The media industry has almost completely moved online, and is made up of a complex consortium of players – big and small – all trying to get a slice of the same content pie.
Existing media companies and newspapers from the analogue days were the first to make the move into the digital world, but the media giants of today should all be looking over their shoulder, because blockchain is coming to break up media monopolies.
But how exactly will the blockchain revolutionize the future of media, which companies will become the media platforms of the future, and what are the problems that blockchain can solve in the world of entertainment and content?
Join us for a deep dive into the future of media on the blockchain.
Why is blockchain the future of media?
A blockchain-based media ecosystem will enable content creators to directly distribute work to their consumers and for artists to create a direct relationship with their fans and communities.
You only need to look at the advent of Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) in digital art, or the creation of fan tokens on the blockchain for sports or gaming fans, to see that this is already happening.
Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter, says that bitcoin and cryptocurrency is the future of social media, and this probably applies to the media in general. Blockchain technology opens up new possibilities in the way content is produced, distributed and consumed across the entire media value chain.
With all data immutable on the blockchain, copyright owners will be able to track the usage of their content as it happens across multiple channels, and stamp out data and content piracy as well as copyright infringement.
Blockchain creates a transparent database of rights and rights owners, while automating royalty payments through smart contracts. This makes the process automatic and cuts out profiteering middlemen.
Best of all, blockchain has the potential to shift power to the copyright owners and creators directly, where it belongs.
What problems can media on the blockchain solve for content creators?
Between the consumer and an actual piece of content, like an article or a song, there are multiple intermediaries. Third-party middlemen and brokers such as rights management bodies and royalty-collecting associations all try to elbow their way in and capture a small slice of the value.
You might have heard of Spotify paying its artists only $0.0035 per stream. Or YouTube, depending on their fuzzy algorithms, paying between $0.01 to $0.03 per ad view.
Not only do the mass of content creators receive very little compensation for their work—they’re also at the mercy of the platform. For example, YouTube, Facebook or Instagram may one day decide to cancel or block a user account, along with all of its content, including photos, videos and personal data. This has left many creators out cold and without access to the content they have worked so hard to build and curate.
Upon signing up, many users also give up the rights of ownership of their original content to these platform providers, who may then repurpose the content as they wish, resell it to advertisers, or conduct market research with it.
Did you know that when you post something on Facebook and set it to “public”, you are essentially giving Facebook a “non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license”?
It’s time that we take back ownership of our digital spaces, and that’s where blockchain technology comes to the rescue.
How can blockchain technology benefit media companies?
Big media companies also face issues of their own. Content piracy continues to steal value from those who hold the rights to the original content.
Online advertising fraud from ad bots, have cost companies at least $19 billion in lost revenue annually.
Building out on the blockchain allows media companies to take advantage of larger and more secure distributed networks, meaning that demand for data-heavy processes such as high-quality streaming video can be met worldwide, and also that the risk of downtime is reduced.
In the case of media, smart contracts mean that micro-payments can automatically be released to the content owner when it is being consumed by a user in real-time.
Whenever an article is read, or a song streamed or downloaded, the creator of that content can be compensated immediately, without going through manual processes by a third-party body.
Consumers of media are beginning to demand platforms that give them more control over their data. Content delivery networks that understand this will stay one step ahead of the competition.
Which blockchain projects are seeking to revolutionize the media?
Blockchain is already making waves within the media landscape, with disruptors such as the Brave Browser which allows users to choose if they are exposed to advertising or not. Those who opt in to seeing ads are rewarded a part of the platform’s ad revenue in Basic Attention Token (BAT), the native cryptocurrency of the project, and those that opt out can browse the internet in peace, without being tracked by third parties or having their loading times clogged up by cookies and ads.
This dynamic of putting the user in control of their privacy and copyright decisions is carried on into pioneering music rights management platforms such as Audius, Vezt and Verifi.
The Steemit blogging platform, Sapien social media community and Ujo music software company are good examples of blockchain spaces where a native token helps to power a direct relationship between content creators, curators and consumers.
The Theta Network, launched in 2019, is a blockchain-based video streaming network that is backed by founders of YouTube and Twitch. It is primarily powered by its users, who share bandwidth and computational resources on a peer-to-peer basis, and is built to handle the huge amount of micropayment transactions that will be needed to keep up with the demand for streaming services in the future.
The future of journalism on the blockchain
Journalism is a much more difficult sector of the media to revolutionize, perhaps due to reliance on building up relationships with ‘official’ news sources, and the need for information gathering in person.
Substack is an online publishing platform that is seeking to return to an old-fashioned revenue model of reader subscriptions rather than ads. This model is already being used in niche & specialised circles, for example in subscriber feeds such as The Information, which charge subscribers up to $399 dollars per year to receive news and features on the tech industry, all centred around San Francisco and the Bay Area.
This more intimate model of reader-sponsorship is also exhibited by Patreon, where artists and content creators are funded by regular donations from a community of fans.
Substack’s aim is to create a platform where writers from diverse ends of the political spectrum can create this follower-community vibe, and concentrate on writing, instead of having to spend half of their working time figuring out how to handle web design and market their content.
Substack claims that the company will not place ads ‘in the design of our publishing system’ and that ‘publishers will own their data, which we will never attempt to sell or distribute’. Unfortunately, those familiar with the big names of Web 2.0 (Facebook, Google, YouTube) already know how promises like this end up, when such guarantees are not enshrined in law.
In fact, Substack has already courted controversy, when it emerged that the company had been paying a ‘salary’ to certain undisclosed and already well-established writers, encouraging them to move over to the platform full time. Although this is a legitimate business strategy that should help to grow the platform, it is still an editorial policy that bumps up those who already have a following, and makes it harder for new writers to compete.
The Substack team in this case are acting as de facto editors or gatekeepers, and for this reason the platform, or one like it, is crying out for a trustless dynamic that could only be supplied by a robust, blockchain-based community.
Projects that are currently working on blockchain-based media verification, such as the Deeptrust Alliance, are generally focused on countering deep fake videos and verifying that the sources of news are who they say they are. But there is room also for blockchain-based projects or artificial intelligence applications that make it more difficult for established and relatively trusted media entities to distort the truth and slowly warp the minds of their readership.
The future of media is blockchain
With the global market for blockchain in media and entertainment estimated to reach $1.54 billion by 2024, one thing is clear, the future is bright for blockchain adoption in the media industry. But there are a few things that we should keep in mind as this vision becomes a reality.
As media and journalism completes the final steps toward an exclusively online existence, it’s worth asking, who are going to be the ‘feet on the beat’ that regularly turn up to oversee the political process, report from the crime scenes, and give voice to the people who don’t have their own media platforms?
The news media today are trusted less than ever before, and part of the reason for that is that news, in order to stay relevant, has been forced to become entertainment, or even worse, thinly-disguised state and corporate propaganda.
The aim of most future media on the blockchain is to democratize the writer-reader relationship as much as possible, to make fake news more easily traceable, and to optimize mechanisms for helping readers find writers that they care about, rather than seeking easy profits by funneling the vast majority of the crowd towards already-well known authors.
But it’s also important that internet-based news doesn’t continue to exacerbate the ‘echo chamber’ dynamic created by closed member groups, where a community united around a certain political ideal fence themselves off from alternative information sources and become ever-more entrenched into a single, limited standpoint.
Great progress is being made in the field of video, art and advertising, but if ‘trustless’ blockchain technology could find a way to bring trust back to the news media, perhaps the least-credible industry on the planet, then it would truly be revolutionary indeed.
Welcome to the future of media. The future is blockchain. The future is decentralized.
This article was adapted from a Youtube video, written by Debbie Chia. Additional reporting was added by Sam Sherwood.
This content is for informational purposes only and is not investment advice. You should consult a qualified licensed advisor before engaging in any transaction.