Rick Schwartz believes you should be paid for your time and effort, and he realizes that's a novel idea in this start-up, free-content world.
Jerrick Media, the company he founded with Jeremy Frommer, today will announce the launch of six blogging verticals that combine completely vetted, user-submitted content with Jerrick's SEO and monetization powers under the name "Vocal."
Jerrick's owners joined forces in 2013 to purchase Penthouse founder Bob Guccione's vast print and photo collection. The media company made a name for itself by reviving some of Guccione's vintage content for today's digital space, on topics like sci-fi and the theories behind extending your life expectancy.
Fans started submitting content based on their own niche interests. Now, enter Vocal.
Vocal will be a content distribution platform designed to act "as a hub for in-depth yet digestible stories," the company said. Additionally, creators will actually get paid for what they produce, unlike other blogging platforms.
Users can submit posts under six verticals: OMNI is the science, technology and sci-fi vertical that draws inspiration from the vintage magazine; Geeks is all things pop and gaming culture; Longevity will focus on health and wellness; Journal covers everything about your work life; Filthy is for people interested in discussing sex and sexuality; and Potent will center on cannabis culture.
"This can scale quickly," said Schwartz. "Vocal is a place for voices who want to be heard. If we needed to, we could create a new vertical within a day to fill that need."
After submitting a post, paid moderators will assess the piece for relevance and quality. If the post is accepted, it'll be tracked for performance.
Page views will determine how much content creators are paid for their work, more or less.
Based on a set of fancy algorithms, Vocal and Jerrick will judge how a post is performing based on time spent on the post and how users are scrolling, clicking and interacting on the page.
The content managment system was custom-created for Vocal by Thinkmill and includes a way to embed your personal products for sale (say, an e-book or album you've released) in addition to an easy-to-use interface.
Vocal will be supported by branded content and partnerships for now and will expand into Facebook-style ads once users are comfortable with using Vocal, according to Justin Maury, the head of product, creative and design for Jerrick.
Vocal is also developing a self-serve native platform to be released next year that will "allow brands to create advertisements via Vocal in the vein of Reddit and Facebook," said Schwartz.
"This new [ad] platform will allow brands to target our engaged communities by interest and to track their campaign's success via our reporting dashboard," he said.
One of Vocal's brand partners—for the Potent vertical—is Willie Nelson's cannabis-centric company, Willie's Reserve.
"When we work with brands to create branded content, we want to make sure we're talking about things in the right way," said Maury. "Not just listicles."
With so many cannabis brands out there, making it potentially one of the fastest "growing" industries, Vocal doesn't want to bombard its readers and users with just any kind of content.
"Vocal combines the ease of Facebook, scope of Reddit and commerce of Amazon, all into one rich ecosystem, optimized for content and commerce," said Schwartz in a statement.
Maury explained that the moderators of Vocal will send notes on ways to improve your content if your piece is rejected.
"It's been fun to see our beta testers and writers improve and learn as they go," he said.
"We already have a very targeted and niche audience," said Maury. "An ad that runs on Vice, for example, might not perform as well if it hits a lot of demos that might not be as interested. We have an engaged community, based on the nature of the platform."
Schwartz pointed out that the SEO tools Vocal teaches its bloggers, by sending notes and feedback when posts are rejected, could help bloggers get paid for years down the line.
"This could be invaluable to your personal brand and business," he said.