Sonntag, 9. Juni 2013

Crowdfunding Spinning Out Of Control?

As recently as five years ago the story by Toronto Star reporters that they had seen a video purporting to show the city's Mayor Rob Ford smoking crack with a drug gang would have likely sold a lot of newspapers for a few weeks, and been followed by a protracted trial and judicial process. Published in May 2013, those claims have resulted in a media-led public campaign to gain possession of the evidence from the gang itself. To sayGawker's cheekily titled Crackstarter crowdfunding campaign muddies the waters of judicial inquiry is an understatement -- some suggest that the case is an example of crowdfunding spinning out of control. But is this a story about crowdfunding, or journalism?


On the other hand, this is a story that is complicated by crowdfunding, for two reasons.

Firstly, because the fundraising is being done in public, with a specific target in mind, it amounts to a ransom note with a big opportunity for brinkmanship attached to it. With Gawker lobbying to reach their $200,000 target, the gang allegedly holding the video has little reason to accept a lower offer than that. It leaves little room for negotiation by investigators who may be trying to obtain evidence without pulling out their checkbooks. The urgency and goal setting that make many crowdfunding campaigns attractive and capable of precipitating action feel awkward and highly problematic when employed for these reasons. 

Let's also note that crowdfunding campaigns are increasingly prone to being "overfunded," sometimes passing their target several times over. Several campaign organizers I've spoken to have suggested that this is an outcome they strategically design for, setting the fundraising goal lower to ensure that a campaign reaches its target, enjoys the publicity associated with that success, and can then market for further funds by promising additional rewards. There's nothing to suggest yet that Gawker is considering that path, but the gang may have an opportunity to hold out for more.

Secondly, the ethics of giving to a gang who may or may not deliver something authentic, let alone of some value to the public interest or the judicial process raises the troublesome "F" word for crowdfunding -- fulfillment. IndieGoGo currently offers no mechanism for authenticating the products and campaigns that use its platform to fundraise. This is a tough problem to resolve, but it's also an important one. Specialized crowdfunding platforms are trying. The recently launched Crowdsupply, aimed at small-scale makers, offers a suite of services around manufacturing and fulfillment to ensure that projects on the site get made on time and to spec. In the civic crowdfunding space, Spacehive worked with Deloitte to design a contractual framework for the completion of projects in the built environment. We've yet to see a severe test of either framework, but they are valuable first steps. View Full Story

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