Introducing Portal, the ‘Middle Finger’ to YouTube’s Failed Ad Model

Introducing Portal, the 'Middle Finger’ to YouTube’s Failed Ad Model
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Have artists and content creators finally found a viable alternative to YouTube?  Portal co-founder Jonathan Swerdlin believes so.

YouTube doesn’t have a great reputation with the music industry or its own content creator community.

From tragically low payouts to harsher demonetization policies aimed at ensuring creators earn less cash, it seems Google’s popular video platform has done everything to alienate artists and the content creator community.

Now, one platform claims to have the solution.  And, it has the funds to take on YouTube.

‘Portal’ has an interesting idea.  Instead of using ads to generate revenue, the audio and video sharing platform wants artists and content creators to rely on person-to-person donations.

People who use the Portal app can purchase in-app currency, or ‘coins.’  $0.99 will net you 100 coins, $4.99 nets 500 coins, $9.99 translates into 1,000 coins, and so on.  Users can then donate coins to their favorite creators and artists.

The Patreon-esque idea is designed to deliver artists fair pay for their work.  In fact, several musicians form part of Portal’s team, including indie artists like Chance the Rapper.  Andy Schuon, former Chief Digital Officer of Live Nation, also serves as an advisor.

Of course, I don’t personally endorse the platform.  I haven’t even used it.  But, Portal’s direct donations model provides a promising contrast to YouTube’s failed ad model.

Frustrated creators and artists on Google’s video platform slave for hours to create new content just to earn around $0.0007 per view.  When only 3.5% of YouTube’s community earns just enough to surpass the US minimum monthly wage ($1,472), you know the company has a serious problem.

Google – which recently removed its ‘Don’t be evil’ motto – doesn’t allow direct monetization on YouTube.  In fact, the site purposefully made it more difficult for content creators to earn cash.  For a new channel to finally make money from their content, it will need at least 1,000 subscribers or 4,000 total viewing hours.

Oh, and don’t even think about linking to your Patreon page to sell merchandise or receive donations.  You’ll first have to cross that lofty milestone.

Portal’s anti-ad model could keep content creators safe from ‘Adpocalypse.’

YouTube has faced significant setbacks in the past year-and-a half thanks to two major controversies dubbed ‘Adpocalypse.’

First, the video platform was found to be monetizing terrorist and hate-filled videos.  Ads from Johnson & Johnson, The Royal Navy, and Verizon – among many other companies – ran before videos promoting anti-Semitism and terrorism.

Then, YouTube failed to take down predatory comments in videos featuring young children.  The company had also kept sexual predator accounts active.

Many advertisers immediately pulled their funding from YouTube.  The company, of course, passed the buck to artists and its creator community, rolling out harsher demonetization policies.  In the end, Google didn’t lose much from ‘Adpocalypse’ – musicians and creators did.

So, how can Portal keep itself safe from similar controversies?  Simple.  The audio and video platform’s donations model helps it avoid monetization issues.  So, don’t expect creators to lose out for uploading ‘controversial’ content, like conservative right-wing and LGBTQ issues.

No ads also means the company won’t have to data-mine, so don’t expect a Facebook/Cambridge Analytica problem.  Plus, content creators and artists on Portal don’t have to focus on individual stream counts.  The donations model ensures that only the best, original content (basically, what people want to hear and watch) will thrive.

But, can Portal truly take on YouTube?

I’ll be honest – maybe.

According to co-founder Jonathan Swerdlin, creators who joined Portal have earned “100 times what they’d make” on YouTube.  It has also recently exited beta.  So, that’s a good start.

Plus, the audio and video sharing platform has the backing of billionaire Mark Cuban.  Mass Lab – the company behind Portal – recently raised $1.7 million in its first-ever funding round.  And, an impressive 4.9 rating on the App Store doesn’t hurt.  Finally, artists and creators can easily link their existing Patreon accounts on the app without having to pass any kind of viewing milestone.

Yet, one key question remains.  Mass Lab doesn’t make any revenue off the app.  How exactly will the company remain viable in the future?  The company may reportedly take a small fee on payments later on.  Yet, will this be enough to keep content creators around?  Without any advertisements from major companies, how does Portal expect to gain recognition on a global scale?  Just from word of mouth?

No word yet, unfortunately.  We’ll just have to wait and see.


7 Responses

  1. Terry

    Why doesn’t MTV start it’s own music video site? Where artists and labels can upload their videos? The branding is already in place, cool factor and retro vibe already built in.
    F**k YouTube, it totally sucks.

    • Anonymous

      Andy Schuon, who it says is an advisor, was head of programming at MTV.

    • Paul Resnikoff

      Should be noted that VEVO tried to do just that and failed — but hey, maybe MTV would fare better.

      • Analog Boy

        Vevo also seemed to have daily staff meetings to figure out how they can piss off their viewers even more than YouTube does. Looooong pre-rolls, mid-rolls, playing the same spot over and over and other annoying features. They’ve still got a partnership with YouTube although their primary site is shutting down. Good riddance.

  2. Kelly Belly

    VEVO is way too complicated. MTV would botch it. Needs to be as easy as YouTube. You just upload, and done. No fuss. No need to sign any contracts.

    So if Portal wants to be a disruptive platform, it better be easy or easier than that.

  3. Roger

    Portal uses Apple to sell coins — Apple takes a 30% cut as a processing fee (see So far, Portal is only available on an iPhone, and accounts can only be created using an iPhone and the Portal app.

    Until the app is available on Android, and accounts can be created using Windows, OSX, or Linux, Portal is off my list of possible. Sorry. I don’t own an iPhone.

    And limiting CUSTOMERS to iPhone only? What kind of nonsense is THAT?

    Two words: N. O.