Today's Wall Street Journal has an article on the considerable success Japanese book publishers, TV and movie producers are enjoying with fare developed from amateur content posted to the Internet. The most conspicuous example is "Train Man," which started as the chat room conversations of a lovelorn otaku. The book grossed $11 million (big money in Japan), and spawned a franchise of equally successful television and movie adaptations. Train Man is really crowdsourcing twice over: A genuine work of non-fiction, the Train Man himself crowdsourced his book by using a group of authors to generate content, and the publisher is crowdsourcing by using the Internet as a breeding ground for talent.
This is in contrast to the experience in America, where crowdsourcing has yet to be responsible for a breakout success on the scale of Train Man (Rocketboom has eyeballs, but not much revenue). On the other hand, not many old media companies on this side of the Pacific are working the model, at least on the scale the Japanese are. From the Article:
Since January 2004, more than 300 books based on blogs, personal home pages, and bulletin boards have been published in Japan, about three times as many as in English.
Yet interestingly, the experience of the Japanese media companies would seem to confirm my emphasis on employing the crowd not just as a generator of value (be it through content, ideas, designs or solutions), but as a filter to weed out the brilliant from the merely banal. Again, from the Journal:
Japanese book publishers are scouring the Internet for the next "Train Man." Kodansha Ltd., Japan's biggest publishing house, hires a firm to keep an eye on thousands of blogs and dig up other material. But of the hundreds of books based on Internet content, only a few are big sellers, and fewer still get made into movies, TV shows or videogames. "Internet content is like sand on a beach," said Hiroko Gunji, editor of "Train Man" at Shinchosha. "There's lots of it, but it's incredibly difficult to find the specks of gold in the sand."