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The internet has opened up hundreds of different ways of accessing content online, which is fantastic from a consumer perspective.
However it has also meant that monetising content is extremely difficult for publishers as people expect to read and watch things online for free.
Knitd, a new web and iPhone app, aims to solve this problem by allowing journalists to sell their articles on an individual basis using a micropayment system.
The model is similar to iTunes, with the idea being that readers won’t mind paying a few pence for a single article.
It sounds like an interesting solution, so I spoke to CTO Richard Sams and CEO James York to find out more...
In one sentence, what is Knitd?
A marketplace that allows any written content to be bought and sold by the article.
What problem/s does Knitd solve?
Richard Sams, CTO
We solve the issues of value and choice by giving individual content a price tag.
We are the most cost effective way of monetising content - cheaper than a website, easier than publishing a book, more lucrative than 140 characters. That puts the focus on the written words.
Consumers have access under one roof to diverse content that they can scrutinise for its value, just like a consumer should. They can also get that content simply and quickly.
They can cache the content to read it offline and build their own collection of premium content.
James York, CEO
The content industry is going through the same transition pains that faced the music industry in the first internet bubble. It's being drawn out, but it's there.
Except, unlike that industry, thus far no one has presented a viable solution that changes the status quo.
Knitd's model makes mini "per story" price tags that much more attractive to a consumer. In the same way iTunes singles prices didn't scare off consumers, a few pence doesn't break the bank.
It also offers writers a direct route to market. We've kept it simple; all stream owners have the same tools.
When and why did you launch it?
Quite simply, there isn't a place for an expert in their field to quickly, cheaply and simply monetise their knowledge.
Social media has made communication easier, but we've made the exchange of knowledge easier. We've allowed that exchange to have value.
Social media is great, but where's the return? It's tough to measure. Knitd compliments it brilliantly.
I've been running a blogazine for a couple of years, I knew how tough and how much investment it takes to succeed there.
A system like Knitd doesn't worry about individual page rank on big search. Discovery tools are multiple and the popular content floats to the top. How it should be.
Who is your target audience?
Generation Y is our main target. They are old enough to remember when content had value, pre internet.
They are also affluent and experienced enough to be comfortable buying content for a couple of pounds through a tool that is simply addictive to use!
What are your immediate goals?
We're looking for people with knowledge or words to sell. Journalists, experts, consultants, authors. You name it.
Anyone with a propensity to use the written word to earn money. Once we have a couple dozen, we'll put the app out there and see what happens.
What were the biggest challenges involved in building Knitd?
The biggest technical challenge we faced when designing and creating the Knitd web app was caching the content for offline reading.
With Knitd, readers have the capability to save articles to read later. These articles are cached to the phone, so no internet is needed to open the article at a later date.
We had to make sure the navigational avenues to these articles were also cached to offer a true offline experience. It was tricky, but what the development team has created is fantastic.
The Knitd app is also available through desktop browser, but we were conscious of taking on too much, so although usable in Safari and Chrome on a desktop, it is truly optimised for mobile and tablet. The desktop version is on our development road map.
How will the company make money?
Unlike many startups, we are monetised from minute one.
We have identified six possible revenue streams from the app. Initially, we will derive revenue from commission on the sale of content. We'll then look at the wholesale options, commercial content marketing and so forth.
Our tools will also offer our Knitd colleagues many other channels of opportunity outside the app.
Who is in your team?
James York (CEO) and Richard Sams (CTO), two entrepreneurs that met in Brighton.
We also have a team of programmers that work exclusively with Richard - they are exceptional.
Where would you like to be in one, three and five year’s time?
In one year's time, we'd like to have 500 content producing streams on the app. If each one of those streams has a minimum of 300 people in their social influence vicinity, we would anticipate a realistic user reach alone of 150k.
Our tool encourages self-promotion, because income can be derived. If all the content producers are doing that, they bring more trade to the app for each other. It's self-perpetuating.
To answer three and five year's time, simply multiply the root number of content producers by four and ten respectively.
Other than Knitd, what are your favourite websites / apps / tools?
I admire Kickstarter, it's good business for the right reasons. I'm also now seeing why LinkedIn is the long-term winner in social. In this tough economic climate it's really come into its own and shown worth. And has solid revenue streams for its investors.
Square. Jack Dorsey is a legend. It's not over in the UK yet, but someone needs to follow that lead and drive innovation in the merchant banking and payments market.
We struggled to find a suitable micropayments tool. If only Jack would fix that, too!