Community Cultivation: Playground Goes Beta

Playground is a social platform that aims to assist individuals learn and create communities, as well as empower producers to monetize their followers.

The website already has a diverse range of users, including the Museum of Modern Art, comedy host Alexis Gay, the Abolitionist Teaching Network, activist Nupol Kiazolu, and a virtual dance club from Malaysia. For now, only certain cultural creatives (art, music, wellness, gaming) are eligible for the beta (and there’s a waiting list), but it will be open to all community members in the future.

Founder Jia Ling Yang, a Taiwanese American daughter of immigrants who grew up in a culturally diverse Santa Fe neighborhood, knows the importance of bringing people together.

But while she worked as a freelance creative director for companies like Facebook, Google Play, and E! Entertainment, she decided to assist build community online in an innovative way. Of course, social media already creates communities; from neighborhood book swap groups to One Direction stan Twitter are two examples. Life online may also be lonely.

“Instead of scrolling and looking at each other’s lives, I’m saying, hey, let’s go put-put together. Let’s make Filipino food together, Let’s work out together,” said Yang.

Playground is a browser-based portal that aims to connect people with both online and in-person events they can attend while promoting cultural institutions and creators.

The playground will eventually be an all-in-one end-to-end platform for creators to run their business, allowing them to manage fan subscriptions, send newsletters, publish events, articles, and podcasts, view analytics, sell merchandise, and more. Yang and her small team are currently working on social tools that will help community members interact with one another.

“We want to create forums for discussion between members,” Yang told TechCrunch. “The difference between having an audience where you’re just pushing content at them and having a community is that the members can actually interact with each other outside of the organizer.”

The ability to manage numerous accounts is a major benefit of all-in-one platforms, which is beneficial to creators since it’s simpler to handle one account than many.

There’s also inherent risk in putting your whole company in the hands of a startup, though Playground gives its creators complete control over their list of subscribers as well as their contact information, so they’re not dependent on the Playground platform to contact their supporters.

“It’s really frustrating when you don’t own your community,” Yang said. “Let’s say you built up an audience on Clubhouse or something, and that platform just goes away. Then your audience is just whoever messaged you in your Instagram DMs.”

There will be a limited free tier for content providers on the platform, but to access premium features like paid ticketing and membership programs, such as selling merchandise or having live discussions, they’ll have to pay $15 or $30 per month, depending on how much customization they want.

The future of Playground is also on their minds. Since its founding, her firm has obtained $2.3 million in seed financing from Animoca, Sogal, Gaingels, and Anomaly. Animoca is well-known for making blockchain-based investments, however the cultural creators that Playground seeks to recruit have a strong anti-crypto prejudice.

Others, on the other hand, are concerned about environmental consequences and fraud proliferation in an unsupervised market. But Yang believes that the crypto community has a communication problem.

“That world does not speak culture,” she told.

“Cultural creators like the concept of being able to own your own art, monetize your community, decide the way your community is governed… These are all principles that creators are really into, and I feel like we’re just bridging the conversation a little bit.”

Playground’s Chief Marketing Officer Suzy, who goes by the handle “suzy,” is a fan of blockchain technology and sees potential in it for transforming gaming industries.

Playground may pursue this vision through tokenization of its ecosystem and creating an app-based framework with blockchain integration. For now, though, the company is focused on onboarding creators and community members after its beta launch.