Are Paid Platforms the Future of Social?

The ever-growing frustration with the amount of advertising and data-mining on Facebook and Twitter has spawned several unorthodox new social platforms. While Ello eschews advertising altogether, Bubblews and tsū embrace it. But there’s one key difference: those sites are based on sharing ad revenue with their members.

Tsū, which launched last week, has a signup that requires a code which can only be acquired from an existing member. By inviting other users to join and follow you, you’re sharing your content to an audience you grew organically, something tsū believes merits reimbursement.

“Established social networks have built amazing business models prospering on the total monetization of free user-generated content,” says Sebastian Sobczak, one of the site’s co-founders. “The basic principle is upside-down – why should anyone commercially benefit from someone else’s image, likeness, and work giving no financial return to the owner?”

Tsū, a Japanese word referring to an aesthetic ideal, keeps 10 percent of its revenue from advertising, sponsorship, and partnerships. The rest is distributed among the network based on the number of views during the ad’s run. The platform’s monetary plan follows the rule of infinite thirds, divvying up percentages of each payment to the content creator, the person who invited them, the person who invited the person who invited them, and so on.


A microblogging platform with a community of 200,000 members who call themselves “bubblers,” Bubblews officially launched in July after two years of beta. Tsū and Bubblews are opposite sides of the same coin; the latter has open registration and much less convoluted financial incentives, awarding users one cent for every click, like, or share their posts receive. But Avi Dixit, chief executive (CEO) and co-founder of Bubblews, has the same philosophy as Sobczak, believing that paid platforms are “helping to bring ethics back to what is turning into the Wild West era of social networking.”

“We felt like the big social media conglomerates are creating the world’s largest unpaid workforces,” Dixit says. “We looked at the business models all based on people creating content and having their friends view it, and it turned people into the product.”

On Bubblews, users need to generate 10,000 clicks, likes, or shares to make $100. Are those small sums enough to keep people’s interest? Krista Neher, CEO of Boot Camp Digital, a Cincinnati company that provides social media and marketing training, says no.


“Giving people small amounts of money to do things causes a blip of excitement initially, but it’s not very sustainable,” Neher says. “If I had the ability to drive thousands of people, I would do it on my own platform where I could make more than a penny, selling ads.”

Neher adds that a monetary-based platform lends itself to a lot of spam and linkbait, like the bogus headlines advertising free iPads. 

“I’m sure they have checks and balances, and you probably can’t do something obvious long-term, but where some money is the motivation, people figure out how to game them, how to trick them,” she says.

Sobczak points out that on tsū, spammers won’t have enough followers to generate the views necessary to earn much money.

Jeremy Epstein, vice president of marketing at social media management platform Sprinklr, agrees that there will be elements of gaming the system, though he’s interested to see how these paid platforms pan out.

“What’s happening is sort of representative of the larger trend now where everyone’s a publisher, and everyone can publish and distribute globally. There’s a very innovative element to it,” he says. “It further shows how the world is fundamentally changing with the amount of social, and how power shifts from established, big content-producers and gets democratized into the hands of customers.”

Homepage image via Shutterstock.

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