MeWe Billed Itself as the Anti-Facebook. Now It's Going Hollywood.

MeWe Billed Itself as the Anti-Facebook. Now It's Going Hollywood.

The new chief executive of MeWe, the social network that billed itself the anti-Facebook, wants to lure in Hollywood talent — and is eyeing advertisers.

The move, steered by veteran tech and Hollywood executive Jeffrey Edell, is a departure for the Los Angeles company, which promises users it'll protect their privacy and prohibit manipulative algorithms with an ad-free network.


"I want to stay true to the privacy and those efforts, but I don't think it makes sense personally to be the quote anti-Facebook publicly," said Edell, who most recently was president of the entertainment and licensing company WTG Enterprises.

Jeffrey Edell

MeWe chief executive Jeffrey Edell

Since replacing founder Mark Weinstein — now the company's "chief evangelist" — last week as the network's chief executive, Edell has already signed on the comic duo Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong, better known as Cheech & Chong, to help promote the site.

"What I want to do is make the experience at MeWe an experience of chat and socializing around content, whether it be voice content like music or content that you would see documentaries, niche-based content, things like that," Edell said. "It would be really cool to have the ability to Chromecast or Rokucast, if you will, content that we would licensed or in our control and be able to have chat groups and socialize in and around that content."

The former chairman of Intermix Media, the parent company of MySpace, and a longtime executive for media distribution and licensing companies, Edell said he will use his Hollywood connections to build up partnerships. He noted that MeWe is already in talks with A-level talent.

About 17 million users are signed up worldwide for the free version of MeWe, about half in North America. The Culver City-based site appealed to some of those users by selling itself as privacy focused, with a "Privacy Bill of Rights" that vowed not to manipulate, filter or change newsfeeds or use facial recognition technology.

It kept those protections.

Unlike Facebook or Twitter, MeWe's revenue comes from subscribers who pay a monthly or annual fee to talk with a camera, access private chat rooms and get free emojis and other perks. Weinstein told dot.LA in March that the social platform makes $1 million each month from those subscribers alone.

Weinstein wouldn't disclose how many users pay for their accounts, but said 95% use the free version. MeWe has raised about $24 million from "high net-worth individuals," Edell said. And it's seeking another $20 million of funding from venture firms as it looks forward to creating new offices in a post-pandemic world.

Edell vowed to "stay true to the concept of privacy and security and protection of people's personal information." But, he says, he's open to partnering with advertisers to "give people the opportunity to make choices of what it is they want to see, listen to and do."

Until recently, the social network has relied on users' discontent with big social networks like Facebook to grow its base. When Facebook rolled out new WhatsApp privacy policies in January, upset users flocked to MeWe. The site gained 2.5 million users in one week. Some observers said it became a haven for anti-vaxxers and extremists.

MeWe

Edell wants the site to appeal to users widely and while continuing to moderate content, although he didn't say how.

"If you're going to have crazy theories, again as long as you're not damaging to people, you're not pointing a gun at Obama's head, you're not raiding the Capitol to get to Nancy Pelosi... then a person should be available to be as silly as they want and they can not make sense or make sense, just don't cross the line," he said.

"The subscription model is going to stay," Edell said. "And there won't be a situation where I know exactly how you behave, so I send you an advertisement to buy Nike shoes and get creepy like that, but I'm thinking there has to be a way – as we move towards the future – to give you the option to figure out what it is you want, and then give you a place within the platform you can go and get it," he said.

For instance, he said, members might be able to opt into stores or groups with advertisers. That strategy will be key, he said, if it's to make a dent in Hollywood, where studios and talent alike depend on social media.

"We just have to be more sensitive towards the entertainment community and the people that are going to be on that platform and not create conflict," he said. "That doesn't mean we still can't be different."

https://twitter.com/racheluranga
rachel@dot.la

Subscribe to our newsletter to catch every headline.

Cadence
Meet the LA Startup That Lets People Talk to the Dead
Photo courtesy of StoryFile

A month after she died at the age of 87, Marina Helen Smith spoke at her own funeral.

Smith, the co-founder of the U.K.’s National Holocaust Centre and Museum, addressed her friends and family last week through a prerecorded video. Yet Smith was able to answer some questions during the memorial service, too. After her son, Stephen Smith, asked what she’d say at her funeral, she delivered a brief speech about her life and spirituality. She also answered questions about loved ones who attended the ceremony, creating the illusion of a real-time conversation.

Read moreShow less
Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Blockchain-Powered Museum Arkive Launches Out of Stealth In Santa Monica
Image courtesy Arkive

Historical documents, records and important artifacts are sometimes locked away in vaults (until a museum or library wants to showcase them), and under restricted access. Thomas McLeod believes that these artifacts hold great value and have the potential to impact communities, so he founded Arkive, the first decentralized, physical museum.

Read moreShow less
Decerry Donato

Decerry Donato is dot.LA's Editorial Fellow. Prior to that, she was an editorial intern at the company. Decerry received her bachelor's degree in literary journalism from the University of California, Irvine. She continues to write stories to inform the community about issues or events that take place in the L.A. area. On the weekends, she can be found hiking in the Angeles National forest or sifting through racks at your local thrift store.

RELATEDTRENDING
LA TECH JOBS
interchangeLA