A new startup wants to build a network of houses for influencers across the US to film in and record podcasts

Note House Nashville_Owners Katy Shah & India Mayer (Photo by Emily Dorio)

Summary List Placement

As the influencer industry has grown into a multi-billion dollar marketing category, interest in non-celebrity, lower-follower-count creators has exploded.

These “micro” and mid-tier influencers often have just a few thousand fans. But they can still earn a full-time living (or run a lucrative side business) by posting sponsored content on apps like Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok. And unlike Hollywood stars, they often live in cities and towns across the US – not just in the entertainment hub of Los Angeles.

This group of less-famous creators is precisely who the startup Of Note hopes to serve with the launch of its new influencer coworking space and content studio, Note House.

Located in East Nashville, Tennessee, Note House is a professionally designed space for local influencers to visit (not live in) and create content.

Of Note charges a $75 monthly fee for members to work at the house, film in its Instagram-ready rooms, and use its production tools like a podcast studio. Of Note also offers a $25 per-diem option for creators who just want to visit the house once or twice a month, and businesses can rent out the entire house for a flat fee on select days.

The Note House is located in East Nashville, Tennessee.

The house, which opened on November 30, includes a white-box photo studio and an audio recording space for members who want to record a podcast (an increasingly popular medium among internet stars). These features offer members access to equipment that a part-time creator may not want to invest in themselves.

Read more: Some brands are hiring influencers as a ‘one-stop shop’ for video and animation as production studios shut down — and finding they’re a lot cheaper

But the company said one of the main draws of Note House is its showroom-quality living room, bedroom, kitchen, and bathroom spaces — key set pieces for lifestyle influencers that want to promote bedding, bath products, food items, and other at-home brands on their Instagram accounts.

The living room at the Note House.

Of Note isn’t the first company to design a camera-friendly space for influencers.

The influencer agency Village Marketing launched its own influencer facility, “Village Studio,” in New York in 2018, expanding to Los Angeles shortly afterwards.

But Of Note’s plan to focus on servicing influencers who don’t live in coastal cities is one of its differentiators. India Mayer and Katy Shah, who cofounded and self-funded the business, told Insider that they’re eyeing Texas as their next Note House location. Whether they will have the funding to expand into other locations will depend on how 2021 goes, they said. 

The Note House's kitchen.

“Our goal is not to have a Note House in LA or New York,” Mayer said. “Our goal is really to focus on other markets throughout the US that are not necessarily focused on as much. They’re a little bit harder to access by brands.”

Other creator-house businesses have recently sprung up in cities outside of Los Angeles. Eight members of a TikTok collective, THNAF, moved to Las Vegas last summer, telling Insider that living in the city was less expensive than moving to LA. And two influencer houses, Collab Crib and Valid Crib, recently launched in Atlanta with the goal of creating new opportunities for some of the city’s top Black creators. 

Sharing a space could help online influencers feel less isolated

When Mayer and Shah decided to start Of Note, their original goal was to create a communal space for influencers who typically “are living on their own digital island,” Mayer said. 

In addition to being a content studio, Note House was planned as a coworking space for influencers — an idea that WWD dubbed as a WeWork for local content creators. The Nashville house has an office space and offers coffee, water, and on-site management. And Mayer and Shah said they’re working on introducing some WeWork-style services like educational workshops for members.

But due to social-distancing restrictions associated with COVID-19, the team hasn’t focused much on coworking since the house’s launch. The property’s main value for creators has been its faux home spaces where creators can shoot branded content for their social-media accounts. 

The coworking space at the Note House.

“We don’t have presentation rooms and phone booths,” Shah said. “Instead we have exactly what the influencers need, which is a podcasting studio, a bedroom suite, and full bathroom and bedroom setup so influencers can shoot a home setup.”

The Note House bathroom.

The company said it worked with brands like H&M, Joe’s Jeans, Mary Kaye, and L’Oréal to pre-stock the house with clothing, furniture, and other decor. Its early partners “gifted” items to the house (an influencer marketing structure in which brands donate items for free in exchange for social promotion). The house features a styling room and lending closet with off-the-rack clothing options for members. Of Note said it’s now starting to charge for product placements in the house, with brand activation packages beginning at around $500. 

The styling room and lending closet at the Note House.

By offering temporary space rather than live-in houses, Of Note may avoid some of the drama that’s plagued other creator house businesses 

While it’s still very early days for Of Note — the company said it has 35 paying members (and a growing waitlist) thus far — the opportunity to build a business in the creator industry is ripe. 

Of Note is one of many upstarts that have looked into finding new revenue streams outside of pure marketing services (though they also offer those) in the influencer industry. Other companies have built businesses around direct-to-consumer merchandise, monetizing interactions with fans, and even developing financial products and banking services for creators.

And creator content houses have taken off in recent months as a wave of TikTok stars have moved in together to make videos and cross-promote each other’s accounts. But running a creator house as a business can get messy when creators live on-site, something that Shah and Mayer hope to avoid by running their house more like an office space. 

“India and I worked together at a traditional public relations and marketing agency here in [Nashville],” Shah said. “We were sensing, and it seems like a lot of our peers in the industry felt the same way, that people wanted more physical touchpoints, especially influencer communities living their career online.”

“We’re catering to a little bit different customer,” she said. “Our influencers aren’t going to live there. It’s definitely not a party scene.”

For more stories on creator-focused startups, read these other Business Insider stories:

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Influencers say Instagram Reels is fueling growth and new followers

Summary List PlacementHi, this is Amanda Perelli and welcome back to Insider Influencers, our weekly rundown on the influencer and creator economy. Sign up for the newsletter here.
When Instagram first came out with a TikTok copycat feature, it got mixed reviews, with some calling Reels a “dud.”
Creators weren’t exactly going wild for the short-form video feature.
But since posting Reels regularly, many creators have said the feature has become a secret weapon to supercharge their growth and engagement. 
This has become an enormous incentive for creators to continue using the feature and shows how much Instagram is prioritizing it.
My colleague Sydney Bradley spoke with creators who explained how Reels has bolstered growth on Instagram:

Influencer Lissette Calveiro said her following increased by 3.6% and her total reach increased by 555% within a month of posting Reels. 

Being active on both TikTok and Instagram has been a key strategy for creators to grow, industry insiders said.

Lifestyle influencer Chandler DeHart said the ratio of followers that a really good Reel video will generate, as opposed to a regular static post, was “three to four times the amount.”

“When I started going more viral and having my Reels get picked up, I started growing a couple hundred and I was like, ‘Oh, this is cool. I’m finally growing again,'” said influencer Christine Tran Ferguson. 
Read the full post on Instagram Reels here.
Startups bet on text messaging as a way for influencers to reach fans and make money

Many influencers are starting to use text messaging to interact with fans and earn money.
My colleague Dan Whateley wrote about the new text messaging startups that have emerged to help build out this market.
Executives in the text-marketing industry broke down why creators are blasting out texts:

Companies like Cameo, PearPop, Substack, and OnlyFans allow creators to connect with users more intimately.

Texting is another extension of this trend, which has driven sales for influencers and media brands.

TikTok creator Addison Rae Easterling uses the startup Community to send automated messages to her followers. Other startups in the space are Subtext, SimpleTexting, and Chatitive.

AwesomenessTV used text marketing to promote the release of its recent influencer-focused reality show and was impressed by the results.
“It definitely allowed me and my team to pivot in real time in terms of how we were talking to our audience as well,” an AwesomenessTV exec said.
Read more on text marketing here.
Startups have begun helping newsletters find advertisers 

Substack is a famously ad-free newsletter platform, but some of its top writers have begun to incorporate advertising into their newsletters.
Substack makes money off of subscriptions, but some startups have sprung up to help small newsletters sell ads. They include Swapstack, Upstart.me, and Letterwell.
“Our goal is just to make it easy for people to do something that they are already doing,” Swapstack cofounder Jake Singer said.
But the rise of ads in Substack newsletters could become a problem for the company, my colleague Mark Stenberg wrote.
Read more on the startups helping monetize newsletters here.
Instagram’s lead, Adam Mosseri, is “not yet happy” with Reels

Instagram’s lead, Adam Mosseri, is “not yet happy” with Reels. 
Sydney wrote that Mosseri discussed Reels, TikTok, and how creators could make money on Instagram on a recent podcast.
Here are some key takeaways and a look at what 2021 has in store for creators: 

Mosseri said TikTok was ahead of Instagram with filters and augmented-reality effects.

The three main ways to monetize on Instagram are: commerce, “user-pay” products, and revenue share. 

Commerce is how the majority of career content creators earn a living through Instagram today, but the company wants to expand other avenues of making money.

Read more on what 2021 has in store for creators on Instagram.
More creator industry coverage from Insider:

How to land a job at Instagram, from getting a referral to nailing the interview (Sydney Bradley) 

Survey: TikTok is the top app for making young people aware of your brand (Dan Whateley) 

This week from Insider’s digital culture team:

Gab, the social-media platform booming on the far-right, has posted direct QAnon quotes on Twitter
Gab, a social-media platform that’s similar to Facebook, has become popular on the far-right. 
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“DARK TO LIGHT. BLACKOUT NECESSARY,” Gab said in the tweet, which has become a popular QAnon phrase.
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More on digital culture: 

Jeffree Star and Shane Dawson privately plotted to cut ties with each other (Kat Tenbarge)

Inside the rise of Nikocado Avocado, the extreme-eating YouTuber (Moises Mendez II)

Sea shanties are going viral on TikTok (Palmer Haasch)

YouTube suspended a creator known as Onision from monetizing his videos (Lindsay Dodgson)

Here’s what else we’re reading: 

How to cleanse your social media feed (Kate Lindsay, from No Filter)

Merchandise promoting the Capitol riot is still available on major e-commerce sites (Sapna Maheshwari and Taylor Lorenz, from The New York Times)

TikTok was told the ‘confidential identity’ of the UK’s next ambassador to China (Chris Stokel-Walker, from Business Insider)

Why the current lockdown is having an effect on mental health (Sarah Manavis, from New Statesman)

Thanks for reading! Send me your tips, comments, or questions: [email protected]
Subscribe to the newsletter here.Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Here’s what it’s like to travel during the coronavirus outbreak

Yahoo News hit 1 million TikTok followers and its strategy shows how news can break through in short-form video

Summary List PlacementOn January 6, Yahoo News broke into a TikTok posting spree.
The team had planned to cover the results of the Senate runoff elections in Georgia and the electoral vote certification. Its day changed when an insurrection began at the Capitol.
As news broke, Julia Munslow, a 24-year-old special projects editor, coordinated the brand’s TikTok coverage from her apartment.
The team posted clips of senators’ speeches and shots of rioters storming the Capitol doors. One video of an interview with a woman who had been maced drew 31 million views. All in, Yahoo News posted 35 videos throughout the day. 
The company’s marathon effort is a case study for how TikTok can be used to cover breaking news on an app typically known for lighter fare like dance challenges, music trends, and comedy skits.
Since joining in March, Yahoo News has built an audience of over 1 million followers on TikTok, joining other news organizations like NBC News, USA Today, and CBS News that have launched accounts to reach the app’s Gen-Z user base. Other traditional news outlets like CNN or Fox News have yet to create official accounts on the app (though some of their reporters have become stars). For our part, Insider has focused on running explainer videos on TikTok rather than covering straight news.
Yahoo News said it had found success by using TikTok’s built-in features like livestreaming and focusing on new stories that appeal to a younger audience. 
“We play close attention to the topics in the news that Gen Z cares about,” Munslow told Insider. “So looking at things like social justice issues [and] student loan debt.”
As with other news publishers like The Washington Post and NPR’s Planet Money that have built loyal audiences on TikTok, Yahoo News approaches the app with humor and doesn’t shy away from engaging with users. Munslow will often chat with the account’s followers in the comments section, asking users to submit questions about the news and occasionally gossiping with fans about their personal lives.
Reaching out to Gen Z users
Yahoo is aware that some of its TikTok followers may be discovering its brand for the first time. Unlike the Gen-Z favorite TikTok, Yahoo is a holdover from an earlier internet era.
“Yes, we still exist,” Munslow wrote in the company’s TikTok bio.
Verizon Media, which owns Yahoo and a hodgepodge of other internet brands like AOL and TechCrunch, is on a charge to reach new audiences and deliver content in fresh ways. The company recently signed a deal to livestream some NFL games in Yahoo Mail inboxes, streaming to about 2 million users in its mail app last quarter. 
“Yahoo News’ expansion on TikTok comes at a pivotal time in our history,” Verizon Media CEO Guru Gowrappan told Insider in a statement. “TikTok accelerates our strategic focus on next generation journalism that ultimately changes the way people consume news.”
Using TikTok effects and features to cover the news
Since launch, Yahoo News has treated its TikTok videos as an extension of its broader news coverage. But the company also capitalizes on some of the built-in features that differentiate TikTok from its own sites. 
Its team regularly uses TikTok’s livestreaming feature to broadcast events like the White House press briefing. The company has used its comments section to gather questions and feedback from users and then host Q&As with Yahoo Finance and politics reporters. Munslow uses TikTok’s “green screen” effect to add backdrops to videos and has prompted users to “duet” or “stitch” videos in order to drive engagement on the app.
“We’re keeping a close eye on trends on the platform to begin with, and then we’re really just leveraging all of the features that TikTok has to see what resonates with our audience and what helps us to deliver the news in the most effective way possible,” Munslow said. 
Yahoo hopes to one day draw in TikTok users to the platforms it owns
As TikTok continues to grow, some media brands have been using the app to acquire new customers.
The Washington Post offers a special subscription rate to its TikTok fans. “Planet Money” uses TikTok’s comment section to link to podcast episodes using an NPR link shortener that lets the team track referral traffic. The team at Yahoo News is also considering options for how it might draw its new TikTok fans onto other Yahoo and Verizon Media platforms. 
“The brand halo effect of actually having this highly engaged followership on TikTok is fantastic and also means that we can also start to think about how to address these audiences in other formats that we have,” said Jo Lambert, who leads Verizon Media’s consumer division. “The brand recognition might mean that they too might come and [download] the Yahoo News app at some point.”Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Warren Buffett lives in a modest house that’s worth .001% of his total wealth

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