New app aims to transform social media

Phab App

Phil Haus ’08 wants to pheed the world. More specifically, with Pheed—the new all-in-one text, photo, video, and audio social network—he wants to change the social-media landscape. The app, which debuted in November 2012, was dubbed “the social-media company of the year” by Business Insider. Yet the most impressive aspect of Pheed isn’t the convenience of combining aspects of Instagram, Twitter, SoundCloud, Vine, and Facebook in one app, or that it breaks the 140-character threshold. Unlike the rest of the social-media universe, Pheed users own their content. And they can monetize it.

Haus is no stranger to the mix of artists, teenagers, and producers that make up Pheed’s community. After graduating from Duke, he started his acting and producing career in New York, then moved to Los Angeles to work on MTV’s Punk’d series. After several meetings with music producer Tony DeNiro and Hong Kong Internet entrepreneur O.D. Kobo, the nascent Pheed team began talking about what was missing in the entertainment world: a way for creators to monetize and control their content. Instead of continuing to hack at the ad-sale model, they began thinking about how to access vast, preexisting social networks. The result? An app that taps into Facebook and its kin and allows users to create channels to push out content across platforms simultaneously.

Pheed benefited when Instagram changed its terms of service last fall and claimed ownership of users’ photos. Though Instagram later reversed its policy, Pheed’s copyright-button feature and audio-download settings lured users into creating content. Haus points to a few Pheeders like teenager Acacia Brinley Clark, who has more than 138,000 followers and posts constantly. When Acacia posts something on Pheed, it has five times the engagement of something from Snoop Dogg, he says. Haus says there are more than 500 young Pheeders—more than 80 percent of whom are under the age of twenty-five—with more than 10,000 subscribers. 

Pheed recently debuted its first live, pay-per-view streaming event, featuring comedian Hal Sparks. As community director, Haus sees the feature as transformative not just for celebrities, but also for the budding artists that make up its key demographic. He imagines a high school band that could publicize a streaming concert to its followers to raise money for a demo or a trip. “Even if it’s only 100 or 200 people being charged $1.99, they’re still making 200 bucks. It works on a micro level, too.”

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