🤔 Do we need to pay for a nicer internet?

Subscription services and closed communities seem to be gaining ground

👋 Welcome to FWIW by David Tvrdon, your weekly tech, media & audio digest.

In this edition

  • Subscriptions and closed online communities with strict rules appear to make a healthier online space

  • Epic CEO Tim Sweeney calls for a universal app store to combat tech monopolies

  • Bad-movie podcasts are more popular than you think

Twitter enters the subscription business & why closed communities with strict rules are better

Twitter, the social network with not many users but a big impact, has been on a roll lately. It bought Threader, an app that lets people save and share their favorite Twitter threads. It is reopening to developers so that they can build new tools. And has launched a new subscription service - Twitter Blue.

Twitter Blue gives its power users some extra tools like unsend Tweet, reading articles on selected news portals without ads (a feature from Scroll, a startup Twitter acquired and integrated) or a summary of top shared articles by your network (a feature from Nuzzell, another acquired startup) and a customizable tab bar.

All of that for a price tag of US$2.99 (will vary by region). Twitter is as far as I am aware the biggest social network to offer some kind of subscription for its users (ok, there is YouTube, I would argue it’s more like a platform than a network) and I like it.

With subscriptions at play, the company has clear incentives - give users what they want, need and are happy to pay for. Innovation driven by users’ needs, rather than advertisers’ needs, usually ends up better (hello, Facebook).

Living in a wall-gardened is nice, just ask anyone on Raya, the private social network for which you have to pay a subscription and from which you can get kicked out if you don’t follow the rules.

The idea of a closed community with strict rules is not new. But it is not easy either.

The New York Times reported on a closed Facebook group called Vaccine Talk.

It describes itself as an “evidence-based discussion forum” for people with varying beliefs about vaccinations to better understand one another. It was first reported on The Washington Post.

It’s one of those rare places on the internet where people are helping each other and the discussions are based on facts and scientific evidence. The group has strict rules and people running it don’t get paid. They say if people are convinced, that’s satisfying enough.

Subscriptions or closed communities. I looked “everywhere” and these two seem to be the nicest instances out of the plethora of other options for a healthier online experience.

The only problem is, this is not affordable for everyone. But, when it comes to building a better internet, it seems that it is going to be a more closed space with more rules. Let me know if you see it differently.

🦾 Meta Reality Labs (Facebook VR unit) unveiled a new prototype wearable that mimics the feeling of handling real objects in the virtual world. It translates electrical motor nerve signals into digital commands and an upcoming “Project Cambria” headset that’s supposed to support realistic avatars and advanced eye-tracking. [Wired]

🛒 Shopify is partnering with Linktree, the Australian link-in-bio startup, so that creators can launch virtual storefronts on their personalized landing pages. Linktree said the integration will help its users boost discovery of their latest products and promote holiday discounts to drive more sales. Linktree is the largest of these startups with 18 million users. The Linktree domain was no.7 in FB’s recent Widely Viewed Content Report. [The Information]

🎧 Review: The Beats Fit Pro earphones are by far the best everyday headphones for iPhone owners. [Wired, The Verge]

🤳 Sharing nudes doubled among pre-teens in 2020. The research comes from Thorn, a technology non-profit dedicated to defending children from online sexual exploitation. “It has never been more urgent that we talk with our kids about online safety," said Julie Cordua, CEO of Thorn. [PR]

🖥 IBM launches 127-qubit Eagle quantum processor. Eagle represents a big step toward scaling quantum computing and is the company's first processor to contain more than 100 qubits. IBM claims it’s the first such processor that can’t be simulated by a classical supercomputer. [ZDNet]

  • Meanwhile, QuEra Computing, a Boston startup emerging from stealth, to show off the programmability of their 256-qubit quantum simulator — a special-purpose quantum computer built for solving certain types of problems. [Tech Review]

👀 Epic CEO Tim Sweeney calls for a universal app store to combat tech monopolies. Epic is working with developers and service providers to create a system that would allow users “to buy software in one place, knowing that they’d have it on all devices and all platforms.” [Bloomberg]

💸 Instagram will pay creators you up to $10,000 for Reels if they hit certain views. A creator with about 24,000 Instagram followers told TechCrunch that last month, they were offered a bonus of up to $800 if they got 1.7 million views on all reels posted that month. Meanwhile, App Annie predicts TikTok to reach 1.5 billion active users in 2022. [TechCrunch]

🎥 Patreon’s building native video hosting for creators to sidestep YouTube. I mean, YouTube needs competition, and it would be good for creators to host and share video without leaving the platform. Still, I think for users a better third-party integration into YouTube would be more welcome. [The Verge]

😇 Why LinkedIn is the one good social network. Many mock LinkedIn for its superficiality, but it is actually a friendly, almost productive social network argues  Alex Kantrowitz. [Big Technology]

📬 There are now more than 1 million paid subscriptions to publications on Substack. That makes Substack globally no.6 in terms of biggest subscription publication/publisher.  [Substack]

🗣 50% of FB Messenger’s total voice traffic comes from Cambodia. Why? Because of the complexity of the Khmer language, and the way users adapt for a technology that was never designed with them in mind. In Cambodia, everyone from tuk-tuk drivers to Prime Minister Hun Sen prefers to send voice notes instead of messages. It’s not just Messenger. Users favor voice across Cambodia’s other popular platforms, Telegram, WhatsApp, and LINE. [Rest of World]

📺 Netflix has launched a new rating system: Weekly Top 10 lists of the most-watched TV and films. It offers multiple top 10 lists that rank titles by the number of hours the company’s subscribers have spent watching them for 90 different countries (here is Slovakia). [Vox]

🥶 If you can subscribe online, you should be able to cancel your subscription online. The Federal Trade Commission issued a policy statement making clear that firms that trick customers into signing up for subscriptions or trap them when they try to cancel (need to call to cancel or other obstacles) are breaking the law. This applies to several big publishers in USA like NYT, WSJ and others who did not offer one-click cancellations. California was the only state that required providers to allow online cancellations. [NiemanLab]

  • Just a note here: From the European perspective this is almost unbelievable, I don’t know of any serious news organization that doesn’t allow people to cancel the subscription online.

🤖 The JournalismAI is initiative unveiled the AI Journalism Starter Pack. A guide designed to help news organisations learn about the opportunities offered by AI to support their journalism. [Polis]

📊 Hybrid working will soon be the norm for the vast majority of journalists in many news organisations. The latest report from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism finds that just 9% of news organizations plan to reject remote work entirely and return to their pre-pandemic model. The report findings also suggest publishers still struggle to attract and retain technology and data skills which are in great demand elsewhere. [summary on NiemanLab, Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism]

1️⃣ Ukraine’s Kyiv Post shut down by owner for “relaunch”, team calls it act of vengeance

2️⃣ Designed to operate in crisis: the journey of one of Europe’s key media donors

3️⃣ NYT’s The Daily seems to be beating European English-language news podcasts in popularity

4️⃣ Media entrepreneurs ‘punch above their weight’

[ 📬 Get The Fix newsletter delivered to your inbox every week with the latest insights, news, and analysis about the European media market. Sign up here > ]

🙌€ Anchor has expanded its podcasts subscription feature in 33 countries (including probably yours, too, Slovakia is there). Experimenting with paid audio just got much easier for many creators. I am quite excited to see what happens. [Anchor Blog]

🎧 The Spoken Word Audio Report 2021 was released. In US, 28% of time spent with all audio is spoken word. While most listeners cite the ability to multitask one of the main motivations for spoken word audio listening, young and multicultural audiences are more likely to cite other reasons such as connection, education, new perspectives, self-improvement. [NPR]

🎙 Beams is a Berlin-based social audio platform. It wants to turn collaborative audio clips into a social media biz. Interesting take, has 40k users and 5,000 communities. [TechCrunch]

🎧📚 Spotify is acquiring Findaway, an audiobook company that handles audiobook distribution and creative services. The audiobook business is 3x bigger than podcasting in terms of revenue generated. [The Verge]

🎥 Bad-movie podcasts are more popular than you think. Shows like “We Hate Movies,” “Bad Movie Fiends” and “The Flop House” spend hours poring over Hollywood duds, flops and critical punching bags. Audiences are filling clubs and theaters to watch the live recording of bad-movie podcasts. [WSJ]

🕹 Roblox plans to help bring educational videogames to classrooms world-wide. It is part of its strategy to expand its mostly teen and preteen user base and play a role in the next evolution of the internet known as the metaverse. [WSJ]

Poll: Would you pay for a subscription on social media?

  1. Yes, for the right features.

  2. Sure, if it was without ads.

  3. No.

  4. Haven’t thought about it.

🙌 Thanks. I used HandyPolls to create this poll (instructions).

Last poll results: Do you own any cryptocurrency? 49% don’t, 40% do, 11% don’t trust it.


🙏 And big thanks to Celine Bijleveld who helped me edit this newsletter. You can follow her on Substack here.


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