From Backspaces to Beacon

I’ve spent the last year working on Backspaces because I was (and am) convinced that storytelling will forever be the defining activity for the human web. What I mean by that is, amid the endless streams of data, the commoditization of behavior, and the aggregation of interaction, narrative is the only thing that’s actually worth a damn. Storytelling is one of our best tools to articulate the universality of the human experience, and it’s in our best interest to enable it as much as we can.   

Backspaces was our attempt at bringing storytelling to the mobile web, with a photographic slant. It’s a fantastic product and we’ve had a lot of fun building it. When the community started growing, Dmitri and I were completely humbled by the incredible stories people were sharing.

We devoted a lot of time and effort into making Backspaces a “social consumer app” because that’s where we thought the big opportunity was. Personally, I was looking to macro trends and saw mass adoption as the key to Backspaces’ survival. User generated content as a model only works if there are millions and millions of creators.

But what we discovered with Backspaces is that creating good stories is really hard. More importantly, the economic model for web “content” is mostly ambivalent to the actual content itself, and more concerned with how high the pageviews are. When we saw that no story, no matter how poignant or beautiful, was going to beat a Buzzfeed cat listicle in terms of pageviews, we realized there was a huge problem with the whole model for storytellers.

So we began thinking of the problem at its root. And talking to smart people about it. People who were obsessed with the same problem. And that’s how we met Dan Fletcher, hot off his exit from Facebook. In three short months, we worked with Dan to put together a service that believes whole heartedly in the value of stories and storytellers. I won’t blather on too much about it here because we’ve said plenty elsewhere.

It’s a really simple product - find a writer, fund them with a $5 monthly subscription, and get access to every single story and writer on the platform. It’s like Netflix and Kickstarter rolled into one great experience for journalism. And it’s live right now. 

It’s with great pleasure and excitement that I introduce you to Beacon, the best way to empower writers by funding the work they do.