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Blockchain for news organizations – which problem to solve

I blogged the other day about blockchain for news and wanted to acknowledge that I’m hardly the first to have this idea. Mathewi posted yesterday about a group that’s using Ethereum to create a marketplace around content. There’s also SteemIt, which uses the blockchain as the content store.

I wanted to take another 5 minutes to identify the problem space here, and identify which I believe is most ripe for blockchain application.

Business models first. Clearly there’s work to be done here, but the blockchain complicates these efforts for the time being. It doesn’t seem likely that we’ll see mass consumer participation in… this.

Fundamentally, citizens will join Civil because they want to engage with good journalism, and the CVL token is their key.

I think tokens will emerge in very specific contexts first, and we may be a decade out from being able to explain this paradigm to our parents. I’m also highly biased against any revenue model that’s more complicated than advertising or cash for service/product.

Content storage second. STEEM uses the blockchain to store content but content storage isn’t the problem, at least it’s never been for me. And as the site’s content quality problem illustrates, if the goal is to represent the value of content contributions in the blockchain, you have to expand your measurement approach to prevent malicious actors from gaming the system.

Capital/equity third. I think this is THE problem the blockchain is uniquely positioned to solve. I’m not a socialist but I take a cynical view on das kapital. Why do you think digital newsrooms are organizing? Folks, your digital wiz kids aren’t dumb. They understand that your new media empire rose on the backs of their memes. They’ve just got no better option, hence organizing. But as a one-time founder and a longtime laborer, I am excited by what the blockchain could mean for organizational equity! Rather than a static term sheet that’s capitalized periodically, the blockchain gives us a dynamic method of valuing and subdividing the entity. There’s something noble in the idea that everyone’s an owner in the organization. As a matter of fact, in a former life I had advised a certain local media executive to build staff equity into the funding plan for a media startup. To the best of my knowledge, that didn’t happen. Which scares me a bit! I really don’t want to be complicit in building the next Gannett (unless I’m Frank in the endeavor) and the best strategy I see against that is keeping a good deal of individual outlet equity owned locally and by public-minded individuals. Plus, we could still offer an Initial Coin/Token Offering that gives us some quick access to cash.

Disagree with me? Would love to know why – hit those comments!




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