May 31, 2022 - Economy

Exclusive: Jonas Brothers back new subscription media biz for celebs

Photo illustration of the Jonas brothers on a phone as if it were a stage.

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Theo Wargo/Getty Images for iHeartRadio

The Jonas Brothers are helping to launch a new subscription media company called Scriber that allows celebrities to charge their biggest fans for exclusive content via text messages.

Why it matters: The goal is to bring the subscription economy to Hollywood without using Big Tech platforms as intermediaries.

  • By launching via SMS messaging, Scriber avoids having to pay Google and Apple app store commission fees for the subscriptions it sells.

Details: Scriber is meant for professional creators with sizable followings, like musicians, actors, athletes and influencers.

  • The company is launching in partnership with Nick, Joe and Kevin Jonas, and will add more celebrity creators in June.
  • The customers being targeted are the top 1%-5% of a celebrity's existing follower base, said former journalist and tech entrepreneur Brian Goldsmith, who is launching the company as CEO with backing from the Jonas Brothers.
  • "You’re targeting the little community of super fans who want either more of what you’re already doing or they want to see something that only subscribers will get to see," Goldsmith said in an interview with Axios.

Yes, but: For celebrities with tens of millions of followers, a small subset of super fans can still be incredibly lucrative.

  • If just 1% of the Jonas Brothers' combined 50 million Instagram followers subscribed to the Jonas Brothers' Scriber account for a year, the trio would make $30 million.
  • “We love surprising the fans with secret shows and special events, and Scriber provides an easier way for our fans to get access. It’s a win-win,” Joe Jonas said in a statement.

How it works for users: Users can subscribe by texting "GO" to a phone number provided by the celebrity on social media or via other marketing materials. They can unsubscribe at any time by texting "STOP" or "CANCEL" in the text thread.

  • From there, they can set up recurring payments with Apple Pay or via credit card. Users will then receive exclusive material — like behind-the-scenes videos, exclusive merchandise and early access to tickets — via text message links pointing to content that's pre-loaded for extra fast browser viewing.
  • The company has a patent pending for the technique it uses to load the content quickly so the experience feels as seamless as a standalone app for the user.

How it works for creators: Celebrities can upload their latest videos or subscriber-only offerings via a Scriber portal online. Scriber takes care of the distribution, including payment processing, but it does pass off Stripe's 2.9% payment processing fee to the creator.

  • Celebrities can ch0ose how much to charge fans monthly to receive exclusive content. The Jonas Brothers, for example, will charge subscribers $4.99 monthly.
  • Scriber will charge all celebrity creators $1 per month for every subscriber that uses the service. Because Scriber works with celebrities on the back end of the deal, most users will not realize Scriber is powering their transactions.

The big picture: Social media giants are trying to build out competitive services that would allow creators to charge their fans for exclusive content via their apps.

  • TikTok began testing support for subscriptions last week.
  • Twitter debuted Super Follows, a feature that allows users to charge their followers for more content, last year.
  • Instagram introduced subscriptions in January.

What's next: The company is mostly backed by Goldsmith for now but is considering raising venture capital down the line.

  • The Jonas Brothers are equity partners and the company has a few other angel investors. Goldsmith wouldn't disclose the size of the total initial investment but said it's in the six-figure range.
  • Because most of Scriber's clients already make lots of money off of their fame, Goldsmith hopes the additional revenue from Scriber can be used to jump-start more philanthropic initiatives from celebrities.
  • The Jonas Brothers will be donating half of the proceeds from their Scriber earnings to charities they care about. Scriber is donating a small percentage of its proceeds to carbon reduction efforts through Stripe.
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