A social media company operating under a fee for access model will have to distinguish itself from the free services currently available. It cannot simply operate like Facebook while charging for access and expect any customers to come its way. Not selling personal information to advertisers and either curtailing significantly exposure to advertising or eliminating it altogether are, I think, the two most obvious places for such a company to set itself apart and appeal to some segment of the public that might be willing to pay. Some greater user control/influence over the type of information they are being exposed to would be a third. Facebook, Youtube, and/or Twitter might eventually transform themselves into such a company but it will take more self-imposed injuries like the one we saw with Cambridge Analytica for that to happen, and then only if users started defecting in large enough numbers to trigger a change in their current business model. In my view it’s unlikely we will see them abandon the sale of user data and advertising any time soon.

Regardless, my article is not intended as a prediction of what I think the future holds, but rather an effort to point out to consumers that what they’re getting now is what they will continue to get unless they’re willing to seek out different options like Medium, podcasts that rely on donors, Patreon, etc. These at least strive to provide access to more meaningful content while also agreeing to not sell personal data to advertisers or expose their users to actors seeking to intentionally mislead them. Obviously, some “fake news” or poorly thought out/low quality material still does and will continue to make it onto their platforms, but the ability for it to be distributed widely and quickly is far more limited and the companies have not adopted a business model that readily facilitates it. So, in answer to your question, ultimately the only assurance I can provide that this model will work more or less as described in my piece is that that’s how it’s working now with these types of services more often than not.

All that said, services like Medium are currently operating on a much smaller scale than Facebook, Twitter, etc. That will probably continue to be the case even if (hopefully) to a somewhat less significant degree. I think if we see users begin to walk away from the larger social media brands in significant numbers what’s likely to happen is a greater fragmentation of the market (a good thing in my view). Consumers will, at that point, probably still have access to free social media services if they want them, but many/most will increasingly divide a portion of both their income and their time among a variety of other companies that satisfy the all too human desire to communicate and engage with one another. Though these companies and their owners no doubt will still have agendas, donate to campaigns and so on, the fact will remain that because it is consumers rather than advertisers that would function as their sole/primary clients the nature of our interactions with them could not help but be very different and, I believe, significantly better overall. That difference would largely manifest itself as a far more positive and meaningful interaction (think small business vs. big box store) than the more passive/algorithmic one we are are currently experiencing with Facebook and Twitter, both of which I reluctantly use to promote my work.

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US citizen residing in British Columbia, Canada. Degrees include anthropology and environmental studies. Activism, politics, science, nature.

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