For almost two years now, the artist couple Holly Herndon and Mat Dryhurst has been running a podcast called “Interdependence” – a kind of short-form educational space for the crypto curious. Pitched as a “$5 grad school,” it has featured conversations with artists, curators and researchers at the bleeding edge of blockchain technology, along with critiques of the so-called “platform internet,” or the state of the web as it exists today.
Acolytes of the podcast are everywhere, in crypto. And Herndon and Dryhurst aren’t the only game in town – other art-centric communities and content creators are beginning to flirt with crypto, too, and tackling many of the same issues as “Interdependence.”
The result is competition; creators with similar interests end up fighting for similar audiences.
Enter Channel, a three-pronged media collective from Interdependence, the artist and researcher Joshua Citarella and an amorphous online community-cum-publisher-cum-editorial platform called New Models.
All three currently monetize their work on Patreon, with a subscription model. With Channel, they’re hoping to bundle their businesses with a digital membership card that’s distinctly Web 3: an NFT, or non-fungible token.
“We're a decentralized media organization with aims of opening it up into a general protocol that other people can use,” said Daniel Keller, one of the founders of New Models.
Eventually, it will become a “stack for creators” looking to “squad up.”
For now, that just means putting these three content businesses under one roof.
The initial offer is a limited edition membership NFT for early adopters, priced relatively high – 0.3 ETH, or around $1,000. It offers access to an RSS feed with the combined content of all three podcasts as well as a Discord server for communicating directly with the developers behind the project.
A “month or two” after the first NFT drop, Channel will launch an uncapped series of programmable NFT memberships “at a much lower price,” said Keller. They also plan to airdrop these NFTs to existing Patreon subscribers.
Friends With Benefits, or FWB, the prominent crypto social club and DAO, recently announced plans for a similar sort of programmable NFT. It’s essentially a digital ID badge that can be updated with stickers, rewards and certifications as its owner interacts with different corners of the Web 3 ecosystem.
But Channel’s vision is for other content creators to use this same framework for their businesses. And, at some point, they plan to release a set of tools allowing for just that.
Duncan Wilson, one of the developers on the project (he comes from a machine learning background), drew a distinction between Channel the media organization – that is, Interdependence, Joshua Citarella and New Models – and Channel the toolkit, or protocol.
“Let's say you are a podcast creator, and you are coordinating with two or three other podcasts,” he said. “I think instead of trying to make sure you don't schedule the same guests, and do all of this stuff that a lot of people are doing anyway with competitors in the same ideological spaces, [you] should see this as an opportunity to create this more ‘squad’ dynamic – like, [a] pseudo-organization that can just spring up around the protocol that's eventually released.”
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It’s a problem all three creators say they’ve faced in the past.
“Holly and I, we kind of tiptoe around,” said Dryhurst. “Like, there's a book that comes out, and I know we're gonna be interested in it [for 'Interdependence']. And then it happens on New Models and I'm like, I'm not going to touch that, because they did a really good job.”
Mirror, a crypto-backed publishing platform that launched in late 2020, offers similar tools for creators to join forces and monetize their work, like revenue splits and mechanisms for joint NFT drops. It’s already built a solid reputation as a platform for monetizing creative work.
But the Channel team says it hopes to complement those systems, rather than compete.
“The whole point of this endeavor is anti-competition,” Dryhurst said. “That was the original motivation for why we all came together. [We were] looking to build interdependent media stuff.”
There’s a common culture in these Ethereum-based projects, and Channel is looking to capitalize on it, helping creators monetize their work together.
“Something in between Mirror and FWB, is where I would place us in the ecosystem,” Keller said. “There's a huge overlap in the communities already, and this is going to be building synergies, as opposed to redundancies.”
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