Kickstarter Projects That Don't Meet Their Goal Are Not 'Failures'; They Help People Avoid Failures

from the remember-that dept

A little while back, on one of our "funniest/most insightful comments of the week" posts, we featured a comment that someone made anonymously, in response to a story about Bjork's Kickstarter project that was taken down before it ended, after it did not look like it was going to get anywhere near the required threshold. However, the comment has stuck with me and I think it deserves a post. In particular, the commenter called us out for saying that her project "failed."
This was not a "failure!"

Platforms like Kickstarter have changed the way the market is functioning, and our ways of thinking about it (even here on Techdirt) have to catch up.

Bjork's campaign did not fail, even though the results were not what she was hoping for. She successfully learned that the market was not interested in this product.

Spending £375,000 of her own money? Now THAT would have been a failure.

Using Kickstarter is more like running a science experiment than it is like selling a product. It increases the efficiency of the market by orders of magnitude, and apparently beyond our ability to think about it clearly.
This point -- even if it was calling us out -- is so true, and it's so important for people to understand. It's easy to use the word "failure" for those projects that don't meet their goal. Hell, just in writing this post, I repeatedly had to consciously stop myself from using the words "fail" or "failure" in describing projects that don't reach their goal. But, the commenter is right: those projects are not failed projects once you realize what Kickstarter really is: a platform to judge the market for products, and to build commitment and funding around them. If a project doesn't reach the goal, that's actually valuable market research, suggesting that if they had gone ahead, without going through the experience, they likely would have "failed."

So, in actuality, it makes sense to look at such projects and recognize that they were saved from a dismal failure, in which large sums of money may have been spent, but at the same time clarifying the market's reaction to a product before it's even been introduced. With so many people thinking of Kickstarter more as a store, than as a platform for supporting people trying to turn cool ideas into reality, it's important to be careful in how we choose our language. Putting up a Kickstarter project that doesn't reach its goal shouldn't be seen as a failure. It should be seen as a useful bit of data, which helps one avoid failure, and also to (hopefully) sharpen up their product and pitch so that the next time, it is more likely to be funded.

Filed Under: bjork, crowdfunding
Companies: kickstarter

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  1. icon
    jameshogg (profile), 14 Mar 2013 @ 12:39pm

    More experiments on the way.

    It is still a failure in the basic sense that the project did not get off the ground, but yes there is something to be said in how nobody loses out if the project goes under.

    Expect more of this experimental attitude, by the way. Watch as people will vote on projects they wish to see from creators, how much they'd be willing to pay for a "ticket", how creators will have multiple projects up at the same time and let fans pick whichever storyline, art style or other concept works best, how they will split the project into categories of "special effects, cameras, bonus songs etc" to see exactly where people want the money to go, how funding campaigns can be divided for each chapter of a book or each volume of a comic, how eventually Kickstarter will allow projects to continue to receive funds after the deadline so that people can still contribute to making the project better. And this is just the tip of the iceberg.

    I still laugh when I hear Copyright believers don't want crowdfunding to happen, all because it will challenge their beliefs in a very profound way. Some of them no doubt even would want to make the existence of crowdfunding websites illegal (they probably would have been under SOPA). It's ironic for this bunch of folk: demanding that creators get paid while desperately fighting against the greatest, most revolutionary way that creators all over can get paid in ways that would make the jaws of sincere Copyright economists drop. Intellectual servicing trumps intellectual property.

    To say that us on the Copyright abolitionism side of the debate do not want creators to be funded is a stupid attempt at a slander. We can solve the free-rider problem much better than you can.

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