In 2022, journalism will “pivot” to Web3. Since the rise of digital media, we’ve seen news organizations realigning their priorities and resources to potential new revenue streams, such as mobile, social media, and video, with mixed results. This year we will see a lot of acceleration in their Web3 efforts. It makes sense. After all, Web3 offers new ways to monetize archives and intellectual property, build patronage, reward readers, and fund startups. Anything journalism could use. But it will not be completely without risk.
In fact, the move has already started, and some of those efforts have been well covered here at the Nieman Lab. But we have yet to see any major news organizations making significant progress in Web3, or any new journalistic initiatives native to the Web3 breakthrough. I guess a year from now it will be different.
In a way, it’s quite surprising that we haven’t seen any efforts from AFP, Reuters, Agency VII, or Magnum. The AP dipped its toes this year by posting a series on Binance Marketplace. But these archives hold pure and simple treasures, prepared for the NFT market. And while 18-year-olds with hacked Photoshop and hastily drawn anthropomorphic (mostly adorable) animals pull millions from their art, the most valuable images in recent history have not been made available. a collector’s market with a seemingly endless appetite for NFTs and limitless resources to invest in them. Of course, there are hesitations. The business model for these archives is to license these images multiple times. But as the NFT market matures, its numbers dominate the potential licensing opportunity.
NFTs are the fruit at hand. And historical photographs will not be the only journalistic product on the market. As New York Times columnist Kevin Roose showed earlier this year, an article or column can become a valuable NFT. So, in a year, it is not difficult to imagine a flourishing market of 1/1 editions of historical covers, magazine covers (Rolling Stone recently launched one in partnership with the Bored Ape Yacht Club), articles, interviews, derivative rights. and probably a lot more that we haven’t even thought of. Add to that the on-demand strike by anyone who has been the subject of media articles and wants to own the NFT of their 15 Minutes of Fame / Infamy. Media organizations will even be able to decide whether they wish to sell the copyright to a story and its derivatives, or simply issue limited digital representations.
It is also easy to imagine that DAOs (Decentralized Autonomous Organizations) play a significant role in journalism, just as they do outside of it. The ability to organize around a common goal or set of principles, and to raise money from members in return for a financial stake in their success, can be extremely powerful. Imagine, for example, if your subscription to a local newspaper came in the form of a token that granted not only access to its content, but also ownership and a number of rewards. You would have a lot more people invested in the success of these organizations. Generally speaking, that would be a good thing.
If the unsuccessful experience of the DAO Constitution has taught us anything, it’s how quickly financial interests can align to generate significant funding around a shared ideology. These tokens in turn create a financial incentive for community success, and have proven to be a powerful freeze for a community of mostly anonymous people who come together – primarily using Web 2.0 social media tools – to collect and deploy funds towards a goal. . And as we learned in 2021 from the coin and meme stock rallies, the goal itself doesn’t have to be reasonable or even fully formed, it just needs to be shared.
There are enormous opportunities for journalistic and media organizations in general in this new world. There are also reasons for caution. Just as these tools can be a significant source of revenue – and a new form of sponsorship that improves the relationship between media organizations and their audiences – there are also reasons to be cautious. There is a certain tribal element in Web3 communities. The “Hodl” culture and the “monkey-in” are good examples of this. The ability of individuals to organize around a common cause will give way to the media, organized not around fundamental principles of truth, but rather around a common ideology or goal. And that will only increase the already polarizing trends we see in the media today.
So in 2022, it’s not hard to imagine that a Robert Capa 1/1 NFT will be sold at Christie’s in 8 figures, just like a New York Times front page. It’s not hard to imagine that many in the next generation of established digital media player challengers like BuzzFeed and Vox Media will be DAOs. Or that the subscriptions will be mostly token, giving the public a stake in the success of the media organizations they support. It’s also not hard to imagine that the next OAN or Fox News will be a very well-funded, ideologically-owned, community-owned company that can create even more closed feedback loops than what we have on today. our fractured media market.
But overall, good outweighs evil, and 2022 will be an extraordinary year for those learning to harbor the power of the coming revolution.