Crowd wisdom, some assembly required

Scott Karp points out the difficulty in waiting for the monkeys to write Shakespeare and Ian King reminds us all that free content requires filtering that costs time and money.

Both are talking about the NYT bit on Heinz’s ketchup-stained UGC ad ploy.

Which brings me to the point: User-generated advertising content should be amateurish. That’s the whole idea. You’re trying to appeal to an audience that prefers YouTube to slick production values. They’re looking for people who look and act (and are lit) like themselves. That’s pretty basic stuff, I thought.

Now let me put on my news hat: User-generated news content must be edited. (Damn, I just felt my workload increase.)

Seriously, it’s all well and good to aggregate the YourTownNameHere Flickr tag on a community site, but you’re going to need to keep an eye on it, depending on your audience and how much they like your publication.

If we’re talking about crowdsourcing the news, then, yes, the wisdom of the crowd is fully in play.

But if you put out a call for comment and get 100 replies and 4 of them lead to sources, congratulations, you’ve done well, because it’s not the 96 people with an opinion that are going to make your story, it’s the 4 with a personal experience to share. Find them. Give them places to talk to you and give them places to talk with each other.

The Ian King post closes with this:

“Don’t tap the wisdom of the crowd; it doesn’t exist per se. Find the wise people in the crowd, and tap into them.”

I’d expand that: Tap into the crowd of 100 to find the 4 wise people and then do it again and again with every story. Pretty soon you’ll find yourself with a field of community leaders to do some of that UGC filtering for you. (Ah, now I feel my workload going back down a notch.)

6 thoughts on “Crowd wisdom, some assembly required

  1. Hmm. Can I sum up this entire episode? “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.” Wow. Who’d have thought it. Actually, when I first saw the NYT article, I didn’t even bother to read it. Why? Sounds like it was sourced from a Madison Ave. PR company looking to maintain their client list. Honestly, did anyone *really* think mining UCG wouldn’t take work?

    I think your final point is spot on – use the “wisdom of crowds” (I’m beginning to hate that term) to weed out the real nuggets of wisdom.

  2. I’ve been trying to figure this out with a new community news site I’m helping build at the moment. About the time a guy posted a photo of his acupunctured foot through our flickr feed, we started thinking, “Maybe we should moderate this a bit.”

    The central question we keep asking is: What content needs to be controlled, and what doesn’t.

    And yes, I realize I haven’t said what this site is. More on that later.

  3. Ya know, I read the article and I thought, “wow, so youtube is fillin’ up with videos about Heinz ketchup, a pretty boring and old brand, and all of these weird creative people are having to think in completely new ways about said boring old brand which in turn will make me and other people like me think about that boring old brand in a new way…”

    If all Heinz was looking for was a cost savings, then they didn’t get it from the get go.

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