Last month, co-founder of Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales launched WikiTribune Social (WT:Social), a collaboratively editable news-focused social network. This site aims to compete with popular social networking platforms including Facebook and Twitter.
WT:Social’s business model
What sets WT:Social apart from other popular social networking sites is its underlying business model. Instead of relying on pure advertising business model, WT:Social seeks donations from a small subset of users who want to donate. “The business model of social media companies, of pure advertising, is problematic. It turns out the huge winner is low-quality content,” Wales explained in an interview with Financial Times.
Users who want free access are added to a waitlist. If you want to skip the queue, you can do that by paying a sum or inviting your friends. The subscription amount is $12.99 monthly and $100 yearly in the US. In the UK it is €10 monthly and €80 yearly. In Europe, the subscription costs are €12 a month or €90 a year. You can either pay through PayPal or your credit card.
Since its launch in October, the site now has 200,000 members, Wales tweeted yesterday.
https://t.co/Uk7PUE8GV2 just passed 200,000 members while I was having dinner with @carolecadwalla, @iRowan , @chrisinsilico , @RanaForoohar , @jamiesusskind and others on the general topic of what's gone wrong with social media and the world in general.
— Jimmy Wales (@jimmy_wales) November 18, 2019
WT:Social is a revamped version of WikiTribune, the collaborative news site that Wales and Orit Kopel, a human rights lawyer and founder of Glass Voices introduced in 2017. The site employed a team of journalists who worked with volunteer contributors to report, write, edit, fact-check and develop news stories. The Wired reports that WikiTribune’s initial crowdfunding round raised at least £137,000. However, in 2018 the company reported over £110,000 in losses and had to lay off its editorial staff.
What is different in WT:Social as compared to WikiTribune is the concept of “subwikis”. Instead of covering news that interested readers all over the world, WT:Social builds small communities in the form of subwikis that can sustain themselves. There a number of subwikis on the site that you can join based on your interest.
To combat fake news and “clickbait nonsense” of existing social networks, WT:Social simply allows users to edit misleading headlines. Wales shared with the Financial Times, “Almost everything on the platform is editable. That alone gives a huge incentive for good behavior because if you say something obnoxious, someone will just delete it.”
This launch sparked a discussion on Hacker News where people appreciated this initiative, while some others were upset with the considerably steep subscription prices. Others were not very sure whether the “everything editable” policy will sustain when the site reaches million+ users. Some others talked about going for other alternatives like Mastodon and Micro.blog.
“I’m not saying that this is similar to Netflix or Amazon or a national newspaper, but it’s more about how the more popular as well as niche/premium services have priced themselves and how people perceive value. Comparatively, this $12.99/month or $100/year social network focused on the news seems like it’s meant for some sections of first-world inhabitants. It could’ve probably done better with a currency-adjusted or purchasing power parity specific rate. For example, Cloudflare WARP+ costs about $0.97 a month (compared to $4.99 a month in the US),” a user commented.