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the Big Blog Company | Does Creative Commons need more buzz?
“Who yer callin' a sparrow, you schmuck?!”
The bird on the back.
May 02 2005
Does Creative Commons need more buzz?
Adriana Cronin-Lukas • Sui Generis 
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This blog has Creative Commons license attached to it. We like Creative Commons and think that it is the kind of copyright that makes most sense online where the point is to distribute and attribute, not to protect and charge.

So, it is with interest that I saw the news of Creative Commons going into a partnership with BzzAgent. They launched a grassroots marketing campaign to promote Creative Commons on 29th April. Hang on, I thought the whole CC was a grassroots project. But as Lawrence Lessig points out one of the aims of the partnership is to extend their work offline as the vast majority of BzzAgent action occurs offline.

The marketing campaign is a network of volunteer brand evangelists who share their honest opinions about products and services with other consumers. The Bzz agents are regular joes like you and me who bzzz (or promote) different campaigns.

Still, I have a problem with this. Why? Because there is a fine line between a genuine conversation about something one is passionate about and a controlled or contrived engagement on behalf of a client. However genuine the opinions of the bzzagent are transparency and therefore credibility will always be a problem. Oh, I can clearly see the benefits of generating buzz by such agents to marketers and perhaps see it working for a while as a novel marketing technique but I am afraid I can’t see it work long term. The perverse result will be that when someone recommends a product genuinely, people will not trust their enthusiasm anymore. Well, I wouldn’t but that may be just me… On a more theoretical note, I remember reading about BzzAgent a few months ago and I found the best explanation of where the line such marketing crosses is, in this New York Times magazine article. It relies on the different between two different markets - monetary and social. Although in the article, this is used to supports the point of the viability of agents, this holds true only for as long as they are unpaid or unrewarded for their efforts, which certainly no longer seems the case.

Why would the volunteers work so hard to get other people excited about these products? Another line of research suggests a possible answer. This school of thought would characterize word-of-mouth volunteers as operating not in a traditional money-in-exchange-for-effort ‘’monetary market,’’ but rather in a ‘’social market.’’ A social market is what we engage in when we ask our friends to help us load up the moving van in exchange for pizza. The research suggests that we are likely to get a better effort out of our friends under the social-market scenario than by offering the cash equivalent of the pizza. (A recent article in the journal Psychological Science finds that ‘’monetizing’’ a gift, like the pizza, by announcing how much it is worth, effectively shifts the whole situation from social market to monetary market.) Under some circumstances, we will expend more effort for social rewards than we will for monetary rewards. This suggests that the agents may do more to spread word of mouth precisely because they are not being paid.

For the round up of the debate, Suw rose to the challenge as did Gwai Lo. Also worth checking feedback in comments on lessig blog.

Update: A thoughtful blog post about the whole issue from a personal persective of a dispassionate CC supporter.

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