Random surfing led me the Economist website, and this article about MediaPredict. The site portrays itself as a virtual stock market game. Most current revenue seems advertising-driven, but as a side-effect it will generate information that is useful to Big Media. As the article explains:
Artists or their agents post samples of their work (a book chapter, say, or a television pilot). Traders armed with a free wad of virtual cash buy shares in the material they feel has the greatest potential. The idea is that as traders buy and sell shares in competing content, the cream will float to the top—where entertainment-industry bosses can skim it off.
I suppose this is another example of using the wisdom of crowds to gain greater insight and make decisions. The best example I remember reading about was when such prediction markets were used by a company to see when people in the company thought their product would ship, and that was management realized there was going to be a delay. Hmm...apparently a lot of tech companies use these prediction markets.
The article mentions that the key here is that people aren't betting on what they'd like to happen or what they like, they're betting on what they think everyone else likes/wants.
Thats one reason I'm slightly skeptical about this tool. In many ways its like a focus group, which we know aren't always great, except that its much bigger and the people in the group haven't actually seen any or all of what they're being polled on. There's a temptation to compare this to user-driven editing a la Digg and Reddit, but that would be completely wrong.
I still think this could be a really good tool to measure buzz, get early feedback, and inform the decisions of Big Media, but only as long as they don't take it too seriously and not use it as go/no-go tool.
There are many good things to be said about the democratization of media, prediction markets and having greater user-participation in every decision. For some reason, I've always been concerned that it'll make it harder to find something truly "different" or a breakthrough idea, on the other hand democratizing this process is what may actually allow great to stuff to make it past the "right people" who may have become too set in their ways or out of touch.
Hmm....interesting balance, no?