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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.

Spot.us, 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.

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