What Matters Today in Media—a Perspective from Within
In a digital landscape focused on data and algorithms, Vocal is building an experience that puts creators first.
Whether you’re already somewhat familiar with Vocal and our mission, or you’re brand new to the platform, I think it's important for me to tell you first about Vocal and our ethos.
Vocal is a platform where everyone (our Creators) has a voice and can tell their story in an open way, with hands-on moderation and curation to keep out all things nefarious. We avoid ads and algos (if you are not familiar with this term, in media, “algos” or algorithms control what you see). It’s where people from any background, established or novice, can post stories, music, podcasts, poems and videos in a long-form format. I like to say, “We are not about news, we are about experiences.”
Full disclosure: I am the Chief Operating Officer at Creatd (Nasdaq: CRTD), the parent company of Vocal. So this story will touch on how Vocal can give back, and how I see media platforms evolving at large. It’s my personal opinion, having watched this industry unfold over the last 15 years (since social media became mainstream), and having listened to friends inside or outside of the industry, that Vocal and our users can be a disruptor to how Creators are treated today in the media business.
There are other long-form media platforms in the market today where you can express your opinion, like Medium.
There are many short-form media platforms today where you can express yourself - take your pick - Facebook, YouTube, Reddit and many more.
Why is Vocal different from these companies and how can the media landscape evolve?
NUMBER 1: GIVING BACK
Right from the beginning, at Vocal, we set out to create an equitable system for Creators. One where Creators get paid for their reads and tipped by those same readers who enjoyed their unique stories. Kind of like Uber Eats but for journalism. We also provide a platform that enables readers to continue to find your stories and is accretive to bigger media platforms - a platform where your stories are not lost in a feed only to be seen by a few or the very lucky.
Bottom line: we believe that Creators should benefit from their stories.
Having recently uplisted Creatd to the NASDAQ, we also owe it to our shareholders to create a profitable business. So we have built/introduced a subscription program for Creators who wish to get access to members-only features like more money for their stories or entry to special projects (this is called our Vocal+ membership). We also have a Studio business, Vocal for Brands, where companies (large and small) wish to tap into the collective wisdom of our community via Sponsored Stories or Sponsored Challenges.
In the end, everyone wins. The reader has an enjoyable experience, the creators get compensated and our partners, the brands, get wonderful authentic content and long-lasting exposure via our community and the broader internet.
NUMBER 2: THE EXPERIENCE
Thanks to the pandemic and now Vocal, I have found myself reading more again. A podcast addict, it seemed very hard for me to find the time to fit in a quick read to satisfy my thirst for learning new things. I would rather sometimes mindlessly scroll through my feeds or watch my latest favorite streaming service and hopefully save my reading for late at night when I collapsed into bed (...and good luck on that happening more than once or twice a week!!).
Don't get me wrong, there is a place for the big 4: Facebook, Google, Amazon, Netflix. I use them, will continue to use them and have benefited from them.
But these same tech giants who have our time and attention have overloaded my brain with perhaps a few too many ads and too many opinions that I really don’t care about. I wish I could curate my own Facebook feed or Amazon shopping experience, without the extra noise and distraction of products that I don’t care about. And hey, thanks for successfully selling me that 1 in 10 times on a new face cream that I really don’t need or a new gadget that doesn’t really work! What I do care about is hearing from my friends and family, or searching for a great restaurant or relaxing in front of a great documentary.
On Vocal, we give you the chance to discover communities of real people with similar interests, and quality thoughts - then give you a pleasant experience that allows you to browse through the latest stories or easily go back in the archives and discover old ones that may still be of interest to you.
All chosen by you, the reader, not us the platform.
NUMBER 3: OUR DATA
Another full disclaimer: I spent several years in the digital media/data industry helping big companies leverage online data to better understand consumers buying habits and motivations. During these times, I learnt a lot about digital marketing and it has become my passion. It's also become quite the topic at virtual happy hours when friends, colleagues and family who want to discuss the somewhat controversial “documentary” on Netflix called The Social Dilemma.
Having watched The Social Dilemma, I don’t want to give my full perspective on this show right now or the business practices it attempts to highlight. I will write another article on that.
However, one statement that they made will stick with me for quite a while - this is “consumers are the product”. Whether you are data-driven or data-informed, it is important to understand how data is used as a business or as a consumer. Data has been collected for years (way before the internet revolution), it is the lifeblood of many companies. And yes, we are the product of our own data. But even small companies that are setting out to sell their products online for the first time need and leverage, yes, none other than those same big 4 media companies ^^ to get the word out and advertise their products. So I would argue that data is important, it just needs to be used in the right way.
It is also very clear to me that there needs to be more conversations and solutions for how we integrate social media with our lives and how to best use the data that many of us provide when we do anything online. This is just the beginning of a long conversation and there are many companies trying to help with our addiction to social media, like my alma mater Thrive Global and others like Headspace or Noom.
Our North Star is and always will be our Creators. At Vocal, we use the data that we collect to enhance your experience on Vocal.
With Vocal, we want to give you a chance to explore, not dictate what you read. We believe there is an alternative for people to spark interest among us all, regardless of our backgrounds, race or religion, to have a voice.
Your voices are important now more than ever.