossible for the director and the editor to do it only by themselves. On October31th 2011, it has been released the DVD version of the movie and furthermore ithas been made available to watch for free on YouTube, with subtitles in twenty-seven languages.37 The general judgment from the critics was positive and it achieved also amassive success in terms of views. The YouTube channel has registered over 35million views and more than 150,000 subscriptions so far38. Of course though, themost interesting think about Life In A Day is the fact of being the first experimentof social movie. Moreover, the idea came from professional people working in themovie industry. It is important to underline how the availability of technologies allowed amassive number of people to participate in the project. The possibility of owninggood quality equipment at an affordable prize leads many amateurs toward the35 Source: Source: Spring 2012. 58