For the first time in over a decade, social platforms are in a state of flux. No longer is it a given that all of your friends, family, colleagues and other accounts you follow neatly exist on two or three social services.
Right now, the state of social is one of disruption and reinvention. And there are some huge factors at play here, including corporate takeovers, social startups, regulation efforts, feature creep, misinformation, user safety, the rise of shortform video, advertising, lawsuits, algorithms, new brands launching, old-brands re-launching, and much, much more.
Chaos brings uncertainty, but also, opportunity.
So, if you were to build a brand-new social platform – what would you do differently? How could you create a space where people are able to share what’s important to them, whilst also bringing on big name brands, news services and creators? What’s the best way to safeguard your users whilst cultivating a culture of responsible free speech and navigating the vested interests of everyone involved?
And… is any of that even possible in 2023?
My guest today is Noam Bardin, the founder and CEO of Post, a social network that is seeking to redefine the way we consume news, fund online journalism, support creators and engage in social discourse. It’s a platform that describes itself as being for “real people, real news and civil conversations.”
And no, this isn’t just another alternative platform or Twitter-lite we’re talking about – there are some serious credentials and noble aspirations under the hood here. Before launching Post, Noam founded and was the CEO of Waze (not to be confused with New Ways), a wildly popular navigation startup that was acquired by Google for $1.3 billion dollars. Noam also served as the CEO of Intercast Networks, co-founded Deltathree Incorporated and has been featured as one of Business Insider’s 100 Stars of Silicon Valley. In his spare time, if you can believe he has any, Noam decided to launch a startup intent on causing a ruckus in the world of social networks.
We also get into his take on what’s happened over at Twitter, how the change in ownership helped cement his plans for Post and what inspired him to take on the challenge of creating a new social platform at a time when most would have advised against it.
This conversation comes at a very interesting time. With the calamity over at X, formerly Twitter, there’s millions of displaced users who are looking for a new platform to call home. If you’re listening to this now, you just might be one of them. That list also includes journalists and big-time publishers, who used Twitter as a primary means of sharing important news. Social platforms are where so many of us get our news – it has replaced the newspaper, radio and to a large extent, television.
So, in the aftermath of Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter, it’s rebrand to X, gutting of staff, roll-back of trust and safety teams and shedding of their once much prized academic and journalistic users, it feels like that function, of providing real-time news, and engaging in respectful discourse around important trending topics, has come to an end on that platform… but there is still an appetite for it. One need only look at the recent launch of Threads by Meta and the millions who flocked to the service on day one to see that people are more willing than ever to give new social platforms a chance to fill the void left by Twitter.
We’ve also seen Mastodon gain some traction, and before that Substack, TikTok and now Bluesky as places that people are flocking to online. Yet none of them, with their unique feature sets and selling points, have replicated that all important function of providing news, or rather, of being “where you go to read about the most important happenings in the world”.
Hot on the heels of a global pandemic, with ongoing climate catastrophes and severe weather events, and with the forthcoming US election in 2024, news and civil discourse are more important than ever. The incumbent social platforms seem unwilling or unable to address this need, which is creating an opening for other companies to step up, reinvent the rules and challenge the social platform paradigms that are no longer serving us.
And that’s what this episode is all about, disrupting dynamics and creating change.
So, here’s Noam Bardin, founder and CEO of Post. Let’s go.
The transcript of this episode has been lightly edited for clarity.
Noam, welcome to New Ways.
Noam: Thank you. By the way, I love “ruckus for social networks”. I like that. I’m going to adopt that.
My pleasure. Lots to talk about today, but I think it’s important to start with some context, the opening act, as it were. If we were to film the story of Post News with Noam, yourself as the main character, what’s our opening scene? And how do we introduce the plot point of starting a new social network?
Having news behind a paywall means that the truth is paywalled and lies are free.
Wow, I’m not sure what the opening scene would be, but the space of news and social and misinformation and disinformation is something I’ve been obsessing over for the last 10 years, and obviously with everything going on in the world. We have this trend in the rise of authoritarianism all over the world. Obviously, you can’t blame social media for it. It’s not the only reason. But social media is definitely accelerated for it, and it accelerates the worse than us. In addition, having news behind a paywall means that the truth is paywalled and lies are free. You can read whatever you want to hear on Facebook with some deeply researched content that some random person put there, and the editorialized, fact-based journalism is usually behind the paywall.
And this is the gap. I think the thesis that we have is that people do want to consume their news from social, but at the same time, they don’t want to basically subscribe to every news outlet out there.
That’s something you’re seeing more of each day in terms of the changing relationship between social platforms and news. Here in Australia, there’s very recently been much litigation and some big statements from at the time, Facebook, now Meta, about their role in providing news and compensating journalists. A case that threatened the entire industry. The federal government got involved, and at one point Facebook said it was even willing to pull out of the country entirely if it was forced to pay publishers. Now, ultimately, they did end up negotiating a deal, realizing that it was better to stay in market and serve their user base who, to your point, have an appetite to consume news and news content on social platforms.
I mean, in the case of Australia, both Google and Facebook Meta, decided to back away. But in Canada, Meta has gone full anti-news. If you try to paste a link to a news site or Post News or anything that’s related to news into any one of Meta’s properties in Canada, you will get this notice telling you because of the Canadian law, you cannot post news, blah, blah, blah, and they won’t allow it. So completely taking it out. They’ve done similar stuff. They’re taking news out of a news feed that they used to have a special feed, and they stopped paying journalists.
If you look in Europe now, they’ve announced they’re going to take news out. There’s an ongoing battle on news and social. The reason that the big companies want to take it out is a combination of the moderation efforts, which are expensive, the fact that it’s a small percent of their traffic. It’s like three percent of their traffic or their revenue. But the worst thing is these monopolies, the only thing they fear is regulation. They don’t fear anything else. The fact that these laws have started coming out and people are actually beginning to try and regulate these platforms as they should be, it has created this backlash on their side.
But the bigger question is, if you’re a citizen in a Western democracy, where do you go to get your news if these platforms (that) have become your source are now blocking it? My biggest fear is that where you’ll go is, my heavily researched opinion on TikTok suddenly becomes news. That is a continuation of a trend that I believe is tearing our society apart.
Were they the leading factors behind forming Post? Earlier you spoke of your thesis around online news, but why choose to start another social platform? What are the points of differentiation between Post and other platforms? How are you different from both the mainstays, X, Facebook and the like, and the newer crop of social networks like your Bluesky’s, Substack, Threads, and even TikTok.
When I left Google about three years ago, I decided to try and build a micropayments network that would network different publishers together. The vision was you go to a publisher, get a paywall, subscribe for $10 a month or read this article for 20 cents and give you that ability to one-off read it. I spent about a year working with different publishers and basically getting nowhere.
At the same time, I understood more and more the importance of news in the social feed. I tried to contact some of the social companies who could work together. Obviously, that was not interesting to them. I just kept seeing this gap that’s happening.
When Elon decided to buy Twitter for $44 billion, and again, people like to blame Elon, and he’s done his bit. But at the end of the day, Twitter was a sick company before. All the toxicity that we know was started there, their business model was in place. But to me, this was another nail in the coffin of the first generation of social media companies. I think we’re right now in an inflection point. The original companies, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, etc, were all built in a pre-smartphone world where social was the fabric that connected everything.
We want to build a platform for that experience – people who are used to getting their news on social.
Today, I think we have a new generation of companies coming, and I think TikTok is the first of that generation. TikTok is not a clone of YouTube. It’s something very different. But they took one use case that people did on YouTube, the short-form video, and they built a dedicated app to that. We’re trying to do the same thing for news. When I used Twitter, my use of Twitter was basically to get news. I’d follow people, they share articles, I would read the articles. That was my filter for the Internet. We want to build a platform for that experience – people who are used to getting their news on social.
Why are the current platforms not good for that or what are we trying to do differently? Their are three basic things. First is the user experience. When you’re on a social media platform in your feed, you see a news article, it’s actually a link. When you click on it, you go to the website of that article, get bombarded with pop-up ads and email capture forms and auto-playing videos only to reach a paywall at the end asking you to subscribe. All you want to do is read this one article.
We all know that, and that’s a bad experience. Our vision is that the content is ingested into the platform and is in the feed, but opens in the feed so that when you open an article, you’re not going to another website. It’s within the same feed that you’re in, same font, same look and feel, easy to read and move on.
Second is the business model. On the social media platforms, creators basically don’t make money and publishers don’t make money, and Facebook makes a lot of money. The reason is they’re advertising between the content units. They don’t want you to actually consume the content. That sends you out of there. You don’t see their ads anymore. What they want is to keep scrolling in their feed and watch as many ads as you can. We’ve built into our platform a micropayments platform, and this allows you to pay several cents. We call them points, but basically, a point is a cent. Very similar to gaming networks or Twitch or other things you might know. You can tip basically anyone if you like something a creator did. A creator can decide that they want to charge three cents to read their article or 10 cents or whatever they want.
Publications stream their content into our platform. We attach the price that they want, and then that goes into your feed. With one click, you can unlock it and read it without having to subscribe and go to all these different places, and you get a diversity of opinion.
The third thing really is toxicity. Social media today is synonymous to a toxic environment, and that’s a feature. It’s not a bug. It’s a feature because if you are ad-supported, no matter how you build your algorithm, the algorithm will learn that toxic content works. It gets you mad, you hate yourself, you hate your neighbour, your society, whatever it is, but you keep scrolling and you keep scrolling through that anger and you see lots of ads. The fact that it’s destroying, I believe, our society, it’s destroying people’s lives, et cetera, is a rounding error if you’re running a social media platform. For us, that’s a core thing we want to do differently. We’re a platform which has invested a lot in moderation tools. When it comes to moderation, it’s more about will. If you don’t want to moderate, it’s very hard to moderate. We are starting from wanting to moderate.
If you’re going to be a racist or a homophobe, or anti-Semitic, whatever it is, we’re going to throw you off the platform. There are enough platforms for you that would love to have you spout your racist stuff on. We’ll send you there. But for us, we are very dedicated to being the platform for regular people, not culture warriors, not the people that are out there to basically call people names and fight. People that just want to get, they want to get their news, they want to interact with people, they want to share their opinions, and they don’t want to be called a fascist or communist every day.
What’s old is new again, though, right? You’ve got the benefit, as you said, of learning from the original social platforms, what worked, what isn’t, and charting a path through all of that. For them, the originals, moderation likely wasn’t a consideration from the outset. However, they matured into that as they grew. But going back to what you just said, it sounds like moderation, user safety is something that is a core pillar of what you’re building at Post. That said, are your ambitions to be more than just a Twitter clone or diet Twitter?
Being about social is over. Social is a feature. It’s not a product.
Now you were asking about some of the Twitter competitors. I love Twitter. I loved Twitter. Twitter is a very unique thing. Just like Facebook was a unique thing and YouTube is a unique thing, these things won’t exist again. There won’t be another Twitter. People keep looking for another Twitter and they’re not finding it because Twitter was again a unique point in time, a unique technology, a unique feature set that created that wonderful experience which is now falling apart. I believe that just to clone Twitter, whether you’re Meta or whether you’re any other platform, that’s not going to solve the problem.
I don’t believe that adding in the ability to federate your content is really what was wrong with Twitter. It wasn’t federated. These are all attempts to go away from the real responsibility you have for your users, which is to protect them. This abdication of responsibility, which is really “in” at Silicon Valley. It’s like, we’re not responsible for anything in spite of the damage that we caused. For us, that was a core thing. That’s why when I look at Threads and all these things, people go to them and they go back to Twitter because they’re trying to find that Twitter magic again, and it won’t be there.
There’ll be other experiences. Just like TikTok, highly moderated platform because it’s Chinese roots, but highly moderated. TikTok is not YouTube. It’s not a clone of YouTube. It is something else. That’s very important for new platforms that are coming out to have an identity. What are you about? Being about social is over. Social is a feature. It’s not a product.
So don’t try and be the next Twitter. Instead, try and be the best, “insert company name”? Be the best Post that you can be.
Be the best thing that doesn’t exist that people want. I think a lot of that really goes to unbundling what people used social for. Again, TikTok is a great example. They took a set of use cases from YouTube and built something phenomenal out of it. Everyone, think about groups on Facebook. Someone will build a new groups platform. That would be amazing. People love these groups, right? But that doesn’t mean that Facebook is the right way to do it. And if you were starting from scratch today, you would do things very differently.
Taking a step back for a second, the name of the platform itself, Post… with everything that’s happened in the social space recently, new names circulated, old names discarded, it’s turned out to be a stroke of genius. We’ve seen Meta launch Threads and how coupled that name is with one of the core functions of social media, of social networking. And Post is the same. You post, you have threads. It does what it says on the tin. For anyone out there who may be thinking about starting their own platform, it’s now slim pickings. I mean, what would you even call it? What’s left? “Like”, “Follower”?
I always say that one of the hardest things in the startup is the naming, because everyone’s got an opinion, and everyone’s opinions valid because we’re all consumers. But there are so few domain names. Between domain names and so on, but Post News came out really well, and people always ask me, What’s the meaning? Well, there are multiple meanings, right? It’s after news, “post-news”. It is to post, news. It’s a variety of things. It’s whatever you want. But the most important thing is where you get your news in the social platform.
When you think of Post, you think of social. Please don’t rename it. Please don’t call it “Y” or something. You’ve got a really good name there.
By the way, Twitter was such an amazing brand. I think that’s the thing that, as a former heavy Twitter user, that’s the thing that hurts me the most. The Twitter brand and logo was so unique that happy blue logo versus a dark X on a dark background. These represent two very different ideas of what the mission of the company is.
Speaking about new ideas or new ways of doing things, with the recent issues at Twitter, a lot of people who jumped to Mastodon were introduced to the notion of decentralized social networks, private and federated servers. And of course, BlueSky with their own AT or “@” protocol. Then you’ve got the old guard who are also dipping their toe into the decentralized waters with Threads, and Tumblr, owned by Automattic, makers of WordPress, both pledging support for ActivityPub, the open, decentralized social networking protocol. What’s your take on decentralized social networks? And do you see value in supporting these types of protocols in future?
Definitely, we see value and we want to support them in the future. Right now it’s not clear exactly what protocols are going to be adopted. Obviously, there are two that are competing. It’s not clear if anyone is really going to adopt them. The thing is that the federation aspect, in my view, is a backend process, not a front-end consumer value. I don’t believe any real consumer, forget us, cool kids, but real consumers, is just going around saying, oh, if only I had a federated social media network, or if only I could put up my own server and have my own network, et cetera. I don’t think it’s a consumer feature.
That being said, to be able to connect with to follow someone on Threads from your Post account, that is a consumer feature. But obviously, we’re not exactly there yet. There’s a lot to go in there. But open source is amazing. What communities do, and I’m a huge community advocate, is unbelievable. But that doesn’t mean that your average person cares about what your technology stack is, what your database is. It’s like Bitcoin. Who cares about what your database is? We care that it’s fast and cheap and works and secure and da da da.
They think that it’s a value because it’s decentralized. Again, no consumer said, I want my bank decentralized, I want my social media network decentralized. It’s about what is the value you’re bringing to the consumer and how do you wrap it up so they don’t need to know that there are multiple servers out there and you can be selecting servers and all this stuff that more technical people love.
Well, we’ve already got Crypto Bros touting their backend speed, token stability, and all that. Will we one day see Social Bros? Will that become a thing in a federated future where, I don’t know, they measure the speed times of their decentralised social servers and things like that? Probably, at some point.
Look, some might say it’s a very bold move to get into the social space right now. What with the recent scandals like Cambridge Analytica and the US election interference still somewhat fresh in people’s minds. Then as we’ve discussed, there’s the rise of trolls and people splintering off into their own tribes. It seems like online news, media, and social platforms have become increasingly divisive in today’s culture. Is that a relationship you’re looking to redefine at Post? And if so, how?
My obsession about this space was always coupled with this frustration about why isn’t anyone doing anything about it? Now, obviously, the first entity that should do something about it is governments. Governments should regulate. We have clear harm that these platforms are doing, and yet we fail to regulate them. That’s the first disappointment. I think that’s the problem generally in Western democracy these days. We all have very weak leadership, fractured politics. We can’t make real big policy changes. Nothing’s going to come from there, from governments. Except the EU, which is probably the only organization that’s putting any legislation in the space.
You could argue about, and I would argue about how the quality of that legislation, what it actually does. Every time I click on a cookie consent form, I feel so safe and my data is being saved. It’s like, come on. But putting that aside, at least they’re doing something. They’re regulating, they’re trying. Again, the governments are the only competition that these big companies see. Flipside of that is, the second level was around if the regulators aren’t going to do anything, why don’t people take responsibility? This is something I find amazing. It’s gone throughout Silicon Valley, this idea that you’re not responsible for your service.
We need to have social that’s actually responsible for society and not just an ad-view platform.
People do whatever they want. They want to kill each other. That’s not my responsibility. I don’t believe in that. I believe if you run a company or a platform, you have a responsibility. Obviously, it’s not absolute. It’s complicated, et cetera. But it stems from a belief that you want to do something. What I’ve learned is that the algorithm that the social media platforms use is, what’s the minimum moderation we can do not to get regulated? That’s it. They’re not asking, what’s the right amount of moderation to create a safe environment for our users to protect democracy, to protect our society, et cetera? What they’re asking is, what’s the minimum not to get called up in Congress?
This is really the essence of that lack of taking responsibility for what you’ve built. Lots of people have been writing about this and complaining about this and talking about this, but no one does anything. Talking is great and writing is important, but frankly, you have to do something.
I’ve made a lot of money with Waze. I’m not someone who’s going to retire. I was thinking, what do I want to do with the rest of my life?
This is a mission that I feel is super, super important for all of us, for our society in general. Now, you’re absolutely right. Everyone told me I’m an idiot to build a social media network. Now, what are you thinking? This is the worst job. It’s stupid, whatever. In many ways, they’re right. But the flipside, I think, is our society has chosen social. So we need to have social that’s actually responsible for society and not just an ad-view platform.
It’s frankly refreshing to hear that. That you’re not hiding behind provisions like Section 230 and saying, well, we’re just going to do enough to be left alone. But to your earlier point as well, creating a place where creators and users can engage and interact without harm.
Just on that point, there’s now this new, warped idea of the First Amendment, of freedom of speech, that every person has the right to be an asshole, and the platforms have to allow them to say whatever they want. That’s not what the First Amendment is about. The First Amendment is about protecting the citizen from the government, for censorship from the government. The flipside is, all these platforms are all censoring their platforms for the government. Turkey’s election lately, Twitter censored whatever they didn’t like. Put aside China, which is extreme, Russia, and Facebook censors, and all over the world.
To actually stand for something means you’re willing to take pain for it. If you want everyone in the world to be in your platform and you’re willing to censor whatever that country does, first of all, stop talking about freedom of speech. Just say you’re not. You’re part of these governments, but you don’t stand for it. I do believe we stand for freedom of speech. We won’t be able to be active in Turkey, probably, and in Russia, and in all these places. That’s the price we’re willing to pay to keep the freedom, real freedom of speech alive.
How do you make that balance then? Between letting people to say what they like, yet ensuring that no harm comes to users. How do you remain the connective tissue in society, a platform that connects users and publishers across a broad spectrum of viewpoints without becoming a censor or amplifier of division? Because that seems to be a huge pain point for democracy right now.
Let’s be realistic. I believe that Western liberal democracy is a better form of government than authoritarian regimes. That’s a fundamental thing. If you don’t agree with that, you shouldn’t probably live in these countries. But we have to protect our democracies. We can’t just say that we’re going to let-
Because we have an authoritarian wave going throughout the whole world. Turkey, Israel, Poland, Hungary, Brazil, Philippines, all over the world, these problems are happening there. I’m not saying the social cause the problem, the social accelerates it, and it creates this warped view of us against them by society. Again, that’s algorithmic driven. But all that anger that you get is a tool to get you to watch ads. But that anger translates at the end of the day to horrible things that people do in the real world. We need to take responsibility. That means that Post won’t be the platform for everyone. If you are racist and a homophobe, we’re not the platform for you. That’s fine. We want to say that. Other platforms will welcome you.
I’d like to double-click on what you just said there. Links have been made between social media and negative mental health outcomes, especially for young people and people who are chronically online. There’s also misinformation and disinformation to contend with now more than ever. How does Post stop all that and protect the wellbeing of its users?
First of all, it’s a very complicated issue, and it has multiple levels that are gray. On this, the social media platforms are correct. There is no simple solution to this problem. Their take on that (is), because there’s no simple solution, let’s not do anything. My take is there are things that are black and white. The gray area is super complicated, but the things are black and white. We’re starting there with racism and child pornography and homophobia and anti-Semitism, all those things. It’s relatively simple, we don’t want them on our platform. Obviously, misinformation gets very, very complicated, and we have ideas what to do about that with communities, but we’re going to screw up as well. There’s no simple answer there. But that doesn’t mean that you give up on the other things where you do have a simple answer.
Have you had to boot many users from the service? What does it look like from a moderation perspective currently? Has there been anything that has surprised you?
Platforms have a culture. What we’ve managed to build from the start is that culture of civility.
Yeah. In our short time, we’ve been live like 10 months and we’ve been building live. In the last few months, you could say we’re reaching a minimum feature set. We’ve seen everything already. We’ve seen nation-states start building bot networks. We’ve seen spammers of all different types trying to come in. We’ve seen every type of racist variant out there. By the way, if someone attacks your idea, that’s fine. If they attack your idea not in the way you want to be attacked, that’s also fine. If that’s not the same as attacking the person or the racial group the person comes from or all those things. These are very different things. For us, we want to have that conversation. We’re not saying that we’re going to decide what’s the right opinion. You can have an opinion and people can say that you’re an idiot or they can disagree with, et cetera. But if they come and say that a bunch of racial slurs around that, that we don’t want because that devolves into something else. We’ve had, again, everything you can imagine, we’ve already seen on the platform, obviously in smaller scale, and we’re learning how to do that.
But platforms have a culture. What we’ve managed to build from the start is that culture of civility. Everyone’s on the lookout for this. Together, our community helps police this by flagging and blocking and muting other people.
I’d like to switch gears for a second. From a breaking news perspective, it looks as though one of the main goals of Post is to take that mantle of “where stuff happens” from Twitter, from X, especially with the emphasis on news and the publishers who have signed on to Post. Major newsworthy events like the upcoming US elections in 2024 are seemingly going to be rocket fuel for your platform. Coupled with the fact that Adam Mosseri, who’s running Threads, has said news isn’t really a priority for them.
All that is to say you’re in a prime position to be the social platform that is all about news. But is the platform a place for everyday people as well? I’m talking about creators, non-news entities, your regular Joe‘s and Jane’s. And if so, how do you incentivize those everyday people to make the jump to Post?
So, our core, we call regular people or everyday people, people that we define as, whether you’re a culture warrior or you’ve got a job. It’s very… These culture warriors, their job seems to be to be on Twitter all 24/7 and to fight with people. I don’t know what they do in their personal life. Those are the people that we exactly don’t want on our platform.
We want a place where… The main draw to us is, to get access to news in the social context. Now, when you think about Twitter, 70% of Twitter users have never tweeted. It’s actually a small percent of the super active cultural warriors who drive all the conversations. Most people go there to consume content, follow people. That’s why I did there all the time. I follow people, they would share content. That way, my feed became very interesting. Those people, we want to be the home for them. It’s very different in that sense that we have a clear use case, which creates a type of user that we’re looking for, a type of interaction.
Again, if you’re looking for the action, if you’re looking to fight with people about whatever crazy political position you have, we’re just not the place for that. We don’t want to be the place for that.
Shifting from consumers to creators, one of the great for your platform at least, second order effects of the turmoil that’s happening over at Twitter, at X, is that with all the changes, the verification debacle, boosting anyone’s content who pays eight dollars a month, stripping out news headlines, etc, there’s a bunch of disengaged, or to put it another way, pissed-off journalists over there now who are just floating around, sounding off on their dissatisfaction with X on other platforms and shows like this one.
I’ve noticed you’ve got some big names already on Post like Rachel Maddow, Kara Swisher, Scott Galloway, and George Takei. I see him pop up quite a lot. He’s awesome. Have you tried to engage with that disaffected and disengaged cohort of journalists, academics and personalities who are now looking for a new social platform? People who are, let’s say, big on tech and cultural commentary would seem like a sure fit with your platform. I’m talking about people like Casey Newton, Corey Doctorow, and Taylor Lorenz, just to name a few.
So long term, I want everyone on the platform, but obviously short term, we have to prioritize. We’ve actually built a program for creators. We have a lot of creators that write newsletters, and we allow them to ingest the newsletters directly to the platform and turn them into a post so that the consumer can consume in their inbox if they want, but they can consume in their feed, which we think is much more interesting for most people. We’re working with a lot of creator tools with different creators. When we talk about news, we mean news in the widest sense, not just sports, business, politics, anything. It’s so wide today, what could be news.
But the other is also, who creates the news? It used to be journalists reporting to editors and a publisher. That’s important. That’s super important that we get those in there. But today we’ve got newsletter writers and experts and creators and a wide variety of people that come to the platform. We are very US-focused today and very politics-focused, and that’s what started on the platform. Long term, we want to allow different communities to grow. We have an amazing photography community.
Photographers, if you look at #Photography on Post, you see amazing things. #Originalcontent. You see people who’ve created things themselves and are sharing it. So all these different groups are beginning to emerge within the platform.
I’d actually wanted to ask you about that, and we’d been on the platform for about six months now, but that’s something I’ve definitely noticed. This organic surfacing of photographic content, #Photography, #PostPlaces and all the variants you can think of. I’m not sure if that’s being artificially boosted, but something to do with photography always seems to be number one or two in terms of what’s trending on the platform.
We’d experimented with it as well. Some of our highest engagement has come from photos that we’ve posted. It’s very reminiscent of the early days of Instagram with people seemingly wanting to share not only through their words, but through photos, how they see the world, and what they find interesting. Is that something that you’re looking to lean into as well?
Definitely. We want to do a million things, and obviously we’ve got a lot of constraints. But this is exactly the communities we want to have emerging on our platform. Photography, artists, writers, academics, experts in the field, scientists in the field. There’s so much that social did, and these communities did before things devolve into the Wild West. We want to allow them to have a platform, especially marginalized voices, LGBTQ, Black people, Jewish people, any kind of person who has been attacked on other platforms, we want to welcome them.
We are not the core of your life. We don’t need you to spend hours and hours looking at ads.
What I’ll say very clearly, we are committed to protect them. If you are on our platform and you are gay and someone attacks you for that, that person will get thrown off. Again, this should be simple, it should be obvious, but it’s not. Each platform has its own DNA. Some platforms are great place to go fight this culture war. We want to be the great place to go and read news, find out what’s going on, and feel good about yourself. We also… That five-hour experience of doomscrolling where you leave hating yourself and hating others, that’s not the experience we want. We want you to come for 10, 20, 30 minutes, read up on the news and comment and get engaged, whatever, and move on with your life.
We are not the core of your life. We don’t want you spending most of your time on Post. Our business model aligns with that. You come, we need to have content that you care enough about to be willing to pay a few cents for. Then you pay a few cents for that, publisher is going to be happy, we’re going to be happy, and we don’t need you to spend hours and hours looking at ads.
Okay, so no ads, something I’m sure many people would be relieved to hear. But just to dig a bit deeper into the payment options on Post, as a creator or publisher or end-user, you can set a price on a post or choose to leave it open, free. But then there’s also an option to tip others as well, right?
Amazing culture around tipping that’s emerged that I could never have predicted. We see people tip creators, each other, etc. There’s just so much. When you expand your mind beyond “the world is built on ads or subscription”. Soon as you say that’s not the reality, there are other options, all kinds of interesting things happen.
Speaking about your wonderful users, in preparation for our talk, we put the call out to the community of Post and asked them, what would you like to know more about? What are your burning questions for Noam? And the most common actually was about your perspective, Noam, and what you thought about the platform. So the community question is, a year into this, how do you think it’s gone so far? And has anything surprised you about the last 12 months?
First of all, I’m extremely proud of the community that’s emerged on this platform. We have amazing people from all walks of life, very different people that have come together and said, you know what? We’re going to leave the craziness behind. It really is amazing.
We made the decision to build in public, which I think is the right decision, but there was a lot of pain. We had a lot of issues and bugs getting to where we are now, missing features and everybody wants things like, I want to give you that feature. You’re right. But I’ve got another thousand features that other people want. I think that that’s been amazing.
The interaction with publishers. I spent a year and a half trying to convince publishers to do this stuff and being turned down. Then we launched the platform and suddenly everybody came. That, I thought, would be our biggest problem. That’s been going really well and we’re super excited about that. The micro payments and the payment stuff also much better than I ever imagined it would work. I’m very excited about where it is. What we’ve seen is this trend of people moving from platform to platform, and that’s all going to end at a certain point.
Twitter is slowing down. I think when people stop looking for another Twitter and start looking for a new experience, they’re going to find something much more interesting on Post. But again, people that are looking for short-form video should go to TikTok. We’re not the place to go for it. Each platform needs to know what it is, what it offers, and that determines what’s your audience.
You made a great point about identity there, and I’d like to extend that to you in the context of everything you’ve been building at Post to identify perhaps what’s or what keeps the fire burning, especially during the tough days. What keeps you motivated to stay on mission?
I think it’s wrong to define companies by feature sets. Missions and strategies are really what defines companies.
It’s very hard to define, or I think it’s wrong to define companies by feature sets, because feature sets change, and what the product does, whatever. Missions and strategies are really what defines companies, and they define, of course, who your audience base is, who are you focusing on now? It might change in the future, but right now, all of these things really bring clarity.
It’s very, very important to be aligned on the mission. I think when I look at what’s going on in the world with social, what’s going on with news, whatever, every time something like this happens, I get more confirmation that our mission is important and that we’re doing the right thing. Hard, lots of mistakes, problematic, nothing is easy in the world, all the caveats in the world. But when I pick my head up from the everyday grind and I look around and look at the fact that in Canada, Justin Trudeau can’t notify his citizens about where the wildfires are because they’re blocked on these platforms where people are going to get their news, to me, that is the future of social. Really, that’s what Meta is doing or going to be doing around the world.
We don’t want to be that. We want to be something else where you can get that notification about the wildfire. You can read what your politician published directly in your feed if you’re following them, and you can get access to government information and publishers and to creators, etc, etc. Again, some people are only interested in a short-form video, go to TikTok. If you’re really interested in reading and understanding things, come to Post.
If we look into the future a few years, 5-10 years, however forward you want to gaze into the future there, what gets you most excited? What’s next for Post? And when are we getting polls?
We have so many things we want to build, and a lot of the things don’t exist on other platforms. There’s a lot of questions. People have kind of looked at the existing platforms as the model, but they’re new things. I think about AMAs, ask me anything. I think about what Clubhouse did in terms of voice conversations, forums, how people responded, real-time updates of information as it goes on. What is breaking news in the new world? What is live video in the new world? All these things are still very static as they were in the last 20 years, and we think we can reinvent them very differently.
I don’t have a TV, I don’t watch TV, but the only time I care about broadcast news is when there’s a breaking event. How do we take a breaking event and turn that into something social with the video stream and the text around it and everything else that we can do? These are the things that excite me about the future, about what we could do there. And there’s so much innovation happening around the Internet. News is one place where there hasn’t been much innovation.
I like to end these conversations with the following question, one that I find provides some insight into the thinking and mental frameworks of the change makers and innovators we have on the show, and usually provides some optimism for the future as well, which is what this is all about.
We’re faced with many challenges, both for people and the planet. What do you see as a modern remedy for those issues?
I think we have two basic problems today. The first is obviously climate change, global warming, etc. The second is the rise of authoritarianism, and really this move to dismantling the post-Second World War order internationally and the civil rights-based liberal democracy that we’ve known. I look at that as a hardware problem, a software problem.
For every problem we have, there are solutions, and we can solve all of them.
The hardware problem is climate change. Will we be able to physically live here? The second is the software problem, will it be worth living here? If you live under dictatorship that controls everything in your life, is that worth living? That’s the two questions I think are top of my mind, but they’re both leadership challenges. Climate change, we know what we need to do. We just don’t have leaders that will implement it. There are a million ways that we could address it if we had leadership that had the will to do it. The same thing about the social media networks and authoritarians and whatever, democracies need to protect themselves. They need to legislate and they need to regulate, and they need to be able to create safety for their citizens. Instead we devolve into this argument about woke and all this… who cares?
That’s the problem in the world? The world’s burning up and we’re arguing about pronouns? Come on. It’s unbelievable that that happens. To me, these are the two things that keep me up. If you think about the leadership the world had, Second World War, the Great Depression, big crises and how we got out of them, it was government involvement.
There’s a thread throughout Silicon Valley of this idea that government gets in the way (the libertarian), and we don’t need any government. Let’s weaken the government, et cetera. When Silicon Valley Bank crashed, everybody became a socialist. Suddenly, everybody wanted the government to bail them out. Government has a very important role to play. The problem is it’s not playing it today, and it’s not regulating. The populist bullshit is getting in the way of solving real problems that we all face. To me, that leadership challenge is really the number one problem we have in the world. If we had strong… For every problem we have, there are solutions, and we can solve all of them. But we just need someone to actually be able to make the decisions.
Well, Noam, you certainly don’t disappoint there. Normally, I’d ask guests at this point, which platforms are you on? But I’ve got a sneaking suspicion that it’s going to be a rather short list of one here. But is there anywhere else that we should go to keep up to date with everything that’s happening at Post and with yourself?
Sure, go to Post. I’m at Noam on Post, and that’s where you should be.
Fantastic. Well, Noam, it’s been great speaking with you today. Really appreciate your time. I feel like we could have spoken for a whole other hour about your future plans, the mobile apps that will be coming out, AI, APIs, so much to dig into. But again, thank you for your time and really excited to watch Post grow and continue to evolve over the years ahead.
Thank you very much. And let’s chat again in six months or something and see how things change.