Fireside CEO Falon Fatemi Breaks Down the Success of Interactive Web3 Shows

Photo credit: Grapho Mind/Shutterstock Falon Fatemi (Licensed) remix by Caterina Cox

We’re sitting down with leaders on the business side of the creator economy to get their best advice for creators looking to launch and develop their careers. This week, we spoke with Falon Fatemi, the CEO and co-founder of Fireside.

Fireside is an interactive streaming platform with Web3 capabilities, co-founded in 2021 by entrepreneur Fatemi and well-known Shark Tank star and creator economy investor Mark Cuban. 

In an interview with Passionfruit, Fatemi discussed Fireside’s vision for the future of creator streaming, the success of interactive, live, and Web3 elements in virtual shows, her advice for creators, and more. We also sought the insight of multiple Fireside creators, who also shared advice for those interested in the platform.

Scrolling through Fireside, you’ll see a variety of creative individuals—actors, celebrity chefs, sports experts, authors, filmmakers, comedians, business consultants, influencer marketers, podcasters, and even live fortune tellers. According to Fireside, it was able to attract over 3,500 individual creators to the platform, including a number of high-profile creators like Jay Leno, Adam Waheed, Craig Kilborn, Melissa Rivers, and the cast of HBO’s Entourage.

Fatemi described Fireside as a platform melding the streaming services offered by companies like Netflix and the interactive social networking capabilities offered by social networks like Twitch or TikTok. On Fireside, creators can apply to edit, create, share, and receive audience engagement analytics for both live and pre-recorded virtual shows. 

Creators can then distribute and simultaneously live stream their shows created in Fireside to other platforms, like YouTube, Facebook, and Twitch. Interestingly, on Nov. 22, 2022, an internal Fireside memo from Fatemi was leaked by Variety, revealing the company’s acquisition of streaming platform Stremium. This acquisition will allow Fireside virtual shows made by creators to translate to Smart TV, Amazon Fire TV, Roku, and other TV devices—bridging the social media and traditional streaming divide. 

Fatemi declined to comment on the record about the acquisition. However, she did say Fireside is “platform agnostic” and encouraged creators to integrate their Fireside strategy with their strategy across other social media platforms.

On Fireside, creators can choose to sell memberships, NFT-based or not, with perks for followers to exclusively join on live streams, unlock gated content, or participate in the production process of a series. Fatemi said Fireside takes 20% of sales generated, while creators keep 80%.

“You get to be in the writer’s room, you get to have input on programming, you get to be behind the scenes of the production process,” Fatemi said. “It allows them to launch these next-generation entertainment networks with a membership model if they choose to structure it that way.”

Fatemi said Web3 purchases can often be confusing for the average follower, but the app strives to make purchases simple, intuitive, and completely in-app.

“I shouldn’t need to worry about [an NFT] wallet and all that stuff. All that should be taken care of underneath the hood as a part of the infrastructure,” Fatemi said. 

Fireside also offers more traditional monetization options, like advertising. Fatemi said Fireside assists creators with brand integrations, and creators earn 50% of the revenue generated from those deals. 

Fatemi said Fireside is open to working with creators at various career stages and varying audience sizes, so long as the creators are serious about crafting a series and a business.

“If they’re emerging, they just have to be far enough along in their journey that they’re really serious about growing a business. They want to do it, they want to hone their craft, they want to improve the quality of the content they’re creating and how they market that content,” Fatemi said.

Creators can apply through Fireside’s app to join the platform. Fatemi said about 10% of creators who apply each month get approved depending on the “quality” of their work.

“There’s plenty of places on the internet where you can create controversy and sell scammy stuff,” Fatemi said. “We actually verify that if you’re going to create content about, let’s say, nutrition, we verify that you have an actual degree or domain expertise.”

Pattie Ehsaei, an attorney and career advice TikToker (@theduchessofdecorum) with over 975,000 followers, runs an interactive advice show on Fireside and told Passionfruit she enjoys the invite-only aspect of the platform. 

“It ensures only creators that provide quality content are on the platform and weeds out content that is not interesting or valuable,” Ehsaei said.

Katie Brinkley (@iamkatiebrinkley), a social media strategist and podcaster, told Passionfruit she decided to take one of her three podcasts on Fireside exclusively, partially due to the support provided to her by the Fireside team in growing her show.

“I made the decision to take one of my podcasts strictly to Fireside. By doing this, we were able to give our biggest fans of the show something new,” Brinkley said. “When I’ve had an idea to try something new, the Fireside team has supported and helped me make connections I typically wouldn’t have been able to get. They also promote the users on their platform with newsletter highlights, social media posts, and more.”

Fatemi said Fireside often works with creators to grow their network. When asked what advice she had for creators, she said she thinks creators “cross-pollinating” their audiences with creators, brands, and networks from similar niches is a valuable strategy.

Fatemi also recommended creators ask themselves multiple questions about where they are building their businesses: Where are you distributing content? Have you read through those platforms’ terms of service? Is this a platform and an environment that you own? Do you have audience emails or phone numbers? Do you have a way to connect with audience members directly? Do you have a strategy in which you’re nurturing that relationship and engaging with them consistently?

“In a lot of senses, if you create quality content, you’re going to actually lose that connection with your community and with your followers because these platforms are based on advertising business models. So they’re not incentivized to care about your community,” Fatemi said. “Be really thoughtful about how you are leveraging social platforms today. [Those platforms] should be your top of funnel, your marketing, for reaching new people, brand awareness, and promoting, but it should not be where your entire business lives.”

Web3 is hailed by many as an opportunity for creators to own greater direct ties to their fans via the blockchain. Creators can sell memberships, memorabilia, and other experiences directly to audience members while retaining more royalties and intellectual property rights than when sold through some third-party services. NFTs are frequently heralded as an opportunity for creators to retain an audience base separate from the unpredictable, ownership-revoking, and revenue-swallowing nature of social media giants.

As of Dec. 15, 2022, Fireside’s terms of service states creators of content on the platform “own all right, title and interest in and to” their content “without limitation” with “all copyrights, trademarks, and rights of publicity contained therein.” It notes if creators want to commercialize audio, video, or NFT works made on Fireside elsewhere outside of the app, they must agree to “use commercially reasonable efforts” to first notify Fireside by email.

Furthermore, by uploading or creating content on the platform, creators do “grant and will grant Fireside and its affiliated companies a nonexclusive, worldwide, royalty free, fully paid up, transferable, sub-licensable, perpetual, irrevocable license to copy, display, upload, perform, distribute, store, modify, create derivative works of and otherwise use” your content for its services on the platform, marketing, or advertising. 

This model is much like other social media platforms, like Instagram, which states in its terms of service that users own the content they post on the platform but grant the platform a non-exclusive license to host your content on its platform and use your content for paid advertisements. This is something platforms have been criticized for by creators in the past—as previously reported by AdAge, TikTok used creators’ videos in its own advertising campaigns and was accused in 2019 of not notifying or paying creators for their content used in ads.

However, many users praise Fireside for its greater sense of ownership through its high revenue share, platform-agnostic approach, and access to greater audience analytics. NFTs also may help empower creators with more ownership of content rights on the platform, because blockchain technology keeps clear records of transactions history.

One example Fatemi provided of a successful creator on the platform, who praised its ownership potential, was Jon Lee Brody (@jonleebrody)—a filmmaker and mental health advocate who launched a show called Reel Psychology on Fireside, digging into the psychology of fictional characters like Ted Lasso.

“Fireside was very supportive when I started my mental health podcast Reel Psychology with my podcast partner Danah Williams,” Brody told Passionfruit. “The simulcast feature is great. That’s something that a lot of apps sleep on but it’s so important to broadcast to as many outlets as possible.”

Brody stressed that owning intellectual property over your creations in the entertainment industry is a rarity. It seems many creators are interested in participating in elevated entertainment streaming platforms—beyond the average social media network—while still maintaining ownership of their intellectual property like they would on social media.

“Usually the studio or network you make content for owns the content even if you created it. I would tell potential creators that you’ll be hard-pressed to find another platform that is on point with the tech in addition to giving you full ownership of your own content. And the [live and interactive features give] you a safe space to try and show out and build out an audience,” Brody said.

Another Fireside creator, Dean Sheremet (@deansheremet)—a Michelin-trained chef, author, and talent manager—hosts an interactive cooking show on Fireside. Sheremet, who chooses not to use Web3 elements on his show, said he enjoys the various ways he can directly engage with fans on the platform, like having buttons that activate different sounds and alerts live. 

“There’s like a constant two-way conversation going on which you don’t normally get at social media,” Sheremet said. “Having that interplay between audience and performer always makes you feel better. It gives you a feeling of success, or maybe you need to move on from something that seems like it’s a lull.”

Sheremet, who is a talent manager representing creators, provided some advice for creating a winning virtual show.

“Don’t try to chase what everyone else is doing. What uniqueness you have is what’s going to set you apart. If you’re the fish guy, or the barbecue girl, or whatever, really lean into that instead of trying to do so many general things,” Sheremet said. “Have a clear voice and a clear message [for your audience] of: ‘Why am I tuning into this person? What am I going to take away every time I interact with them?’”

Creator Brinkley also shared some general advice for creators launching virtual shows. 

“Create a schedule you can stick to, and show up for other shows and see what they are doing and what works for them. It might work for your show as well. And last but not least, invest in a microphone. It will make a world of difference,” Brinkley said.

Fatemi further encouraged creators to tap into entrepreneurship, seeking to own their own media business, intellectual property, and relationships with fans and customers.

“Creators do not actually see themselves as entrepreneurs, and if you don’t see yourself as an entrepreneur, you basically don’t make the right decisions and trade-offs to actually build a long-term sustainable business, which means you’ll end up putting yourself in a position where you are at the mercy of all these other platforms that you’re really building value for,” Fatemi said.

Are you a business leader in the creator economy? Email [email protected] for a chance to be featured in an upcoming newsletter.

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