With public trust in institutions, including media in the broad sense of the world, at an all time low, there is a need for media owners to do more to win back trust of their consumers. This is even more so an issue in a world of Brexit and Trump, where media companies stand accused of having lost touch with the views of large swathes of their populations.
It is an accepted imperative for media brands to get closer to their audiences, to foster closer connections and to build trust. Recently we looked at how tech could help offer solutions, featuring platforms and projects such as Hearken, The Coral Project, Civil Co (see the stories about comments sections and outsourcing engagement to social media, quoting Hearken, The Coral Project and Civil Co, here and here), and Google News Initiative's Perspectives. We also had Hearken's Jennifer Brandel (watch the video) and The Coral Project's Andrew Losowsky (watch the video) at the recent Digital Innovators' Summit, speaking about how journalists and communities can get closer together.
Getting wisdom from the crowd is of course not only something for the journalists in a media organisation to do, but can be extremely valuable to the business side too. Dominik Grau, chief innovation officer at Ebner Media Group, and Simon Schneider, an entrepreneur in among other areas crowdsourcing, recently got together to discuss open innovation, crowdsourcing and its continued, all-round value to publishers.
Accessing the wisdom of the crowd goes back to an experiment by the French scientist Francois Galton who in 1906 at a livestock festival asked 800 attendees to guess the weight of an ox. To his amazement, the crowd’s guess in average was absolutely spot on and proved that a large enough crowd can outfox the smarts of an individual expert in certain circumstances. In the early 2000's this model re-emerged due to the growth of the internet and access it gave to every firm’s employees, customers and suppliers.
For instance, Starbucks has been running its crowdsourcing platform MyStarbucksIdea.com for almost a decade now since 2008. Hundreds of thousands of customers are uploading ideas, vetting the best ones and the company has already implemented 300+ ideas from the crowd in its stores as far as we know. Its most famous product improvement happened when the crowd invented the little green stick to stop hot coffee from overflowing when carrying it around or driving with it.
Publishers can follow platform strategies like Starbucks did, collaborate for instance with the likes of Kickstarter or set up external think tanks with colleges or universities. Or they can collaborate with other publishers in innovation labs, focusing on crowdsourcing ideas for or about the products of such a lab. Most publishers also have many readers who already create content, for example in the comments sections of articles, social media mentions or reviews of apps and services. We believe that is an area publishers should really investigate more as the potential for a certain specified crowd of readers to suggest new ideas and write content is immense.
One of the biggest mistakes that companies make is that they take the participation of their crowd for granted. ‘Oh they will love it’ is typically the initial mindset, which often resulted in nice platforms that become ghost communities soon. We recommend that you need to calculate an (im-)balance of what you ask from the crowd and what you give them.
Only if you have at least a 10x ratio of benefits to effort, you will get the crowd to participate.
Ask yourself: what motivates the readers and why are they on my media platform? We’d argue that for instance a magazine with B2B specialists in cement should rather focus on reputational items that helps participants to stand out from their peers than rewarding them with micro-payments of € 0.50 per up-voted idea. We have learned that these readers would for example be most motivated by free access to webinars or seminars hosted by industry professionals or influencers from their peer group.
Crowdsourcing is a process that makes teams more open and transparent which is a good thing on the one hand. But it also makes CXOs somewhat uncomfortable to give away some control of their product to the crowd. If you have never done something like this, the first important step is to get your staff on board and then take it from there together with a dedicated crowdsource manager who has a budget, freedom to fail, flexibility to pivot and a deadline that’s not set in stone.
Successful open innovation projects take time and experimental environments are best with a certain unpredictability built into the projects. Such ideas in fact need to make managers a little uncomfortable because we need to move outside of comfort zones by ceding some control to allow the crowd to co-create.
The first step is to get your co-workers on board. Starting with an internal co-creation project that is led by your CEO will acclimate your workforce to the platform and its powers before you let it loose on your readers.
Think of at least 10 or 15 very creative employees who have already shown an interest in or a focus on idea generation in undefined environments. They are the beta group who will eventually lead the first co-creation effort.
Then start with one topic or one key area that is relevant to the immediate future of your business. Generate ideas with the beta group and let them coordinate the whole workflow freely.
Get stories like these directly in your inbox. Subscribe to our (free) FIPP World newsletter.
To get a better sense of such group workflows look at processes like design thinking, minimum viable products, lean management, and rapid prototyping.
While their approaches may be different they all lead to one end goal: extremely efficient workflows at low costs that scale small ideas generated by a group towards a functionable product that can be tested and optimised quickly.
Once this beta group is comfortable with one or some of the aforementioned workflow techniques start inviting the first external users to the strictly controlled internal idea generation environment.
Let them add their ideas either through phone conferences, messenger groups, Slack, onsite meetings, idea boards like forums or similar platforms, and guide them along the way. As soon as this enlarged beta group has shown the first promising results, ask your participant to invite 3 to 5 friends each to make the group even larger – voila, your first crowdsourcing initiative has just begun..
This is how most of the successful crowdsourcing projects at media companies have made their first steps towards useful resultse begun. And this is how you can replicate it.
By Dominik Grau & Simon Schneider
Dominik Grau is the CIO of Ebner Media Group.
Simon Schneider is an entrepreneur and UK Director of ECSI Consulting.
More like this
[Sponsored] Recently the WoodWing team traveled to London for the FIPP World Congress. For those of you who haven’t been lucky enough to attend yet, the FIPP World Congress is the largest and most high profile media event in the world. It brings together the world’s leading multi-platform media publishers and industry suppliers, to explore the latest trends and solutions.25th Oct 2017 Opinion
Digital editions have been around for a long time, going all the way back to the late 90's. But in 2010 when the iPad hit the digital runway, publishers jumped on the tablet bandwagon faster than they could shout, “Hallelujah!”. The struggling publishing industry had found itself a saviour.16th Oct 2017 Opinion
With Facebook and Google predicted to take half of the World’s total digital ad-spend in 2017, it’s no surprise that other players in the industry have raised concerns. But by updating their own data offerings to better reflect advertisers needs, media owners can keep pace with changing digital trends.25th Aug 2017 Opinion
If I were to ask you to describe the Internet of Things (IoT), I expect many of you would start to talk about how new technology is revolutionising the internet, providing “anything connectivity” through advanced networks, sensors, electronics, and software. And you wouldn’t be wrong.24th Aug 2017 Opinion
The Future Today Institute recently published its 2018 report into the emerging tech trends that are likely to shape the publishing industry in 2018. Here, we speak to Amy Webb, the founder of the organisation, about the development of study, and explains how better scientific modelling undertaken today can help us to predict future technologies.20th Nov 2017 Features
The Facebook and Google duopoly are creating huge shifts in the allocation of advertising budgets. What does this mean for publishers, brands, and agencies? A panel of industry experts gave some answers during a recent panel discussion at the FIPP World Congress.20th Nov 2017 Features
Bloomberg Businessweek re-launched earlier this year with an ambitious objective to become the number one truly global title for business leaders in a connected world. Editor Megan Murphy was at the recent FIPP Congress in London to explain how they have gone about this.16th Nov 2017 Features
Deborah Joseph is appointed chief content officer of Glamour, a new position created to lead the vision for the beauty-first, digital-first media brand, it was announced today.16th Nov 2017 Industry News
The customer is king and as such can be hard on any brand that doesn't fulfill his or her expectations to the fullest. According to a new report by SAP Hybris, customers worldwide have several reasons to turn their backs on brands.20th Nov 2017 Insight News
Visit our Youtube channelFIND OUT MORE
FIPP newsletters allow you to keep up with industry trends, research, training and events across the worldFIND OUT MORE
Get global coverage of your launches, company news and innovationsFIND OUT MORE
What’s happening now, what’s coming next