Ashton Kutcher reached a major milestone in 2009: beating out CNN to be the first Twitter user to reach 1 million followers.
The feat marked the first, but certainly not the last, time that Kutcher realized the power of celebrity influence on social media.
“Antennas of influence are actually pop culture channels,” Kutcher said in a phone interview. “Not necessarily major news organizations. It’s my belief that the way people consume media today is through social media.”
Now the actor-turned-entrepreneur is taking his social media knowledge and tech background to the next level with the launch of a social-driven technology platform: A+.
The website’s focus is on distributing upbeat content with a purpose instead of traditional click bait.
“I think with great distribution comes great responsibility,” Kutcher said.
The content is generated and curated by an editorial staff of about 15 people, as well as through user contributions. The contributors get paid depending on the volume of page views accumulated over time.
Kutcher has been working on A+ with Evan Beard, the website’s New York-based CEO, and Kendall Dabaghi, the website’s president, since April. The trio has been building a team of writers and testing out tools to help enhance the platform.
“I think a media company is something we’ve all had an interest in building and then we saw these technology trends and how content was being shared more and more through Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest,” Beard said. “We saw an opportunity.”
“We feel that media organizations are going through a dramatic evolution,” Dabaghi added. “We see ourselves as the next stage in that evolution.”
The website hopes to lure in audiences with content that resonates. People who browse the Internet want to consume things quickly but also want to look at content with depth, Kutcher said.
The key to drawing in audiences is to “have a simple presentation, create anticipation with a headline … and also ensure depth,” he added.
To help generate page views, A+ uses a testing tool to see what headlines perform best with audiences.
“It’s almost like a magic trick,” Kutcher said.
So far, the platform’s strategies are working. In its soft launch, the website has generated 50 million unique monthly viewers and an average of 100 million page views per month.
“What we are really aiming for is to build a strong brand, an honest brand -- a brand that’s working on spreading important stories,” Beard said. “I think the ‘New York Times’ of tomorrow gets built like this.”
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