Decentralized Media Is Breaking Barriers in a Web2 World
“The blockchain is simply a tool to re-architect the relationship between the subscriber and the publication,” said Daisy Alioto, founder of Web3 media outlet Dirt.
On April 7, community-owned Web3 crypto news show company Coinage put forth its first governance vote. The proposal asked community members of Coinage’s decentralized autonomous organization (DAO) to decide whether or not they should move 10% of the DAO’s treasury into the meme coin DOGE.
“Coinage haz much money in ETH but DOGE go ⬆️. Does DOGE haz much fortune?? Go wayz up???” the proposal reads.
The vote closed after 72 hours, with 60% (140 votes) against the investment and 40% (94 votes) in favor.
Zack Guzman, co-founder of Trustless Media, the company behind Coinage, voted in favor of the DOGE investment idea but was happy with the outcome because it showed that Coinage was truly decentralized.
“I think the first vote has proven this decentralized model works, where even I didn't get what I wanted,” Guzman told CoinDesk.
Decentralized media has become a prominent point of conversation among Web2 and Web3-native journalists alike. While covering cryptocurrency news is one thing, using Web3 tools to expand journalistic practices is another.
Some builders in the space feel that media distribution has become too focused on numbers, traffic and ad sales instead of creating content for its audience. Rather than publishing to generate revenue, what if the content was created with readers in mind, publications were co-governed by its audience and the nature of the media industry became more collaborative?
Several journalists who have spent years in Web2 media are seeking to shake up the industry and usher in a new Web3 era.
NFT Now and tokenized media
When non-fungible token (NFT) publication NFT Now launched nearly two years ago, its founders identified issues within the traditional media landscape they hoped to fix.
“We were intimately aware of just how broken the Web2 media model is,” said Matt Medved, CEO, editor-in-chief and co-founder of NFT Now. “That is something that from the very beginning … we knew that we wanted to do something and we wanted to do it differently.”
Medved was previously the editor-in-chief at music publication Spin Magazine and founded Billboard Magazine’s Billboard Dance. Believing that the Web2 media industry is overly motivated by revenue streams that are misaligned with audience interest, he’s made an effort to build NFT Now into a “true” Web3 publication through its content and publishing strategy.
Medved said that NFT Now has committed to never running programmatic ads, implementing cookies or tracking user data. It’s been slowly building its community ahead of the launch of the Now Pass, a non-fungible token that allows token holders to deepen their roots within the NFT Now community and media ecosystem.
“The Now Pass is the access pass to the Now Network, and the Now Network is our foundation for all of our initiatives to build the future of tokenized media,” said Medved. “The Now Pass is that first step for us in pioneering this community-centric media model, and starting to really redefine what the role is for a media brand in a Web3 environment.”
The Now Pass opened up its mint on March 23, selling 2,750 tokens for 0.25 ether (ETH), or about $500 each. It sold out in less than 48 hours, raising nearly $1.1 million to build out the publication’s steps into tokenized media.
Thus far, the Now Pass grants holders access to a Discord channel and “Alpha Chat” to share news and insights between members. It also allows holders to attend events, such as the NFT100 gala and an inaugural community meet-up held in New York during NFT.NYC.
Medved told CoinDesk that in the coming months, NFT Now will establish a membership portal where holders can earn rewards for their participation in the ecosystem. In addition, there are plans for an on-chain voting system for content curation and more token-gated events to bring community members together.
Enter the Dirtyverse
For a Web3 media organization to succeed, it needs to understand its audience and how to onboard readers to new technologies.
That’s how Dirt, a Web3-native publication, has risen in popularity over the past year and garnered praise from culture fanatics and NFT collectors alike.
Founded in 2021 by journalists Daisy Alioto and Kyle Chayka, Dirt aims to break down Web2 media regimes by publishing content from a network of freelancers, using blockchain infrastructure to keep media decentralized.
Alioto told CoinDesk that Dirt doesn’t exclusively cover cryptocurrency, making it one of the only Web3-native media organizations to report on a broader scope of content.
“The blockchain is simply a tool to re-architect the relationship between the subscriber and the publication,” said Alioto. “If you understand how to create compelling intellectual property and a network around it, you can build anything you want on those rails.”
Since Dirt launched in 2021 it has not only raised $1.2 million in seed funding, but it’s grown a community that engages with its content, which Alioto says has been called “the child of Vice and The New Yorker.” It has built its free newsletter that has 23,000 subscribers, but has found other ways to monetize content through NFTs.
Its annual subscription NFTs grant its 229 holders access to token-gated Discord channels to discuss topics such as movies, books and recipes, among other things. Dirt has also sold 322 Founder Passes, NFTs that grant holders a lifetime subscription to the publication as well as privileges to vote on content that Dirt produces.
Alioto told CoinDesk that Dirt has demonstrated how Web3 can create collectibility and credibility in media, bringing people to Dirt who were previously not represented by existing media infrastructure. She’s bullish on the future of Web3 media as Dirt expands its brand verticals.
“I have a vision for the future of media-centric businesses that has remained consistent for almost two years, and people who disagreed with me in the bull market are now scrambling to roll out newsletters and zines and airdrop free whatever,” said Alioto. “It doesn't work that way. You either have the sauce or you don't. The future is dirty.”
Coinage and co-owned media
While the proposal to move dogecoin into the Coinage treasury didn’t proceed as Guzman had hoped, the outcome showed how the decentralized media company is co-owning and co-creating its brand with its community.
Coinage, which Guzman co-founded in 2022 after years covering finance and cryptocurrency at Yahoo Finance and CNBC, pivoted to producing Web3 media with holistic Web3 roots.
In its first year, Coinage not only produced a Society of American Business Editors and Writers award-winning television show on cryptocurrency (see this interview with Terra founder Do Kwon on the stablecoin’s death spiral) but also empowers the community to help shape the content the show produces.
“The earliest users make Coinage valuable, and in any media company that's a pretty important number,” said Guzman. “Delivering value back to your earliest subscribers is essentially what we're doing, which is pretty Web3 and cool.”
In order to build a Web3 community around its show, Coinage has released three different tiers of NFTs. The Network membership passes, distributed at Coinage’s launch, help to fund and give holders the ability to co-own the content of the show. In addition, Subscriber membership passes allow exclusive access to Coinage’s content before it gets released to the public on YouTube and Caucus passes allow holders to weigh in on the topics that Coinage covers.
Among Coinage’s NFT holders is Marc Randolph, co-founder of Netflix.
“Randolph revolutionized the idea of media once before, and having someone like that excited by what we're building is pretty cool,” said Guzman. “One of the main reasons why he's intrigued by it is the thesis of breaking down the wall between your favorite content creator and their audience, and that unlocks a bunch of powerful network effects.”
While Coinage produces weekly shows covering a wide variety of cryptocurrency-related topics, it's beginning to take its first steps in building out community governance, authoring proposals and asking token holders which topics they would like to see covered before putting them to a vote.
In its most recent governance vote that concluded on April 17, 73% of members (76 votes) elected to cover the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the regulatory crackdown that the crypto industry has been facing over the past month.
Where is Web3 media going?
While the content may not always be focused on crypto, Web3 media is primarily emerging from publications native to the space. Still, the incentives for Web2 media companies to start experimenting with technologies such as NFTs and DAOs are growing.
There’s already a movement brewing among major media publications to implement Web3 technologies into their content distribution methods.
In February, men’s magazine GQ announced its first NFT collection. The GQ3 Issue 001: Change Is Good collection included a magazine subscription, GQ merchandise and an invitation to its party that was held last week during NFT.NYC.
Other publications that have dipped their toes into NFTs include CNN’s now-defunct Vault NFT marketplace as well as Time Magazine’s TIMEPieces collection that allows readers to collect digital artworks that serve as a membership to the publication.
As more Web3 media outlets continue to spring up, more Web2 publications may be motivated to make the switch to stay competitive and bring added value to their audiences.
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