Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

Bill Gross’s New Social Network Will Pay People to Use It

Serial entrepreneur Bill Gross’s latest effort is called, a social platform for writing about and discussing common interests. What makes it different from other social network and social news sites is that wants to pay people for their contributions.

Gross, who helped create search advertising at GoTo in the late ’90s, has been trying to recreate that magic on the social Web for the past couple of years with the company that’s now named UberMedia. But various products like syndication, monetization and new Twitter clients have all been too close for comfort to Twitter’s own agenda, and Gross has had to twice rename and more times reformulate his business., which is a division of UberMedia, plans to sell ads on behalf of users’ posts, giving them 50 percent of the revenue, or will allow them to sell their own ads and keep all the revenue.

“I never thought there would be an opportunity as big as keywords,” Gross said in an interview last week. “But social signals are so much stronger than search terms.”

Brands such as E! Entertainment, Universal Pictures, Bravo TV and Disney have agreed to contribute pages. All content on the service is public and users aren’t required to use their real names, though they are encouraged to connect to their Facebook and Twitter accounts. The main interface is a personalized social newsfeed of the latest and most popular posts called a “Chimeline.”

Gross planned to debut tomorrow at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco, but the iPhone app accidentally launched early, so people are already taking a look. He said the company — which has also built a Web site and Android and BlackBerry apps — is now scrambling to launch today.

Paying for participation in online communities hasn’t historically worked very well. I asked Gross why he thought would be any different.

“The biggest example of success is blogs and Google AdSense and Federated Media,” Gross said — where bloggers build up their own audience and then layer on advertising. “Why it hasn’t expanded to communities is because anyone who has tried to build a standalone place missed the social sharing element, so they had to play the SEO game and that doesn’t work.”

Gross argued that the community will police itself against gamers and crappy content — the kind of stuff that’s plagued sites like Digg and content farms like Demand Media — because users won’t recommend Chimes they don’t like.

“The breakthrough that’s happened is if you let people have the flexibility to share, they’ll get the message to the right people and do the dirty work for you,” Gross said.

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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