New app ups Pheed's challenge to Twitter, Facebook, YouTube

The celeb-heavy Hollywood startup has gained a million members in its first two weeks, mostly from mobile traffic. It's hoping an iPhone app will keep the momentum going.

Donna Tam Staff Writer / News
Donna Tam covers Amazon and other fun stuff for CNET News. She is a San Francisco native who enjoys feasting, merrymaking, checking her Gmail and reading her Kindle.
Donna Tam
3 min read
From the Pheed House. Pheed

Pheed is a celebrity-infused startup that -- as CEO OD Kobo tells it -- took the best parts of the most popular social networks and put them together in one platform. Throw in a bit of Hollywood flair and add adoring fans, and it's a network that attracted about 1 million users in its first two weeks of existence.

The company is hoping to make those numbers stick with a new iPhone app, released today. Pheed isn't releasing its current number of users, so it's unclear if the "pheeding" frenzy is still going on, but with 77 percent of users accessing the social network through its mobile site, Kobo said the company is fairly sure the app will increase activity on the site.

"Once the app is out, we're confident that we're going to be pretty good," he said.

Pheed is a self-described real-time, multimedia platform. While anyone can start a feed on Pheed, about 180 celebrities -- including rapper The Game, singer Miley Cyrus, and reality TV star Paris Hilton -- have signed up, and they can offer audio, video, photos, or text posts for free, or charge a subscription fee. The company said that currently a majority of these celebrities are posting content for free.


When Miley Cyrus posted an audio clip to her feed, shortly after Pheed launched last month, she tweeted about it and 10,000 people went to her feed in less than a second just to hear her short test message. She's continued to post free content on Pheed, including photos from Halloween or shopping trips, and a video of her dogs, and currently has more than 37,000 subscribers.

When Pheed launched, it was seen as a potential threat to social-media kingpins like Twitter because of its real-time action, celebrity users, and paid subscription option. When Twitter temporarily shut off Pheed's connection, stopping Twitter users from logging in to the site using their Twitter accounts, the incident caused a bit of a stir.

"I don't see it like that," Kobo said about being in competition with other networks. "I think Facebook is Facebook. Twitter is Twitter. Instagram is Instagram. Everyone has their own identity."

Pheed is certainly taking a different approach to content than what's trending in the industry. While other social networks keep access free to users by relying on ads or other sources of revenue, Pheed lets users charge between $1.99 and $34.99 for a monthly subscription or do a pay-per-view on certain posts. Pheed then splits the profits with the content creators.

The idea is that users are willing to pay for content if it's quality content generated by celebrity users. Kobo hopes this will encourage content like impromptu dance videos or performances from celebrities' living rooms.

"We just thought it would be fair and didn't understand why other social media haven't offered it before," he said.

Pheed also doesn't put any restrictions on its media, so video and audio clips can be as long as the user wants. It's a different approach, particularly for video-sharing, when other companies are focused on making apps that have restrictions on video length and photo size and formats.

With all the different types of media that can be posted, there's a lot to take in on Pheed, but celebrities seem to be buying in. The main Pheed account, named "Pheed House," has been posting videos of celebrities partying in its L.A. headquarters, and some of its featured celebrities are already consistently posting photos and videos. Now it's a question of whether the fans will really pay to access those posts.