On February 1st of this year, Film Annex announced that it would be the first website in the world to pay its users in Bitcoin. The social media platform has over 300,000 registered users in 245 different countries worldwide. Users are rewarded Bitcoin for creating content such as films, blogs and images. Content creators are measured by the Buzz Score, an algorithm that measures the impact and quality of the content provided. Users are then financially rewarded in bitcoin based on their personal Buzz Score.
Francesco Rulli, an Italian businessman and philanthropist, founded Film Annex in 2006. It was very difficult and costly to pay users from 245 different countries. Bitcoin simplifies the payout process and eliminates the need for currency conversion. Francesco states in a recent press release, “The ideal users at Film Annex are those who believe and think in Bitcoin as their primary currency.”
Michael Sweeney is the Managing Partner of Film Annex Capital Networks. I was able to communicate with him to learn more about Film Annex and the decision to pay users in Bitcoin. The following is a written interview between Michael Sweeney and Steven Carpenter:
Mike Sweeney (Left) Steven Carpenter (Right)
Steven Carpenter:Wereyou involved with Film Annex Networks when you first discovered Bitcoin?
Michael Sweeney: I had heard about Bitcoin in 2012, but we really only took notice when the US Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke made his comments last November 2013 that we decided to focus on it. In December we purchased our first Bitcoin and then on January 15, 2014, we made a formal announcement:
As of February 1, 2014, Film Annex will be paying its community of Content Partners (Filmmakers and Bloggers) in Bitcoin (BTC). Film Annex registered users had the option to request Bitcoin payments since December 2013, and now Bitcoin will be Film Annex’s official currency. Film Annex is known as the “#SocialMediaThatPays” due to its unique “BuzzScore” payment system, where Film Annex Content Partners get paid for their content contributions.
With a community of 300,000+ registered users from 245 countries, Islands and Territories, Bitcoin is a more efficient payment system and digital currency for Film Annex. Francesco Rulli Film Annex Founder and President stated, “The ideal users at Film Annex are those who believe and think in Bitcoin as their primary currency. We work with and continue to seek out the person who wants to earn Bitcoin, hold it in her/his wallet, invest it and/or spend it as Bitcoin. For this type of user, the eventual conversion of Bitcoin to other currencies is a possibility, but not the primary goal.
SC:Whydoes Film Annex Networks choose to pay users revenue in bitcoin?
MS: The main reasons were:
- Cost – It is very expensive to move money internationally and PayPal is not available in many countries where we work.
- Safety – Our partner in Central Asia is Roya Mahboob who was named as one of the TIME100 Most Influential People in the World in 2013. It is much safer to send her Bloggers and Filmmakers direct payments rather than send her a big wire that she has to then manually pay people in cash. As Roya states on Blog at www.WomensAnnex.com:
The use of Bitcoin in Afghanistan and other countries in Central Asia is a great step to involve people online with international currency without limitation of borders around the world. All the users can spend their Bitcoin all over the world or they can change it with their own currency.
Well, with the new payment system of FilmAnnex and WomensAnnex, we can open a door of opportunities for female students in Afghanistan to start a new online business on money transaction with no limitation of the boarder. We can send direct money to the users who don’t have bank accounts and so they can simply save their Bitcoins and leave them in exchange online, they can simply transfer their Bitcoins in their wallet or their own computer. They can sell their Bitcoins and get cash in their own exchange currency or hey can spend their Bitcoins to buy online shopping, clothes, food and etc.
SC:Doyou believe Bitcoin will help empower women and other individuals in developing countries?
MS: Yes, but it is better to hear it from our partners. Fereshteh Forough sits on the Board of the Women’s Annex Foundation and she states about the women in her native Afghanistan:
Fereshteh Forough:As an Afghan girl who was born and raised in Iran from an Afghan parent, moved to Afghanistan after the fall of Taliban, studied in Germany and right now is living in New York City. I have learned the value of being under Digital Citizenship in a Digital World using a Digital Currency – which all together conclude in Communication without Borders.
For the first time, It looks complicated to every body starting from myself, when I was asked if I know BTC or not, but eventually I started to investigate about it and create my own BTC account and digital wallet. Everyday many educational institutes have started to accept BTC as the valid payment from student’s side.
SC:Which countries do you believe will benefit the most from Film Annex and Bitcoin?
MS: Clearly countries with small banking infrastructure and unstable governments will benefit the most. It will take years and years to change the banking system in the USA, and obviously the USA banks don’t necessarily want change. However, developing countries are a natural target for Bitcoin and other digital currencies.
SC:Whydo you believe in Bitcoin and how can Film Annex help educate and empower developing countries with Bitcoin?
MS:The Women’s Annex Foundation is a pioneer in using Bitcoin as a payment system in developing countries. For reasons of safety, convenience, and cost, we believe the Digital Currency movement will help elevate the lives of women around the globe. We believe that Bitcoin is the reason why we can create Digital Literacy with Digital Currency. Digital Literacy is the ability to effectively and critically navigate, evaluate and create information using a range of digital technologies. “Digital” information is a representation of data, and “Literacy” refers to the ability to read for knowledge, write coherently, and think critically about the written word.
SC:Doyou view Bitcoin and Film Annex as an opportunity to change the world?
MS: Changing the world is hard. I have an Autistic son who is now sixteen years old and he is doing better everyday. It is a step-by-step process to change his world, and the same is true in developing countries. The goal is to empower women by paying them directly for their work.
SC:Where do you see Bitcoin and Film Annex Networks in one year from now?
MS: Our goal at Film Annex Networks has never been towards being big or being a public company. The Founder of Film Annex Networks is Francesco Rulli and he has a very European style of business. Our focus is being a Thought Leader in:
- Digital Literacy
- Digital Currencies as payment systems for developing countries
- Sharing advertising revenues with Content Partners
- BuzzScore – Establishing our proprietary BuzzScore algorithm as a digital algorithm that measures reach, influence, engagement, and the quality of content created. The BuzzScore model is pioneering a shift from measuring people’s eyeballs to measuring user engagement and connection for Advertising Networks and Brands.
I think the Wall Street Journal stated it better than I can:
“Film Annex (Networks) will go to an all-bitcoin payment model. The site has made waves with a radical new business model by which it shares part of its ad revenue with the independent film makers and bloggers that provide its content.”