When crowdsourcing goes well, an army of contributors collectively can create impressively large-scale works such as Wikipedia's online reference site and iStockphoto's vast library of images that can be licensed relatively cheaply.
But there's a flip side, as iStockphoto is seeing this week: when you enrage your community of contributors, the wrath is on a correspondingly large scale.
On Tuesday, the Getty Images subsidiary announced a new payment structure for those contributors whose photos, videos, and other content it sells. But many fear the new plan--based on the contributor's performance during the previous year rather than the total images sold--will mean a significant cut in their payouts in 2011. iStockphoto stands by its forecast that the change will benefit most contributors, but in the meantime, those contributors lashed out in thousands of overwhelmingly negative forum posts in two days.
The clash offers a glimpse into growing pains that can come with a new generation of Internet businesses. The Web made iStockphoto possible, providing a global network to harness legions of amateur photographers and to reach countless customers. But when it's time for change, that structure and scale adds challenges that conventional companies don't usually face.
Reworking an ordinary company requires buy-in from employees and customers. For a companies such as iStockphoto, Digg, or eHow, though, the large group of people who supply the content also must be persuaded to make the change.
Pay cut? iStockphoto photographer Cat London, aka Stray Cat, is one of many who fears the worst from iStockphoto's new compensation plan, expecting to see her royalty rate to drop in 2011 rather than increase from her arduous work to rise through iStock's ranks.
"My math ain't good, but I know that 30 percent is lower than 40 percent, and I know when I've been cheated out of something I worked my ass off for years to get," said London in a forum post. … Read more