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Just Say No: Crowdsourcing Content

May 25, 2011

Crowdsourcing sounds like a great idea for naming, brand marks and even presentation design at companies such as 99designs or crowdSPRING.  Harness the power of a distributed creative “braintrust” to surface new ideas at low cost.  And fast.  We get it.

But now we’re hearing about taking crowdsourcing to a whole new level.  There’s fundraising for startups through crowdsourcing firm Profounder, and there’s crowdsourcing content through CrowdedText.

Profounder calls it “crowdfunding”.  Given the small amounts of monies that online communities are willing to give, crowdfunding can represent an alternative source of angel or incubator funds, but hardly a source of serious, six- or seven-figure funding required to build a tech startup.

The Wall Street Journal did a fine job of commenting on the crowdfunding trend just a few weeks ago.

The interesting trend that is a bit of a head-scratch to us is the notion that tech startup clients can successfully crowdsource content, such as a white papers or technical document.  Frankly, we’ve never seen it.  To build page views, website traffic, lead flow, and ultimately, authority, requires quality content.  And quality content takes time, talent and subject matter expertise.

We work with a stable of writers who have honed their craft over many years and many clients.  They know how to create and structure useful content for startups that provides meaningful information in accessible formats that are good enough to last and get re-purposed.

Don’t get seduced into thinking that quality content comes easy.  One of the reasons that so many blogs are unsuccessful is that delivering quality content is hard.  It’s that simple.  Crowdsourcing content really is too good to be true.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. John Zussman permalink
    June 4, 2011 6:21 pm

    Thanks for this insightful piece. I think crowdsourced content can be useful for open-source developer documentation, where programmers share tips, tricks, and code snippets. Programmers often skip the carefully crafted PDF documentation anyway and go straight to the sample code.

    But for other kinds of documentation, white papers, application notes, and almost any material where the way the message is presented is at least as important as the factual content — yes, you absolutely want a writer who can craft the message and tell the story. It’s hard, as you say, but worth it.

    By the way, Amazon has recently launched a project called Amazon Studios where screenplays are essentially crowdsourced! I’m not sure I’d want to see the movies that result.

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