Swimming upstream: Unfiltered co-founder Jake Millar on how removing its paywall will open up its audience and access to entrepreneurs

Look around the news media industry and you’ll see walls are going up. The Washington Post, Financial Times, Wall Street Journal, The New Yorker and The New York Times all have one, just to name a few. And they’re proving to be worthwhile, as the latter has over 2.2 million paying readers according to Recode and the business has grown 30 percent each year since it started in 2011.

Closer to home, NZME announced plans earlier this year to put a paywall around its premium content, which will see it focus put on improving premium journalism and nurturing audiences online.

So it seems that Unfiltered.tv has gone against the flow by removing its paywall and giving audiences a free all-access pass to its library of curated video content that shares advice from some of the most celebrated business minds in the world.

Talking to Unfiltered co-founder Jake Millar, he says the decision is in-line with its core beliefs has been that every aspiring business leader in the world should have access to the best advice and knowledge available.

“We have been producing so much amazing content with some of the greatest business leaders on the planet, however with our existing model only a fraction of the entrepreneurs and aspiring founders who can truly benefit from what we are creating currently have access. Increasing accessibility will allow us to have a bigger impact and change more lives.”

Looking beyond how the free website will benefit those looking for advice or ideas from business leaders, this is the second time Unfiltered has disrupted its own funding model since it launched in 2011.

Having launched in November with both B2B and B2C subscribers, it faced a challenge in that the content was more suited to entrepreneurs, start-ups and small business owners, rather than the staff of companies paying for access. With that, Millar says it moved to only sell to B2C.

Unfiltered‘s evolution continued early last year when it unveiled plans to expand into the US market, with $1.2 million raised to grow its leadership team as well as a $300,000 digital platform.

This disrupted the funding model further and speaking about the decision to remove it, Millar says going into the US it moved the focus to its audience and getting as many people watching as possible – a hard goal to achieve when being a newcomer.

“Going into the US where it’s so large and there’s so much competition, it’s very hard when you’re turning up in a market like that and no one really knows who you are and from day one you want people’s credit card details for a platform that nobody really knows or has heard of.”

Since the wall was removed on 10 May, Millar says it’s already noticed the increase in traffic to the website, growing on the 25 million video views it had already achieved since launching.

Those numbers will help it as works to grow the content it co-creates with commercial partners. Right now Unfiltered has 20 commercial partners and it’s in discussion with some of the large publishers and technology companies exploring global content sharing and distribution partnerships. The hope is for it to help Unfiltered achieve mass distribution in the US and globally.

Alongside that, it plans to scale its Unfiltered Live events and is building a new enterprise platform for rapidly scaling companies with a focus on the executives. When it launches later this year, it will be sold as a B2B model and Millar says it “will be a major part of [its]future business model”.

Not only is the paywall going to increase its audience, Millar is confident it will see the pool of potential interviewees increase too.

With distribution greater than it’s been previously, the hope is it will now be able to attract big names that give their time to the bigger audiences. Millar calls them “the Oprahs of the world”.

“I’m quite confident now with this move we will be able to attract even bigger interviewees and some of the world’s greatest entrepreneurs from Elon Musk to Mark Zuckerberg.”

Since its launch, Unfiltered has filmed over 220 interviews, 20 of which are founders and CEOs of unicorn companies. However, Millar says interviews with the likes of Sir Richard Branson, are “few and far between” because the audience is paying for access through the commercial model.

“It’s easier for those people to say no because they would prefer to give their time to something that is going to get much more exposure.”

And while right now those interviews are curated and broken up into macro sections on the site—including raising capital, culture, leadership, technology, product market fit, marketing, brand, innovation and global business—a redevelopment is planned to see the platform work better to answer the audience’s questions.

Millar explains at the moment it’s very centred around who the people who have been interviewed, rather than what they have to teach.

“It will become much more focused on what the viewer wants to learn as opposed to who they want to learn from,” he says.

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