Outlit, the social media app built for news, is launching new features enabling all users to earn from their posts and stories on the Outlit platform. Now journalists, writers, and publishers can earn from their viewers and get paid for the value they create.


This introduction paper shows how we at Outlit are flipping the traditional business model of social media sites on its head and actually paying users who contribute. 


Context: A New Business Model for Social Media and Digital Journalism


The world needs a social media platform where you (and your data) are not the product. 

Anyone creating and publishing written content that is valued and enjoyed faces a constant struggle with how to earn from their work. The digital transformation exponentially increased access to content and empowered anyone to write, share and discuss ideas, and publish to the world, but it also decreased and in many cases decimated the ability to earn. That’s not to say that earnings aren’t generated, it’s that earnings are way short of matching the value of the content, and earnings not shared with the creators of the stories we love - instead being amassed by a few major tech companies. That’s not only devastating to creators, writers, bloggers, journalists and publishers, it’s harmful to our democracy.

As a result, there are too many journalists out of work or underemployed and ill-compensated. Too many passionate bloggers and writers that create valuable content struggling to earn. Too many influential voices that never write or tell stories in the first place because they can’t earn anything. And, of course, too many failed newspapers and magazines, especially producers of valuable local content, that have cut staff and hemorrhaged billions of dollars, if not shuttered forever. The very best and biggest outlets have survived only after losing billions and seeing their value halved or worse. 

Not only are we are seeing both the failure of content to be monetized commensurate with its real value, we’re seeing concentration of what little earnings are created in the hands of a few big social media companies. But those companies don’t share those earnings with users. They provide a platform to be discovered, but not a marketplace to earn and support others. Instead, other social networks make users - all of us - their product, then sell advertising (as well as our personal data), pocketing virtually all that is generated.

The truth is that other social networks like Facebook that have come to dominate news and story discovery were built for different purposes altogether - to keep us connected as friends, and not to read and discuss stories with one another and the larger community. 


They were, and still are, a way to stay connected with friends and people you know. Photo albums, status updates, birthday reminders, and so on. Things went wrong when social media sites - which were NOT built or designed for news and stories - became the leading source of news for the world. Now they are facing a long overdue crisis of public trust - six in 10 Americans say they don’t trust Facebook at all to protect their personal information - as well as a regulatory reckoning.


INTRODUCING OUTLIT: The New Social Network Built for Stories 


Outlit is the new social media site where stories are the product, not you (or your data).  I'm pleased to announce today the launch of Outlit, the new social network built for stories and the people and sources that share them, where you and anyone can publish and earn. I wont mince words: we built Outlit to rival Facebook (and others) as a social media site where you can discover, discuss, and earn for your published stories and value created for others. 

Outlit has the look and feel of a social network, but was built for stories, not distracting personal updates, photo albums, game invites and other noise.

In this new digital media age, information and news comes from everywhere and all at once. Outlit lets you follow many different types of sources in one place, allowing you to organize, consume, and share a growing world of digital information in a simple way. Outlit lets you then navigate between different feeds that help you easily digest and enjoy stories, and share what matters with the friends with whom you actually want to read.

Our launch today makes Outlit the world’s first social publishing network and information marketplace where those who create and share original content and posts can earn money. In so doing, we are flipping the typical business model for social media companies on its head. Instead of you being the product, you can earn a living for what you contribute, and reward others who create value.


Publish and Earn on Outlit


Outlit enables creators and publishers to earn from both ad-supported views and premium access options. Readers choose, creators earn. 


To see full stories, or any original post, you can choose how to instantly access the information your way. Stories can be seen with an on-demand payment OR with advertising, so we’re giving consumers of information a new choice in access while creating two new revenue streams for journalists, bloggers, and publishers. Every user on Outlit has a wallet where they can track earnings from advertising views or on demand payments, and support other creators as they see fit. We’re the first social media site to allow these choices in access to content, and the first to pay its users who create written stories we enjoy.

Just by using Outlit, you are supporting the creators and publishers of the content you enjoy and helping us realize our vision of creating a new golden age of journalism.

Your earnings are accrued in your wallet, and you can watch your earnings from both advertising views and on-demand payments grow as you build your audience and following. 


The Outlit Story and Journey


“Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come.” – Victor Hugo

At the heart of what we’re doing with Outlit is our belief in the importance and value of stories. How the world tells and consumes stories and news has changed in nearly every way, but one constant is the absolute value of stories to the world. This is where the Outlit story - our story - begins.

Along with my co-founders William Treadway and Christian Zeigler, I wanted find a solution to story devaluation in the digital age. By January 2014, newspapers across the country had started to crumble, publishers began slashing staff and journalists, and earnings for those who publish and create were evaporating before our eyes. Newspapers and news outlets that changed the world - and created prosperity for their employees and owners - were now available for free online; content was copied and shared so quickly that those who created it couldn’t monetize it. New tools enabled individual voices and bloggers to publish to the world, but earning more than a few bucks a month was nearly impossible and required plastering good content with intrusive and ineffective advertising. Social media sites, where users were increasingly finding themselves, were beginning to do what publishers then could not - collect audiences in one place and then turn users into products.

The trajectory for this, as we all know, was disastrous for the world and pretty much everyone except those who owned those companies. 

The Outlit story has many of the archetypal elements normally found in the classic bootstrapped startup adventure with which you are undoubtedly familiar. Outlit launched our first web product in the Spring of 2015 as the first ever “iTunes for news” from many sources in the United States, with participation from over 40 newspapers and magazines. We wanted to create a way to get beyond rising paywalls from publishers (which were, thankfully, increasingly becoming viable earnings streams by then) by allowing users to access full stories and articles “on demand” and advertising-free, for a few pennies each, just like iTunes does for music. We did.

Each member of our team put in a lot of hard work to get a very simple product to a limited number of users to achieve validation of the concept. With a successful early product tested and a feedback loop developed and nurtured, we raised a seed investment to build out the product that we know can change the world: one that incorporates this new way to access full stories on a social media platform.

We knew this vision for Outlit, to marry a digital information marketplace with a social media platform, would take time (and many, many late nights) to build and get right. I am pleased and excited to announce the release of our beta version of Outlit that is brand new and three years in the making. Outlit is the world’s first social publishing network and information marketplace where those who create and share original content and posts can earn money. Outlit is a platform where digital content is valuable and valued, where content is the product instead of users, and where stories can be discovered, shared, discussed, and now, published. As we said earlier, we are flipping the typical business model for social media companies on its head.

But the truth is that the Outlit story is really just beginning, and we want your help in writing it. With today’s launch, I am excited to invite you to join Outlit free today to help us our mission to create a new golden age of journalism and publishing.


Roadmap: What's Next for Outlit


What's next for Outlit? As Outlit solidifies our core services to the growing number of users we’re seeing embrace the Outlit platform, we’re excited for new avenues and programs that we will develop in the coming weeks and months. Here’s what we’re working on growing on Outlit.

ORIGINAL CONTENT AND STORIES

As more journalists use Outlit as a place to publish stories, the Outlit team will expand our curative channels to elevate journalistic excellence we see on Outlit and from sources around the web. Currently, Outlit has five such channels, and we aim to double that in the next three months. 

But expanding curation is just the very first step. We will soon begin the process of building and launching a Washington, D.C.-headquartered innovative newsroom, hiring directly journalists and editors from around the world, and initiating investigative journalism projects that will employ some of the world’s best writers and voices. I look forward to making a more detailed announcement on this, our biggest and most ambitious project in the pipeline for Outlit, in the coming months. 


NEW AND POWERFUL TOOLS FOR JOURNALISTS AND CREATORS

Above all else, Outlit’s goal is to create jobs and income for journalists, writers, creators, and publishers. More income and incentives for journalism and content creation fuels more information and encourages creators to continue to contribute. Part of that will be to expand the capabilities of our user-creators on Outlit, including the ability for journalists to elevate their status on Outlit for free by becoming “credentialed” journalists, strengthening our position as a reliable database of online writers and creators.


We will also enable credentialed journalists and other certified voices and publications to earn more by allowing them and other publishers to charge subscriptions to users, so that they can create an up-front source of income from users who wish to provide patronage to their most valuable voices. We will also expand our publishing dashboard to enable and expand new forms of media to be monetized, including video, audio, and more. 


SOURCE REPUTATIONS AND TRUST

Outlit currently offers a source reputation score (“SourceRep”) for every user. From individual users and RSS feeds to publishers and other sources, the SourceRep helps users identify the general reputation of a source of information. We look forward to expanding this service in every respect: more detailed analysis of each source’s strength will help the Outlit community fight fake news.

For a lot more on source reputations and account types as well as upgrading your account (for free) to unlock more powerful features, visit our knowledge base at outl.it/about.


PUBLISHER PARTNERSHIPS

The most popular feature from our beta release was the native hosting of full stories on Outlit - a seamless, streamlined and user-friendly reading experience where you didn't have to leave Outlit to read stories you wanted to read. 

As we roll out the new Outlit social network for stories, we will begin engaging directly with publishers from around the world to seamlessly integrate their content onto the Outlit app and platform. We will make new partnership announcements in the coming weeks. Outlit is a level playing field for creators of all sizes, and a turnkey way to monetize content for those individuals and publishing companies already creating it.

Publishers that integrate seamlessly on Outlit will not only provide you with a better experience in accessing and sharing full content, but unlike Apple and others, they will actually keep the lion’s share of earnings from both ads and on-demand payments. 


BLOCKCHAIN PAYMENTS


We believe that digital media can be transformed by blockchain technology and are working to integrate some powerful solutions that will help us transform our content monetization platform. 



METRICS, RESEARCH, AND AWARDS

One of the most exciting avenues of new development for Outlit is the ability to create research, metrics, and more on digital media. This includes basic data that are revealed through everyday usage of Outlit, like most popular stories and most trusted and followed sources, and so much more. We will begin issuing press releases to highlight key findings in our research, trends in digital media, and other really cool information to the public.

One Last Thing...

Thanks for taking the time to read our vision. If you’re interested in joining our team, we’d love to hear from you. Starting on May 15, we’ll be posting available opportunities for all jobs and opportunities to work with Outlit at outl.it/jobs.

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Lucien Zeigler (outl.it/p/lucien) is CEO and Co-Founder of Outlit.