The Web 2.0 era has seen the online community become an organicsource of innovation (Brabham et al, 2013), through the concept of crowdsourcing.The birth of crowdsourcing began with author Jeff Howe introducing the term inhis article, “The Rise of Crowdsourcing”. This article spawned Howe’sdefinition: “a mode of openness where firms broadcast innovation challenges inthe form of open calls to undefined (and generally large) groups of externalcontributors” (Howe 2008). It integrates top-down management processes with bottom-upcreative processes (Brabham et al, 2013) (Figure 2). The best crowdsourcing methodaccounts for variances in the participants and their individual eccentricity (Noble,2012).
Crowds are better at finding more efficient and faster ways to solve organisationalproblems and are better in situations where they can understand issues, obtainideas, test solutions and extend their resources. With new technology and the rise of millennial power, we canutilise the creativity of citizens to power products, research and knowledge. It’sarguable that technology can enable people to become more skilled in problem-solving,especially for public problems that may unwittingly affect them (Liu, 2017). Weare at more access to infinite skills, knowledge, talent and creativity of our populations.”We’re talking about bringing people in from outside and involving them in thisbroadly creative, collaborative process. That’s a whole new paradigm” (Howe,J.
, 2006). How It Has InfluencedPrivate and Public Sectors A 2016 report by Deloitte explored crowdsourcing and the value ofthe crowd when considering strategy in these sectors. The US Government havebeen requesting for open innovation and therefore introduced a new policythrough Challenge.gov to leverage external intelligence to address social problems(Mergel and Desouza, 2013). Following from this, millennials, the primegeneration within the rise of web 2.0, are the most likely generation toexpress support for politics, having brought some of the biggest results toAmerican Congress in recent years (Winograd and Hais, 2011), and have been a keygroup in influencing political policies in the US. Initially, crowdsourcing ideas are implemented first in theprivate sector, as they do not consider attitudes except that of their sponsorsto advise the legitimacy of their solutions, and often see the crowd as analternative labour source that can influence financial performance of anorganisation (Liu, 2017). Open innovation within the public sector has been raising awarenessof social problems and how policies affect citizens, prompting greater trust tobe established between governments and citizens (Mergel and Desouza, 2013) and additionallyinfluencing 85% of the 2014 Best 100 Brands to use crowdsourcing in campaignsand developments in the past 10 years (eYeka, 2015).
Public sectororganisations measure their success in through mission impact (Deloitte, 2013) andthe correct platforms can empower citizens, creating trust and establishing strengthbetween governments and citizens (Liu, 2017). Projects can be designed so thatcitizens can not only solve the problem, but review, evaluate and be involvedin implementing new policies or other innovations (Mergel and Desouza, 2013). Public sectors seekto increase citizen engagement and challenge citizens to solve problems whilstthe private sector see the crowd as labour that can improve financialperformance.Types ofCrowdsourcingHowe characterized four types, based on how crowds function andwhat the organisation seeks (Figure 1). The concept is eliminating the costfactors that once separated professionals and amateurs and opens opportunitiesfor “occasionalists” to demonstrate their talents. Crowd Creation requires crowdcompetition to create a new product; Crowd Wisdom involves using the knowledge ofpeople, either internal or external from the business, to solve a problem;Crowdfunding involves funding a project through raising money from a largenumber of people who each contribute a small amount, mostly through theinternet; and finally, Crowd Voting is most popular because of participationlevels, and is used to gain community views on several topics, i.e.
newspapers,television, films and music and consequently will be the focus of this essaywith the case study, American Idol.Case Study Idol, as its moniker, arguably enabled the internet to influencethe divide between commentators and fans. The American talent show created bySimon Fuller, which ceased in April 2016 after 14 successful years, fuelled theintrinsic desire of seeing other people succeed in the music industry and theemotional and visual link between artists and viewers; the latter voting forthe contestant that most appealed during live shows, despite the viewer onlyobserving throughout “audition stages” where talent is selected by judges. AmericanIdol became a brand and a cultural phenomenon that allowed the audience tocontrol the narrative through participation and share commentary through digitaland social media. It transformed the consumer into the creator. As user-generated TVmatures, users become more skilled in choosing the best competitors and the networksmore accurate in selecting talent to be evaluated. (Howe, 2006).
Crowd voting isthe most common type of crowdsourcing and is cost-effective and interactive methodfor organisations to hand over power to the crowd. “The interactivity wasimportant because this would allow the audience to tell me who they liked bestand this, in turn, would indicate to me who would have the most fans andeventually sell the most music and become the biggest stars” (Fuller, 2011). The show was created for a consumer-driven purpose, and itsinteractivity was the ultimate marketing tool. Despite everyone being able tocritique the show, professional critics acted as cultural icons to discuss trendsand social issues that surrounded the show and the music industry (Seetharam,2016). “It’s an ingenious strategy; Not only does the show act as a promotionalchannel… but the voting provides Cowell, Fuller and other music executives witha fine tuned gauge of consumer demand for the singer’s talents” (Howe, 2008). The show beganbefore the rise of social media in a time where MySpace was newly launching,YouTube didn’t exist and iTunes was unknown to anyone. The show fulfilled thegap for reality and talent show television, and relied heavily on and traditionalmarketing – billboards and magazine or TV advertisements- to promote the show. AmericanIdol paved the way for crowd voting to become the most effective method ofparticipation for citizens, and for organisations to gain insight into consumerwants and needs.
The show left behind a legacy that allowed audiences to connectemotionally with contestants, and through voting online, through the app, orover the phone or via text. This form of crowdsourcing is based on the 1:10:89rule, stating that of 100 people, 1% will create something valuable, 10% willvote and rate submissions and the remaining 89% will consume the creation (Howe,2008). The theory suggests that only 10% of the selected population will actupon a creation whilst 89% consume it at will and without participation,something that Idol exemplifies; 22 million watched the 2012 Idol season finale(Moraes, 2012), crowd voting prompted 132 million people to participate andvote the same night. In comparison, only 122 million voted in the US presidentialelection the same year (ITV News, 2012), emphasizing the cultural impact this showhad on Americans.
As the 2000s progressed, so did the influence of social media.Twitter and Facebook acting as main platforms brought together an onlinecommunity that further influenced crowd voting and increased awareness of theshow and social issues surrounding America and the music industry, includingimage bias, racism, child exploitation and political awareness. Drawing upon the 1:10:89 rule, and in contrast to Idol’s outlined success,this formula may have contributed to the decline of the show in its finalyears; where the 1% have contributed and only 10% have voted, there is a chancethat not every participant in crowd voting was unbiased, or even that there isa probability that the verdict was wrong and did not reflect the totalpopulation- as demonstrated in politics (The Guardian, 2017) (Independent, 2017)Despite successfully engaging with audiences on digital platforms,the death of Idol may have been due to the show failing to keep up with morethan just technology changes that the up-and-coming millennials were facing;the talent show industry was booming. Idol’s once unique status had been threatenedby competing shows such as The Voice and America’s Got Talent and their freshtake on talent shows and their controversies, not to mention the a slew of repetitiveIdol winners nicknamed “White Guys With Guitars”, and failing to cater to themusical trends and changes the Americans were already adapted to.
ConclusionCrowdsourcing is a remarkable concept and is sought byorganisations for its unlimited pool of creativity and knowledge andflexibility where companies can employ individuals where and when needed todeliver sought results. “Given the right set of conditions the crowd willalmost always outperform any number of employees – a fact that many companiesare increasingly attempting to exploit” (Howe, 2008), and with this being said,a crowd will only make effort to provide innovative ideas where they feel thattheir voice will be heard and innovations implemented. But following backlashover repetitive winners, miming during live performances and “fabricatedstorylines” about contestants being fed to media outlets prompted belief thatthe show was staged and the “votes” were rigged.
Idol was not created to findsuperstars, but to attract viewers through the visual “making of a star”. AmericanIdol used crowd voting in its entirety and exploited the public for their knowledgeuntil they were no longer interested in what was to offer.