LONDON (Bywire News) - For many people, the blockchain is that shadowy piece of technology that makes Bitcoin work. However, this is just one of many different uses. The blockchain is set to revolutionise a host of sectors including finance, retail and the media.
At heart, the blockchain is simply a new way to transfer data – one which is more secure and transparent than most other approaches. That means it can be used for pretty much anything.
At Bywire, we use it to deliver the news. We are one of the world’s first blockchain-based news platforms, but we’re unlikely to be the last. Others are heading down the same road. Over the next few years, the blockchain promises a revolution in the media.
This is a revolution about much more than how data is stored, but it is also fundamental to the whole future of the media and your experience as a reader. Here’s why.
Transparency and trust
The blockchain is immutable with data held on a public ledger. That’s bad news if you’re Dominic Cummings and fancy altering an old blog you once wrote in order to look more prescient than you are.
It's also bad news if you’re a right-wing columnist and want to change all your massively inaccurate predictions about the pandemic.
In other words, it brings accountability into the media. Content producers can save and publish the editing data of every article. Readers can see where it came from and if it has been changed. This is a crucial step in bringing back trust into the media by shining a light on the production process.
Leveling the playing field
Blockchain brings decentralisation to the playing field which effectively transfers power away from big companies and to everyone else. As things stand the media is dominated by major organisations and internet giants who control a huge amount of user data.
The more democratic and decentralised nature of blockchain technologies gives users control of that data and grabs back some of the power from the big boys. We’ve all seen the results of data misuse from the likes of Facebook and Cambridge Analytica. Despite attempts by regulators to give users more control over their data, it is still impossible to know exactly what personal data of yours is out there, who holds it or how it is being used.
Content curation has become incredibly popular in recent years. From Facebook to Twitter, Reddit, Medium and many others, companies are profiting hugely from content produced by users. Unfortunately, those users seldom see any benefit from the content they produced.
The blockchain can create its own economy through tokenisation to reward people for the content they produce. Voice.com, for example, uses tokens to reward its users for creating, viewing, and generating content.
Each time a piece of content is shared, for example, the creator receives a reward. You can also gain tokens for commenting and sharing content.
This approach uses tangible rewards to ensure users in the network can share in some of the value they create.
Throughout the digital age, media companies have struggled to monetise their content. When print publications went online most made their content visible free of charge for everyone. However, as print sales diminished, revenue from online advertising failed to pick up the slack. Even the likes of The Sun have taken to effectively begging for people to support what, for want of a better word, they like to call their journalism.
One by one more publishers have been taking their content behind paywalls, but this has only met with partial success. It tends to sacrifice readership levels in return for user-generated revenues.
The problem is those payment models are inflexible. Users either choose between a number of monthly or annual subscription plans. These can be as high as £50 per month, if you were to subscribe to the Financial Times, for example.
When you think about it, this is a very strange revenue model. It’s a world away from the one we were used to in print, in which most people would pay for one copy at a time if they saw it in the shops. Only a few people had regular subscriptions to newspapers.
The blockchain is bringing a sense of that back to the web. By enabling media companies to charge small amounts for individual pieces of content, they make it easier for content creators and the media sites to benefit directly from the content they produce.
Other producers such as Mogul News, for example, are allowing people to pay for access to their website with work rather than money. Content creators can get access to the news site in return for sharing or creating content. In other words, they pay with their time rather than their money.
The blockchain is also changing advertising revenues. The transparency of user data allows advertisers to see the true impact in terms of views and shares their adverts are having. It helps them generate more reliable metrics and encourages a different way for publishers to engage with their advertisers.
Fulfilling the hype
For all these reasons the blockchain has huge potential for the media industry. It helps to solve some of the biggest problems facing journalism at the moment: trust, transparency, accountability, and monetisation.
It creates a fairer playing field between content producers and the internet giants, puts people back in control of their data and rewards them for the content they produce.
(Written by Tom Cropper, edited by Klaudia Fior)