Digital Publishing Platforms
3 mins read

“Glamorising the banality of life”: BeReal, the social media app you don’t know, but will soon

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A huge hit with GenZ, the photo-sharing app BeReal is potentially the next big thing in social with 32M downloads in the States and 10M in the UK, hitting the #1 spot on Apple’s App Store in the process. For publishers, first-mover advantage could be key.

Founded by former GoPro employee Alexis Barreyat along with Kévin Perreau, BeReal is a social networking app that aims to foster meaningful connections between users. Initially released in 2020, it first gained traction in early 2022, partly due to a paid ambassador program on college campuses.

It works by notifying users at a random time that it’s “time to Be Real”. When the notification goes off, friends have two minutes to post a picture, giving users a more unfiltered look at each other’s lives in a drive for authenticity rather than the plastic lifestyles so ubiquitous on Instagram.

While the app encourages users to post one, and only one, photo per day, it also takes a simultaneous snapshot from both the front and back-facing cameras, an unnerving experience for first-time users. Crucially, you can’t see anyone else’s BeReal until you have posted your own.

Not everyone’s impressed. Jason Koebler, writing in Vice, says that BeReal “creates a new type of social media dystopia where it looks like no one ever does anything interesting”. BeReal’s daily two-minute window has also been argued to contribute to social media fatigue and a need for self-exposure, as well as anxiety as users need access to a phone at all times.

It succeeds at its goal of being drab, but why would anyone want an app to un–inspire them? Pretending that “real” life is always ugly and trivial seems like a miserablist’s way to understand the world.

Niloufar Haidari, writing in the Guardian

However, the app’s most recent figures would argue otherwise. According to Business of Apps, BeReal has been downloaded 85M times over the last twelve months and in February this year boasted 48M monthly active users.

BeReal Key Features

Many of the features that BeReal offers are what you might expect from a social media app including personalized profiles, anonymity filters, etc. However, of interest to publishers is its focus on ‘Community Building’ whereby the app allows users to create or join communities based on their interests, hobbies, or causes they support.

Currently the app is not allowing third-party advertising, sponsorship or brand partnerships. Indeed, from a commercial perspective, its founders openly admit that, “working with brands is not our priority” as it focuses on driving user engagement

You may be wondering if we’ll have ads or how we think about monetizing the app. First, we want to stick around for as long as you’ll have us, but working with brands is not our priority. There are a lot of cool things we want to build. Once we’re ready to share information, you’ll know.

BeReal press statement

However, given its valuation ($600M) as well as the funding it received – $30M in funding from Accel and a16z in June 2021 and a further $60M in October 2022 – suggests it has some strong monetization ideas that will come sooner rather than later.

Perhaps of particular interest to publishers is its demographic profile which is similar to TikTok in its early stages:

Ramin Beheshti, Co-Founder and President at The News Movement, a social-first news publisher, told WNIP, “As a publisher, it’s always exciting to see the growth of emerging platforms. BeReal fills a unique opportunity within the social media space for both publishers and users.”

“With its design and functionality, it has the potential to encourage more controlled and focused usage, as well as create an unfiltered and authentic environment for its audiences.”

As publishers, we need to keep experimenting with different platforms to see how we can create content to engage audiences and even monetize.

Ramin Beheshti, Co-Founder and President, The News Movement,

One thing’s for certain, publishers will be hearing a lot more about BeReal in the near future. It’s certainly one to keep a close eye on, just as we said about TikTok in 2019.