Seattle-based startup The New Hive is launching a new tool that allows users to create online “expressions,” which can be a combination of multimedia like videos and images, all arranged on a blank online canvas. It’s sort of like a free-form, media indiscriminate version of text and photo blogs like those found on Tumblr, as well as video diaries posted to YouTube. The company launched in private beta in November 2011, and is opening up signups to a larger group today.
The New Hive’s five founders started the company with two goals: to allow anyone with no design expertise to create “beautiful online expressions,” and to foster a global community of creative people. “What we’re passionate about is creating space for people to express themselves,” co-founder Zach Verdin said in an interview, and said the inspiration came from their own experiences creating content. “The one thing we kept coming up against was the lack of flexibility and rigid designs of blogs and do-it-yourself website builders and social networks. The New Hive is our answer to that frustration.”
Unlike structured tools like Tumblr, which require users to specify whether a post is a video, photo, text-based post, or link, The New Hive starts with a blank page, and allows users to drag and drop images, insert text boxes, audio and video clips, change font and background options, and basically customize any aspect of their expression. Users can make expressions public or private, and can share them via a dedicated URL, or on social networks like Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter. “Essentially we’re portal agnostic, so we really want to allow people to create these expressions and share them anywhere they want,” Verdin said.
Right now users are creating all different kinds of content, from company landing pages to quotes to inspirational videos. Users can explore expressions on the site by category, spanning everything from art to music to poetry, or view randomly generated expressions. Similar to other sites like Pinterest, users can like, share and comment on other people’s expressions, and Verdin said they’re planning a Remix feature which will allow users to add on to others’ expressions. The platform lends itself to virality, since it allows for easy sharing, and it will soon allow users to build on expressions others have already built, something that Verdin could lend itself to creating online memes. “We really want to turn the people who are just consuming content into people that create,” he said.
Since the platform is free to use, and ads will never be placed on expressions, the big question is how the company will make money. With other content creation startups like Pinterest and Tumblr struggling to monetize (the latter company is implementing a new advertising business model this week), Verdin and his team will need to find a way to cash in on the creativity of others. The company plans to make money through a marketplace for developers and services, and Verdin said they’re exploring a few other ideas. “In addition to a marketplace that will allow third-party developers to create applications, extensions and widgets, The New Hive will provide services that revolve around greater personalization,” Verdin said, “such as customized URLs and personally branded hives that will give creative brands a deeper and more meaningful way to interact with their audience.”
While The New Hive offers an easy way to create online expressions, it has to compete with countless other services for a user’s attention. There are professional tools like About.me that allow people to create a customized landing page for employers; blogging platforms like WordPress and Tumblr that let users customize their page’s theme and create multimedia posts; and online journals like Penzu that allow people to record private thoughts. Verdin stresses that The New Hive is about creating content rather than just sharing it, but the big question remains whether people, creative or not, need another place to express themselves online.