Fresh U Announces Move To Revenue Share Business Model

Jun 02 2016

Fresh U announces the "End of Media's Free Lunch" – for itself, and hopefully for other media companies who use free college labor to write and edit stories for their publications.

Starting today, a year after its launch, Fresh U is moving to a revenue share business model. This means we will allocate a certain percentage of our revenue to compensate contributing writers, and writers will be compensated based on the amount of traffic they bring to the site, as well as other qualitative assessments.

There's a growing problem with media companies that target the college audience. Publications are establishing profitable businesses around publishing the works of college students without paying them, on the grounds that college students benefit from exposure. While this is also a problem outside of college media (Example: Huffington Post), companies such as Elite Daily, Her Campus, Spoon University, The Tab, The Odyssey have grown to be successful companies by exploiting the fact that college students want to be published somewhere and they don't expect to be paid.

"The fact that it’s the norm to write for free and not the exception is a big problem,” said Fresh U CEO and founder, Kate Beckman, “Especially when the publications that aren’t paying writers are making a profit off of that.”

Fresh U will allocate at least 10 percent of any revenue we bring in to compensating writers, though this percentage could increase depending on our operational expenses. We will pay writers based on the percentage of traffic their articles bring in to the site – so a writer who produces articles that frequently perform well will receive more compensation than a writer producing articles with less views. By basing payment on traffic, we want to incentivize writers to produce quality work, and reward them when the work they produce contributes to the monetization of Fresh U. As we grow, we plan on introducing qualitative assessments for compensation, such as length of time writing for Fresh U and consistently high-performing articles.

Fresh U is not bringing in revenue at this point – Writers won’t make money yet because we aren’t. However, we are in the process of monetizing through native advertising and sponsorships.

"By implementing revenue share now, it's telling writers that we value them in proportion to what we have,” Beckman said. “As Fresh U becomes profitable, the writers that are making that happen should be part of that.”

Why does this matter to the rest of the media industry?

“The free-labor model is out of control when it comes to digital media,” Beckman said. “And because Fresh U is a publication for college freshmen, it’s likely the first introduction to the media world for a new generation of writers. If we can instill in writers from the very beginning of their careers that their work should and can have value, we can begin to chip away at the industry standard that exposure is the best thing a publication has to offer. Even if our contributors don’t make money writing for Fresh U right away, I hope they can begin to question if it’s fair to give away their content for free to the publications that are making millions of dollars.”

For more insight on Fresh U’s decision to implement revenue share, check out this Medium piece by Kate Beckman and this video announcement.

About Fresh U

Launched on June 1, 2015, Fresh U is a for-freshmen, by-freshmen online publication with satellite publications on more than 10 campuses across the country along with an additional national site for freshmen at historically black colleges and universities. The company has a media partnership with Teen Vogue and competed in the finals of Student Startup Madness, a national college startup competition at South By Southwest in March 2016. Fresh U was founded by Kate Beckman, a student at Syracuse University's Newhouse School, who started a freshman publication at Syracuse when she was a freshman in fall 2013.