My Chat with Ello CEO Paul Budnitz
While a “fire-side chat” would have been awesome, this was definitely the highlight of my week. Late last week I published a post about questions I had regarding brands, advertising and censorship on the social network Ello, along with my personal thoughts and concerns.
Thanks to the awesome team at Rival IQ, my post got into the hands of the main man himself, Paul Budnitz. Paul was kind enough to actually answer my questions via email (this is how a startup geek such as myself gets high on life).
And so, I hope you enjoy my “email-side chat” with Paul Budnitz, as he sheds some light on the role of brands within Ello. I was even able to sneak in a couple of additional questions.
Question #1: How do you define “Advertising” within the Ello-Sphere?
Manpreet: I noticed that Ello’s manifesto stresses the creation of an advertising-free platform, however countless brands, including Budnitz Bicycles, have created Ello pages. Does this mean brands can create profiles and post promotional content without it being considered advertising?
Paul: The problem we are addressing on Ello is paid advertising. When a company pays money for you to see an ad by them, it pops up on your screen, usually as a banner ad, text ad, or boosted post. Besides being annoying these ads also have the negative side effect of burying things that you may care about more — for example posts by friends or people you are following.
Ello does not allow paid advertising in any form.
On the other hand, anyone can post anything they want on Ello (including an ad). The good news is that you don’t have to follow them. So if you choose, you never have to see an ad for anything ever again.
Question #2: How is Ello different from early Facebook when “ads” were just brand pages themselves?
Manpreet: I noticed that the monetization model includes charging for additional features. Will you be charging brands and individuals the same amount for certain/additional features?
Paul: Facebook never said they wouldn’t have ads. They do, we won’t. At present brands and individuals will pay the same for paid features, etc.
Question #3: Does no censoring really mean you will not police inappropriate or slandering content?
Manpreet: Let’s take a look at the guy/girl behind Dominos’ fake Ello page. I am sure this could become a legal issue, however, one of Ello’s foundational principals is to not censor. In fact, you allow users to post porn simply requesting them to mark it as “Not Suitable for Work (NSFW).” If you (Ello) promise to not censor, then how are you going to come down on these pages that are a mockery of established brands? Where do you draw the line?
When we become aware of someone doing this, we ask them to stop and/or nuke their account. Generally speaking we wait until someone complains before we act. That fake Dominos account was deleted recently, I think.
As for NSFW — we are setting up a user based flagging system. If someone posts adult content but hasn’t told us, we’ll notify them and ask them to change their settings. Repeat offenders will be banned. This is a good system, because we don’t have to act as censors. Some content (that involves hurting people, children, animals, etc) is simply not allowed.
Question #4: Do brands belong on Ello?
Manpreet: If so, what role do brands play on Ello? How would you define their presence in relation to the network and it’s individual users?
Paul: Everyone can be on Ello. If you like what someone is posting, you can follow them. If you don’t, don’t. There’s no distinction between brands and people for us in this way, since everyone has freedom to make a choice because we don’t force you to see ads.
Question #5: What role do you see brands playing on Ello 5 years down the road?
Manpreet: Do you plan to create separate pricing packages for brands and individuals?
Paul: No. I can’t imagine anything different than what we are doing today.
Say Hello to Ello!
Gotta say, I really appreciate Paul’s honesty and transparency. He made me realize the type of experience he is trying to create for users on Ello — a different type of social network that is more raw, real and honest. I have to admit, this made me revisit and explore Ello with a whole new perspective. As far as brands are concerned, I stand by my previous assessment: Ello is prime online real-estate — find yourself an invite and reserve your “ello.com/yournamehere” URL. However, investing time and your marketing budget towards maintaining an Ello page is not necessary (at this time). As an individual, I encourage you to try it out and find me — after all, Ello is for everyone!