To understand why CoinDesk has launched a social token to reward our global audience for engaging with our content, it may help to take a walk down memory lane to a time before this website was founded.
A time before the centralized platforms of Web 2 ruled all of our lives.
It’s amusing to look back on the early 2000s when the biggest worry for media organizations was new competition from “web logs” – soon shortened to blogs – and internet “citizen journalists.” It turned out instead that both groups – the legacy media and the digital upstarts – ended up in the same boat, tugged in all directions by the hulking vessels of the social media and search companies.
People who grew up buying papers at newsstands or having them delivered to their home or office could have been forgiven if they expected similar behavior online. Consumers, it was reasonable to assume, would go directly to the websites they liked and trusted, paid subscription or not, and see what was there that day.
But thanks to the ascendancy in the 2010s of Google, Twitter and Facebook, the digital equivalent of the “front page” for readers was no longer any media outlet’s homepage. It was now the social media app and search results.
At first blush, this model appeared to be a win for information consumers. Users could curate their social feeds, following the writers or outlets that interested them and ignoring the rest. Instead of buying three or four different papers or magazines, each bundling an article you want to read with others that you don’t, you have one customized mix-and-match bundle consisting only of what you want. (You might miss out on some things you didn’t realize you wanted, but that’s your choice.)
That might have been all well and good if it were the end of the story. The problem – for content creators and consumers alike – is the platforms, the enormous power they wield, and the arbitrary and opaque ways they do so.
The tyranny of search
Far from facilitating a direct relationship between journalists and their audience, social and search simply became the new gatekeepers.
The Google algorithm became the be-all arbiter of what web content would be found. Facebook’s “like” audience curation system created an echo chamber amplification system that ended up incentivizing disinformation (read the history of Cambridge Analytica). Twitter’s prominence as a forum for debate meant that it was pressured into censorship, with conservatives particularly angered by what they saw as selective de-platforming and content suppression.
All content creators – mainstream journalists, bloggers, pundits, podcasters and everyday people giving their two cents – have been thrust into an endless shouting match, vying to be heard over the din on social media. Press sensationalism long predated the internet, of course, but social and search algorithms have been like a gain-of-function lab experiment for the profession’s old ailments, making them more virulent and contagious.
Founded in 2013, CoinDesk grew up in this environment, and we’ve frequently experienced this centralized gatekeeping in negative ways.
From time to time, the word “cryptocurrency” has worked as a flag for Google’s algorithm, preventing our marketing team from advertising on that platform and, on two occasions, resulting in the unjustified shutdown of CoinDesk TV’s YouTube channel.
Especially galling at such times has been the lack of an explanation, the inability to reach someone to simply ask why these arbitrary measures are taken.
There’s got to be another way.
You might think “why not just get a paywall?” Indeed, we may eventually launch a narrowly defined subscription service for certain, specialized users. But our overall goal remains to reach as broad a mass audience as possible, since we expect that crypto’s mainstream adoption will come from all quarters of society and all corners of the globe, and the best way to tap a mass audience is to offer free-to-air services.
We don’t just want occasional, fleeting visits from a reader in Istanbul or Nairobi or from someone who works in accounting or entertainment whose eye was caught by a particular headline. We want our audience to stick around, to explore other elements of what CoinDesk has to offer, to engage with the content in ways that are meaningful to them and to other readers.
Our goal, you could say, is “stickiness.”
This is where our DESK experiment comes in.
Read more | What Is DESK? FAQs about CoinDesk's Social Token
We’re hopeful, like many others, that crypto and Web 3 solutions involving tokens and new data and governance models will facilitate a more direct relationship with our audience and the expansion of a community of engaged participants that’s independent of the platforms.
Consensus 2022 kicks off Thursday in Austin, Texas. We believe this event, which moves the content creator-audience relationship out of the digital realm and into a physical space where internet gatekeepers have less influence, is a great place to experiment with new tokens and incentive models in pursuit of stickiness.
It bears repeating: DESK is not an investment. It has no financial value. We are not selling it to raise funds; we are not selling it at all. Users can earn DESK by participating in activities at Consensus and redeem it for rewards like refreshments and swag; trading it is prohibited by our terms of service, and pointless because DESK is useless outside our ecosystem.
We hope DESK generates a community that engages year-round in rich interaction with each other and with CoinDesk articles and other content and then comes back each year to gather in person at this cornerstone annual event.
The leader in news and information on cryptocurrency, digital assets and the future of money, CoinDesk is an award-winning media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. In November 2023, CoinDesk was acquired by Bullish group, owner of Bullish, a regulated, institutional digital assets exchange. Bullish group is majority owned by Block.one; both groups have interests in a variety of blockchain and digital asset businesses and significant holdings of digital assets, including bitcoin. CoinDesk operates as an independent subsidiary, and an editorial committee, chaired by a former editor-in-chief of The Wall Street Journal, is being formed to support journalistic integrity.