Traditional social media players such as Facebook and X, formerly Twitter, are pivoting away from news content as the main source of engagement, but news should still be front and centre, according to the founder of a new platform, Post.
At first glance, Post, which launched over a year ago, looks similar to X, Threads and even Facebook to some extent, but founder, Noam Bardin says Post puts a greater emphasis on news, moderation and even the economics of news.
“The future newspaper is the social media feed and I think consumers have voted with their feet,” said Mr Bardin, an Israeli entrepreneur who also founded the satellite traffic navigation company Waze, which was later acquired by Google.
Users of Post always have the option of tipping, and there’s also the option of micropayments for publishers to control the pricing of various articles.
Those payments allow for the content to remain in the app instead of taking the user to another website, but there’s also the option of reading the content outside of Post.
“We built a micropayment network, so basically the publisher can decide, ‘OK I want to charge 3 cents, 5 cents, 20 cents,’ whatever you want for the content, but the user doesn’t need to subscribe,” he said.
At last count some months ago, Mr Bardin said there were approximately 500,000 users of Post. That number pales in comparison to Facebook’s approximately 2.9 billion users and X’s 300 million to 500 million users, according to Statista, a provider of market and consumer data.
However, Mr Bardin insisted that the economics of Post, for publishers and those wanting high-quality news content, would win over users and publishers in the long run.
“That’s the biggest problem with the current networks,” he said.
“Facebook can make a fortune while the publishers go bankrupt. That’s the mismatch of incentives and business models that we have, and we think we’ve aligned it. We either sink or swim with the publishers, there’s no situation where we [Post] make money and they don’t.”
Mr Bardin said that currently, about 100 publishers are ingesting their content directly on the platform and that Post is pushing hard to win over more news organisations.
Other platforms rethink news content
Ever since the 2016 US presidential election, when Meta, Facebook's parent company, was accused of not doing enough to stop the spread of fake news, it has methodically shifted focus away from news as a driver of user engagement.
Through small algorithm changes, the social platform doesn't give as much weight to news articles and is focused more on videos, photos and posts from users’ families and friends instead of news publishers.
In 2023, Meta shut down its once heavily touted Instant Articles feature that it hoped would be a way to keep both publishers and users happy with fast-loading articles that kept people on the app.
In Canada, Meta even blocked news articles from publishers after the parliament passed legislation that would require the company to negotiate deals with publishers for news content.
X also recently removed headline cards for users and publishers posting articles to the platform, the latest in a string of attempts to move away from news.
Post, however, decided to increase the emphasis on news by tweaking the interface of the platform to place its newsfeed in a more prominent position.
“This resulted in a 136 per cent increase in engagement with the news feed,” the platform said.
Post is not alone in attempting to put news front and centre. Other new platforms such as Forth and Bluesky have also sought to appeal to those seeking out news, although it remains to be seen if they can do so profitably.
“We’re not profitable yet, we’re still very early in the process, but when you break down the unit economics, it’s extremely profitable,” said Mr Bardin. “Obviously, we need a lot more scale to achieve profitability overall."
The challenge of moderation
Similar to almost all of the social media platforms that preceded it, Post is faced with the difficult task of maintaining openness, while at the same time trying to moderate content to ensure civility.
Against the backdrop of the Israel-Gaza war, Facebook, Instagram, X and TikTok have all been criticised.
Fake videos flooded TikTok, prompting the EU's Thierry Breton to warn the company to be more accountable for the content posted on the platform.
Since Elon Musk’s takeover of X, there has been less emphasis on content moderation, prompting deceptive videos and fake news to go viral.
In an attempt to safeguard Facebook and Instagram, parent company Meta sought to be proactive in removing content that violated its terms of service, only to accidentally lessen the reach of several legitimate pieces of content. The company later said that it “fixed the bug” quickly.
Even before the crisis in Gaza, Mr Bardin said that Post leaned heavily into moderation, both with human and technological approaches, seeking to quickly flag and remove content that violated its terms of service, and content that would disrupt the civility of the platform.
“When you go on the social media platform and you have an opinion, you should have the ability to state your opinion without being attacked personally,” he said.
As for the Israel-Gaza crisis, Mr Bardin acknowledged the spirited and passionate debate taking place on the platform.
“We allow it. As far as we're concerned, your opinions are valid,” he said. “But the debate is kept within the rules of engagement on the platform. It doesn’t devolve into anti-Semitism or Islamophobia.”
Speed was also a priority for how Post approaches content moderation, Mr Bardin said, insisting that other platforms took far too long to take action against inflammatory or inauthentic posts.
“On the current social networks, it’s part of their business model,” he said. “They want to moderate the minimum so they won’t get called out.”