Friday, January 4, 2013

Crowdsourcing is bad for many reasons

Let me start by pointing out that I'm something of a hypocrite.

I have competed in a crowdsourcing pitch or two - mostly because they are for radio and nobody seems to be hiring us to do much radio these days.

And I really like to do radio.

So I figure even if I don't win, I get an assignment to write a spot or three on my own time. And if I get anything, I get something.

But I still think crowdsourcing takes advantage of creative people by asking them - sometimes many of them - to do spec work. It just feels like they're taking advantage.

I guess in theory it's a "victimless crime", because a) the clients gets more (and different) ideas than they'd get from a single agency, b) the firm that puts it together makes some money, c) somebody gets the work and d) nobody is forced to do it if they don't want to.

Except that many of the people who participate in these things are creative people who are out of work or could use more work than they have and thus are willing to give it away in hopes of making some cash. And I really hate to see creative people taken advantage of.

Yeah, the many-ideas-and-you-only-pick-and-pay-for-the-ones-you-like is a great model for the client, but it's predicated on the proposition that people will take a shot at it for no guarantee of compensation.

But, like I said, nobody makes me or anybody else do spec work.

But here's the real problem I have with crowdsourcing. In many cases, it trains clients to expect a lot for a little. In the case of the people I have done a little bit of work for, if I "win" I'm making as much as our agency would typically charge for a radio assignment, but that's not always the case.

There is another firm that sends out briefs on a regular basis and they ask for fairly ambitious responses - not just some spec thinking but also all sorts of credentials stuff. And it's almost always low-ball. Like a recent one that was for a brand strategy and public relations campaign. Total budget is $5,000 and that includes the middleman's 20% cut. So it's really $4,000 for whomever does the work.

But what this means is that someone has told this client that they can get a brand strategy and PR campaign for $5,000. And if they can - which sad to say they probably will - how are they ever going to understand what they really, truly ought to be paying for this kind of stuff?

You know, I'm really not all that opposed to someone setting up a company to act as a sort of freelance agent giving people a chance to pitch for work. And if someone wants to do spec, that's their decision, you know?

And I believe that at least the one company I have worked with seems to have reasonable budgets - at least for radio.

But I get kind of queasy about anything that is going to condition clients to think they can "get it for less" just because there are so many people out there who could use the work that they will pitch it at any price.

Years ago, I was talking to another agency owner at a softball game and at the time, it was a real seller's market for creative talent. The dot-com bubble had yet to burst and it was pretty easy for writers and art directors to demand - and get - high salaries. "I'll be glad when the shoe is on the other foot," he growled.

Could be crowdsourcing is here to stay as the new and best model. Then again, if the economy gets moving and creative folk are working again, fewer and fewer are going to be willing to pitch spec work for bottom dollar.


curt rice said...

I ran a "crowdsourcing" contest for a 1mn video to promote a website, and got some feedback of exactly the kind you are touching on here. That was important and it's not hard to understand. So, I went hunting for prize money, and was able to give 3 prizes of eur1500, which i think made it a little better. I described the contest process here:

will write for beer said...

which crowdsourcing site does radio assignments? (asking for a friend.)

will write for beer said...

which crowdsource sites do radio? (asking for a friend.)

will write for beer said...

which crowdsource sites do radio? (asking for a friend.)

will write for beer said...

which crowdsource sites do radio? (asking for a friend.)