Sick to death of YouTube ads? The new app Portal wants to make sure you never have to see them again. Portal is a video and audio platform, one created to give money directly to content makers instead of corporate types. Basically this is the Netflix of YouTube, a platform that seeks to free entertainment from the commercials we don’t want to see. Since creatives hardly enjoy begging for subscribers, Portal is really a win-win.
Founder and CEO of Portal Jonathan Swerdlin says this is a way to create media based on consumers, not on corporate sponsors. “Digital media has become toxic, in part, because of advertising,” Swerdlin told Crunchable News. His idea has already been tested: All across Asia companies have effectively re-monetized media through in-app and micropayment techniques. The technology is there but media has been slow to change. Portal seeks to correct this, bringing the same features WeChat uses to the United States.
The problem with ads
Ever wonder why YouTubers spend so much time begging for subscribers or asking for content and likes? It’s not just about popularity—it’s about cash. YouTube monetization is complicated, based on mysterious algorithms that take into account subscriptions, number of comments, likes and dislikes in order to determine which videos are promoted and which are not. The advertisement system is not particularly straightforward either: Payment is made based on interactions with the ad, meaning views or clicks. YouTube takes a huge chunk (around 50% of ad revenue,) But if users don’t ‘interact’ with videos—which is easy to avoid if you use an ad-blocker—it’s possible to get thousands of views and not make a cent. Most often, a video of around a million views makes only around $1,000.
This means hundreds, even thousands of views on a video is really not enough. Creators are therefore encouraged to use clickbaity titles to raise viewership. It also means your content might get clogged-up with merchandizing or branded ads. Of YouTubers earning a living, all of them use Patreon, an online tipping app, to earn their living. Even with thousands of followers, this is a difficult way to pay the rent.
Portal – Breaking free of advertising
Portal uses ‘micropayments,’ to monetize content, a technique that’s been given much lip-service but little actualization over the years. Micropayments is asking users to make tiny payments, as low as a single cent. Because of the nature of the internet this can makes creators serious money in aggregate, while coming at a microscopic cost to the individual. Portal uses ‘Portal Coins,’ an in-app currency worth one cent each. Users can tip anywhere from $0.10 to $100, while creators can set up paywalls so that watching a video can cost nothing, or it can cost up to $100. Additionally, you can pledge to support content makers, anywhere from $.99-$24.99 a month.
Besides the payment, Portal differs from YouTube in a number of ways. There’s no secret algorithm to promote or detract from your videos coming up in people’s searches. There’s also no view count, follower count, or chronological feed. Instead, Portal suggests content for you based on your interests rather than the interests of advertisers by producing a ‘reverse chronological feed,’ not curating the video content. How it suggests new videos to users is vague, and CEO Swerdlin maintains that it will grow more complicated as the platform grows. But this won’t be solved with algorithms, he maintains.
Additionally, Portal differs from YouTube in one important way: It doesn’t take a cut. At least, not yet. Apple takes 30% for the in-app currency, and PayPal takes a small fee for the money transfer, but that’s it. Portal will eventually charge a ‘small fee’ on payments and subscriptions, but the percentage is kept vague. Less than YouTube’s infamous cut, we can only hope.
The greatest challenge for Portal will be luring users from a free platform to one in which users are occasionally confronted with paywalls. Portal will have to pull of what Netflix has managed, attracting users with quality content. Otherwise the effort to demand payment for content may fall flat.
CEO and Cofounder of Portal is Jonathan Swerdlin, the former founder of short-form video platform Ocho and Chairman of Thinx. Thinx—another Brooklyn-based startup that’s received a lot of press, good and bad—has maintained close ties with Swerdlin, with cofounder Miki Agrawal one of the top investors in Portal. Swerdlin is also co-founder of venture capital firm Wisdom VC.
Portal is currently in its beta version but has already signed up creators like transgender activist Corey Rae and The Young Turks. With a couple million dollars raised Portal clearly is convincing more than a few investors that it can solve the media monetization problem once and for all, getting dollars to creators, and not just corporations.
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