Content creators and social networks have been working in tandem as well as fighting one another for the past decade. There’s a balance between getting content out there and making money from it that few have been able to master, and the dreaded paywall is edging its way onto YouTube via channel subscriptions, much to that community’s discontent.
Pheed however is a social network that embraces the paywall. In fact, it’s where they plan to develop their only revenue stream as advertising is non-existent. Surely this would repulse users. Paying for content? Bah! Well, it’s a gamble Pheed is willing to make. They’re also pinning their hopes on mobile — with main ports of access to the service being through mobile apps.
The first thing that surprised me about Pheed was that they really push signing up via other social networks — namely Twitter and Facebook. I chose Twitter, which helped immensely in setting up my ‘Channel’ as my profile picture, background and description were all duplicated from there. Easy peasy.
After this, I did some exploring and found that the network has gained significant popularity in some communities. There are a lot of snowboarders and ‘extreme sports’ personalities on there, as well as staple brands and celebrities such as Taco Bell and Paris Hilton.
How Pheed Works
Initially things seem similar to YouTube. Each member is given a channel which will be their creative space on Pheed. Here they can post everything from videos, audio files, pictures and plain text. There is no limitation on the length of a video or song, or the size of an image as Pheed wants to make the space as creatively free as possible. However, text entries are limited to 420 characters pushing users in the direction of richer media.
Get set up quickly with Twitter or Facebook
You can subscribe to other people’s channels and access their content either in the main timeline or by going to their channel directly. All content is displayed within their “pheeds”. So if they upload a new song or video you can play it using a small media player within their posts.
Pheeds themselves operate like tweets. So many will be related by subject matter or content and can be viewed regardless of whether or not they come from the same channel. In fact, all public pheeds can be filtered and viewed under three main tabs: Pheeds, Channels and Hashtags.
Uniquely, Pheed is the first social network to bring sustainable live video streaming to mobile devices. So if a channel you subscribe to posts live content you’ll be able to access it on your phone within the app.
One of my main annoyances with Twitter (and I say this as an avid user since 2009) is it hasn’t adapted in any way to media for years. Sure, images and Youtube videos will display when the tweet is opened, but the wall of text and links lives on the same as it has since 2007.
Pheed is definitely more visual, even on the relatively small screen of a smartphone, showing full pictures and videos. The app itself is thoroughly well designed, making good use of images on the main home screen, using transparent menu bars on top of the content and a cool colour scheme of purple on black.
Pheeds are visual and easily searched
Overall Pheed for Android works really well with content loading quickly and the ability to control your account to the same extent as you can on the website.
Pheed Doesn’t Help Newbies Out
Where Pheed falls down is not using the data from the community to improve user experience. Networks thrive on mobile users who, statistically speaking, are the ones using social networks the most. They also upload better metadata such as location and networking patterns. Yet Pheed doesn’t offer any suggestions for who to follow based on your interests, posts on other social networks or even obvious interests on our own channel such as a music genre or TV show.
I think this is a crucial omission on Pheed’s part as getting started on a new social network where you know nobody is the prime time for users to bail.
Pheed also doesn’t lend itself to sharing your content from outside of the app. For example, when viewing photos or videos in the gallery on my phone I can share them easily by email, Twitter or Google Drive right there because these apps have Share shortcuts installed. Pheed doesn’t offer this, meaning I’d have to go into the app to start a pheed.
Twitter With a Business Model
As I mentioned above, Pheed wants content creators to make money from their Pheeds as well as turn a profit for the company. This is why they give users the option, and I must stress that it is an option, to monetize their accounts by raising a paywall between the public and their channel. In order to gain access, users must pay a monthly subscription fee which starts at $1.99 and can be raised by the channel owner to $34.99 in $1 increments.
Monetize your channel
The vast majority of channels will remain unmonetized and Pheed knows this. They’re depending on a small minority of content creators to have the kind of premium content worth paying for, and the fanbase willing to part with the monthly subscription fee.
I think Pheed may well represent the next step for social media and content creators. Perhaps the era of all-round freebies is truly coming to a close.
While the app for Android does need some tweaking, it is certainly a cut above apps on offer from other networks like Twitter and Tumblr. If you’re a content creator it may be worth checking out Pheed while it’s still underground. They’ve built a good quality network on firm foundations so it might not stay hidden for long.