We started Placecloud with a lofty vision: to populate the surface of the planet with stories, knowledge and memories. An audio layer of human culture draped over the physical world. That vision comes from a belief that culture humanises the world, and to humanise something is to make it meaningful. And also because short podcasts about places (we call them “viewpoints”) are just downright entertaining.
So in July 2020, we launched Placecloud as a platform whereby cultural experts could freely publish viewpoints that would be freely accessible to the public. We were following the social media model – free to produce, free to consume – because it had shown itself capable of generating the huge volume of content that we would need to cover all those millions of culturally significant places in the world. Though we were never going to use an ads-based revenue model, nevertheless the underlying mechanics of social media seemed the way to go.
We knew that many cultural experts backed Placecloud’s vision and goals. We knew that they were excited to share their knowledge with the public in the easily digestible format that is the viewpoint. We believed that we had all the pieces of the puzzle in place. We were right and we were wrong.
Where we were wrong was to expect our experts to create viewpoints for free. A viewpoint is a considered, valuable piece of research. It takes time to create. The standard is very high: our experts are world experts. Viewpoints can’t be churned out like tweets or Facebook posts. So we were wrong to use the social media model as the template for Placecloud’s underlying mechanics. That was our mistake.
The internet is changing. The dubious ads-based model whereby content is given away for free is finally coming under ever-tighter scrutiny. New models are emerging where content creators are paid for their work and the value they bring to the world. Paywalls are coming down on traditional online sites like newspapers; and new platforms, such as Patreon and Substack, are emerging. Even Twitter is launching a subscription feature soon.
So in light of all this, we’re changing our own mechanics. We’re becoming a subscription platform. 70% of the subscription income is paid directly to our experts, with the 30% balance reinvested back into the platform. And we’re introducing an innovation whereby experts are paid in proportion to the number of minutes subscribers listen to their viewpoints, relative to the whole. This aligns payment with subscriber enjoyment. It also means that subscribers can directly support individual cultural researchers just by listening to their viewpoints.
We’re very excited about our June 2021 launch. Sign up to our newsletter at the top of this page to stay up to date.