When Paid Crowdsourcing Hits the Mainstream: A Report and Online Panel


Sometimes the only way to flush out the truth on something is to state an opinion and spark a discussion. Using on-demand workers has been around for over 10 years, but there are precious few resources available for someone to get educated. Hopefully my report will stimulate discussion and bring a greater level of awareness to the paid crowdsourcing market.

Let’s look at crowdsourcing’s evolution this decade:

* Wikipedia started the revolution

* Jeff Howe coined the term crowdsourcing

* Elance and Guru made it into sophisticated electronic marketplaces

* Amazon’s Mechanical Turk turned it into a computing platform

* Kermit Pattison writes prolifically about it

* John Winsor’s company does creative things with it

* 50+ companies provide products and services designed to bring it to the everyday business person

So after 10 years and more than two million workers getting paid half a billion dollars for work online, where is the Gartner Magic Quadrant, or the Forrester Wave Diagram, or the TechCrunch Top 50 list?

The novelty of free crowdsourcing (getting something useful done by the masses for nothing) has been the romantic aspect most often studied and written about. “Free” differs from paid crowdsourcing in that free work gets accomplished only if it’s entertaining, emotionally fulfilling, or leads to recognition. The less sexy and decidedly more complex “paid” cousin, which uses money as leverage to generate results, has been more of a mystery. Ask 10 business managers whether they’ve used on-demand workers through an online service, and nine will cock their head like a lab that just heard a dog whistle.

Paid crowdsourcing can find a useful metaphor in e-commerce’s 15-year rise from cutting edge to preferred shopping mechanism. Want a book today? We don’t send our intern to the store to buy it. We go to Amazon, search on the book title, add it to our cart, insert our credit card information, and submit. One or two days later, we receive our book. Why is online commerce so mainstream … Next Page »

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Brent Frei is the co-founder and chief marketing officer of Bellevue, WA-based Smartsheet.com, an online work management software company. Follow @b_frei

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3 responses to “When Paid Crowdsourcing Hits the Mainstream: A Report and Online Panel”

  1. Very interesting article. My new business Zintro (www.zintro.com) is, perhaps, the newest entry into the “paid crowdsourcing” space. Using a crowdsourced model, Zintro connects professionals making high value (e.g. investment, market analysis, risk assessment, purchasing, technology selection, hiring…) decisions with experts in the field for fee based consults. Experts and clients are welcome to take their consulting relationships outside of Zintro after the initial consult (for which the client pays a modest markup on the expert’s rate). It leverages technology and the broad reach of the Internet to create an on-line meeting place for those who value information enough to pay for it and those who are worthy of being paid for it. Feel free to visit the site http://www.zintro.com or contact me directly [email protected] for more information.