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Crowdsourcing: Murderer Or Disruptive Tech?

Wired’s Jeff Howe, who coined the term “Crowdsourcing”, wants to know that his word isn’t killing your industry.

It’s killing all industries.
Just kidding, “changing.” That’s the word, though Howe said at the Circus that he fears for his own future in journalism.

Photography, written media, all visible “content”-based industries may be the most visible examples of how crowdsourcing is changing business. But there are others.

As an example, Howe cites Threadless, the crowdsourced T-shirt company which had $30 million in revenue in 2007. Getty, which bought IStockPhoto, has seen IStockPhoto revenues rise as its core business revenue plummets.

Howe hasn’t touched on what happens to the photographers who used to derive their income from selling stock to Getty, or what happens to newspaper writers whose beats are eclipsed by community bloggers., the journalism “crowdfunding” startup, is a glimmer of hope, but we still have questions: in this model, where journalists pitch hyperlocal stories to a community of interested citizens who’ll kick in a few bucks to make sure the story gets written, who will pay for coverage in low-income neighborhoods, where it might be most needed? What if the freelancer gets slapped with a libel suit—who funds that? And remember the most visible example of crowdsourced journalism? Assignment Zero? A “success” by some standards, but it didn’t meet all its goals…

We don’t want to be negative Nellies—yeah, journalism will survive, and most of us will find new models to get by, but is crowdfunding the answer? Probably not. Is it safe to use “killing journalism” and “crowdsourcing” in the same sentence? Probably.

Make Your Employees Rock Stars: Branding And Marketing With Steve Rubel

The average American visits 111 domains a month, according to Nielsen, or 2500 Web pages a month. “That includes everything–your bank, Facebook, everything.” That doesn’t leave a lot of space for your brand. And people need to hear things 3-5 times for those things to “sink in.” So how do you build your brand?

When getting your message out, know that digital “elites”—people who spend a lot of time online— trust employees over execs, and their friends as much as employees. Most trusted, though, are stock/industry analyst reports and articles in traditional magazines. (Strangely, though 44% trust business magazines, only 34% trust newspapers.)

So what do you do to gain some of that valuable share?

Read more

Strange Bedfellows: The New (Media) Deal

We had hoped that the “Strange Bedfellows” panel would have talked about the BloodCopy bloodbath, but panelists Chuck Cordray, Tom Smith, Ellen Stone, Michael Silberman, and Steve Rosenbaum had other partnerships on their minds. Cordray and Smith—both from Hearst—had a lot to say about their six-month-old startup,, which has been a top 10 food site each month of its existence. The site’s partnership with MSN, Cordray says, was the kick that boosted the site’s rankings that high. “The best bottom line result is the driver” of such partnerships, he said. “How much you get to keep will be much larger with a partner than it would be on your own,” even if partnering means you have to split revenue.

Ellen Stone, SVP of marketing at Bravo Media, cites similar deals with Top Chef. “We decided to launch a nationwide tour” to drum up interest for the show. So they brought in sponsors—Glad and Quaker—”it wasn’t a total ad sponsorship but a changed what the chefs were sampling. We’re about to come out with a Top Chef wine; we’ll go to our partners and ask where the opportunities are to get our wine out there. Maybe Quaker will want to have a dinner, and they’ll serve our wine.”

The key in getting into digital is twofold, according to our panelists. One, says Rosenbaum, CEO of, is aggregation. “Suddenly publishers are realizing they don’t have to make everything.” His technology allows editors to curate video from around the ‘net and add it to video produced in-house. “The visitors don’t care where it comes from. Whether it has a youtube logo or a metacafe logo or a NYMag logo–if a human being creates that experience, the end user sees it as part of a whole.”

The other key is to be smart about building: Cordray says Hearst always asks, when targeting a new market, “should we buy, should we build, or should we partner?” Hearst’s three largest sites fall into each of the three categories: Delish, a partnership, RealAge, an acquisition, and Cosmopolitan, whose online content Hearst produced in-house.

Tim Ferriss, Part Two: Data Is King.

No, Mr. Four-Hour Workweek didn’t take the stage a second time, but we wanted to get up some more of our notes—this time about data. Data, data, data is all we’re talking about at the circus today (and tomorrow) and Ferriss had some tips for gathering your own data to create your personal brand powerhouse.

Ferriss’s key: “Data Is King.” He beta-tested 12 titles for his book by setting up a Google Adwords campaign and tracking the clicks. He also uses a cheap tool, to visualize where visitors click. He put up a “Gear” link, for example, with no gear to sell–just to track the clicks. “That told me that an e-commerce site would be commercially viable.”

Track metrics. It doesn’t have to cost a lot; Ferriss says he uses just Google Analytics and CrazyEgg; when he wants to crowdsource something from his blog, he uses a third tool called which creates a “personal Digg.” He’s not trying to make money from the blog—he gets value from the access it grants—but if he were, he’d want to see real metrics. “Exposure, awareness—that’s garbage. I want to know revenue.”

As far as Google Analytics goes, Ferriss tracks only a few things: entrance pages, top referrers, and bounce rate. He says it takes him only 20 minutes a week, “just looking for unusual things.”

We don’t know about the 20 minute a week claim; when we check our stats it always takes more than that, but maybe there’s a better way to do it. What do y’all think? Are you slaves to your Google Analytics page?

Tim Ferriss At The Circus: DIY Public Relations

Tim Ferriss, the first Mediabistro Circus speaker, talked about creating social media phenomena—talking about some stuff he’s supposedly never made public before. Some highlights:

The Four Hour Workweek was turned down by four out of five agents and twenty-five out of twenty-six publishers. And when it was finally picked up by Crown, he spent $25k of his own money on PR.

“18,000 of that was wasted on a PR firm,” he said. (Ouch.) The rest he spent on sending galleys to bloggers and meeting bloggers in person. “Buy them alcohol,” he joked.

Ferriss said he’d go to tech conferences and hang out with bloggers, asking lots of dumb questions. Then he’d tell them about his book but emphasize that he didn’t think it’d appeal to them “except for maybe five relevant pages.” That piqued enough interest to get him on some influential “B-list” blogs. “It’s a lot easier to get on A-list blogs if you know what blogs they read.”

Final rule, Ferriss says: Don’t be lazy. Great to get PR from bloggers, but “if you spam bloggers, you deserve to be punished.”