Mike Isaac

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Social App Pheed Brings Streaming Pay-Per-View to Mobile

pheedThere’s a reason that social app Pheed has catered to the creative community in the six months since it launched. It’s an amalgam of sites like Instagram and video- and audio-sharing apps, where creatives can retain rights to their content and monetize it if they want. Think of it as an all-in-one delivery system for content creators.

Pheed wants to take that a step further. On Thursday, the company launched an update to its iOS application that allows Pheed users to watch streaming pay-per-view broadcasts from other Pheed users directly from their mobile devices.

Pretty straightforward: A user wants to do a live broadcast of some material. Say they’ve got a song to perform, or a discussion to hold, what have you. They set up the event and decide what they want to charge — if anything — for other Pheed users to view the live broadcast. The in-app payment system accepts the cost of admission and sends it to the user’s bank account, and viewers are sent a reminder before the broadcast goes live.

Smart. It’s obviously something that could appeal to the masses of musicians and artists out there who are promoting themselves via social and apps — think of the Lady Gagas, the Snoop Doggs and others who are creating their own mobile apps to promote their albums and content — while giving random small-timers the ability to promote their material as well.

After all, it may be easy for Snoop to get his spliff-happy app downloaded thousands of times to push his new album, but the starving artist in L.A. may have a tougher time. Live performance could be a novel way to garner an audience. (I think of early YouTube stars who came from being nobodies to hosting their own TV shows.)

Unlike some other more high-profile social video apps, Pheed is bootstrapped, fairly small and doesn’t bankroll stars to join the service. “We’ve never paid anyone to join, we never gave out equity and we’re not that rich,” Pheed co-founder O.D. Kobo said in an interview. “We really tried to do it the old-school way by just showing off the product before we launched.”

It seems like the service is already doing fairly well. Pheed won’t give me hard numbers quite yet, but the app grew by 1.2 million users in February, and also gained traction from the missteps of some competitors. “We benefited from the whole Instagram mess,” Kobo said, referring to the time when the photo-sharing service came under fire last winter after announcing its intent to eventually monetize user photos in a vague way. “Lots of photographers came onboard back then, and we gained something like 5,000 to 10,000 users per day.”

I’m curious to see how a pay-per-view option could help bolster the service, if at all. I’d imagine it could introduce some headaches to artists if technical problems arise and users want refunds for a faulty broadcast; customer service is never an easy task, and I’d guess even less so for a small-time creative trying to deal with an angry customer via mobile app.

Still, targeting the creative class niche is clever, especially when a large part of the service already skews somewhat young, in the 18-to-mid-20s range — the crowd companies like Facebook desperately want to keep inside their services and other startups are still trying to court.

The update should be live in Apple’s App Store today.

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work