New Social Network 8 Promises to Share Revenue With All Users
When most social networks catch fire, it’s because they have a unique function or differentiator. Instagram made photo editing dead simple. Facebook connects you with family and old friends from high school. Snapchat has disappearing video messages. Twitter lets you follow and tweet at celebrities.
The new social network 8’s big hook would seem to be its business model. Simply put, everybody gets paid.
Otherwise, 8–which launches online today and in the Apple App Store on Friday, blends many familiar functions of existing social networks, albeit all in one easy-to-use interface. You can post photos, upload videos, and compose all the text you want. You can put together a Tumblr-esque custom creative palate with loads of images and gifs for your profile, if you want. You can follow friends, favorite artists, and celebrity contributors like Patricia Arquette, Usher (featured on 8’s homepage) and Jamie Oliver.
And right away, you can sign up to include ads on your profile–and take home 80% of any ad revenue 8 generates from your work, whether you are Ms. Arquette, Donna Karan (another early contributor) or Joe-Schmo iPhone photographer.
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8 is the brainchild of two people: Sue Fennessy, an ad industry veteran who founded and serves as chief executive of Standard Media Index, which provides data on advertising campaigns; and Beth Haggerty, who has worked in various digital media businesses that have gone on to be acquired by the likes of Walt Disney Co. and Nielsen.
Unlike many social networks, 8 isn’t backed by a massive amount of venture funding. Ms. Haggerty and Ms. Fennessy have raised just $4.5 million to launch the product. But what they lack in funding, they may make up for in social footprint. The pair say they have lined up 300 content partners, including the actress Rosario Dawson, the graffiti artist Shepard Fairey, as well as a pool of YouTube stars and other social media influencers who in aggregate boast of 275 million followers in other social media. Not a bad promotional platform to start with.
Besides 8’s unique business model, Ms. Fennessy sees the product as having another distinguishing quality that should help attract consumers–it’s all about positivity.
“We feel when people are inspired by other creators, and empowered by the commercial part of 8,” said Ms. Fennessy. “When you are feeling worthy and making money, and your creativity is being honored, it just feels different.”
It’s that positive approach that attracted Ms. Arquette, who recently took home an Academy Award for her work in the movie “Boyhood,” along with 8’s artist-first design.
“There is such a negative bent to social media,” she said. “We spend so much time looking at things [in digital media] that visually are pretty unpleasing. We as a species respond to art, and people want beauty in their life. This is not a community that supports dislikes.”
In fact, 8 is designed to be a community that supports contributors–and charities. 8 users can opt to contribute a portion of their earnings to one of 35 charities the company has partnered with.
That feel-good bent is all well and good, but from a business perspective, 8 is likely to stand out because of its unique commercial model.
“8’s business model is incredibly disruptive,” said Boris Jordan, president and chief executive of The Sputnik Group, which has invested in 8. “Today you have these young girls with 25 million followers in social media and they aren’t necessarily getting paid. This is the first social network with real transparency about its business model.”
Mr. Jordan predicts that 8 will scale up quickly, pulling in $75 million to $100 million in revenue by its third year.
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Of course, for that to happen, all 8 has to do is attract lots of users and lots of paying advertisers. Ms. Fennessy knows that is going to take some time. 8 has convinced some brands to start posting content to 8, including Obey Clothing, but they aren’t paying customers yet.
But Ms. Fennessy imagines marketers like Unilever buying ads on 8 in the near future, with millions of users receiving small payments in their PayPal accounts as a result. A person with a following of a few thousand 8 users could easily be pulling in $20 a month, she said.
“It’s going to take time, but we know we need to pretty quickly deliver,” she said. “I don’t think there is a better or more sustainable model than this.” Read more here