Disciple Media specializes in building independent, digital communities where people can coalesce around a single passion. The company has come to the fore by creating a community for the UK Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, music acts like the Rolling Stones, as well as a number of publishers including Forbes. Amidst the global health crisis, where digital communities have played an increasingly important role, WNIP caught up with Benji Vaughan, Disciple Media’s CEO to find out more…
Can you give us some background about your company?
Disciple was founded by myself in 2015. I was an electronic musician and label owner, recording under the aliases Prometheus & Younger Brother. My idea for the company came about when I became frustrated with the lack of ways I could directly reach and engage my audiences on mobile.
Since launch five years ago, we’ve grown from an agency-model company building bespoke apps for musicians into a global SaaS business. We are headquartered in London and currently have over 157 thriving passion communities all around the world – for actors, YouTubers, lifestyle gurus, public institutions, and, of course, publishers.
What business problem is your company addressing?
Social networking giants have monopolised the market and more people are spending more time online. With 90% of the Western world online and spending half of their day consuming content, Disciple aims to be a trusted platform where hosts feel safe and empowered to grow their audience and build a community of true value, outside the saturated social media market. The relationship we have with the online world has taken a turn – consumer trust in Facebook decreased by 60% between 2017-18. Disciple enables creators to build independent community spaces outside the traditional social media networking platforms.
What is your core product addressing this problem?
Disciple aims to break the social media monopoly and allow creators to thrive in a trusted space. Through our native and progressive web apps, creators become hosts of their own community allowing them to build a customised space for their customers, followers and fans. Hosts can store and share their content in their own media gallery, segment their customers into various groups, understand their customers better with community insights, and get real-time feedback from their community. As well as the messaging capabilities and enabling member profiles, the mobile app allows hosts to Livestream to a target audience – giving them more control over how their community interacts.
Using social media networks means that people are slaves to the algorithm, we realise the importance of community and are putting the power back in the hands of creators and brands by allowing them to capitalise on the passions of their audiences. Disciple hosts own all the data created and used by the platform and can generate income from their community through premium content.
Can you give some examples of publishers successfully using your solution?
Hosts building and publishing to their own communities on Disciple are incredibly varied and don’t fit neatly into any single vertical – they include general publishers like Forbes, but we’ve also got publishers across a range of niche industries, including American police officers, softball enthusiasts, and even cattle farmers.
The web app which works on both mobile and desktop starts at £45 per month – it has key features such as branding and customization, messaging service and content library and media gallery. The mobile app service provides a more advanced iOS and Android app that will appear on the Apple and Google stores. Priced at £299 per month, on top of the features of the Web version, it also includes features such as Livestreaming and gives the host a dedicated Community Success Manager as a support guide.
What are other people doing in the space and why?
Obviously, at the very top of the community world, you have the major social media monopolies like Facebook, who own a vast array of different ways for people to connect.
And further down the list there are a number of different businesses making community apps of some description – whether that be across native or web.
What you tend to find, though, is that the social giants have exclusive ownership of all the data – which means no community hosts or owners are empowered to realise the value inherent in the network. And then the smaller network companies simply aren’t mission-driven, so they create ways for people to connect – but there’s no overarching aim to help build and nurture people’s passions. That’s where we feel we are different.
How do you view the future?
Our plan is to build the passion macro-economy – a network of passion communities where the hosts benefit from the aggregate data set of the network to help them ensure their community thrives. Citizens can easily discover and join communities that reflect the things in life that truly matter to them.
We know that in the next 10 years one of the core assets of a successful business will be the network it owns. This will become increasingly obvious over time, as more businesses create and benefit from their networks’ inherent value.
And as more and more people strive to make all of their digital time meaningful – networks and communities serving niche interests with quality content will continue to thrive.