Possible Solution For An Industry Crisis?
The Digital Age has been described as a ‘golden era for journalism’. Indeed, it has enabled access to significant data caches leading to ground-breaking investigative journalism, new models of cross-border collaborative reporting, and access to treasure troves of knowledge and diverse sources at a mouse-click.
However, the advent of the Information Age has introduced new paradigms that have made it prohibitively difficult for publications to sustain themselves on the model that was so effective for the duration of the print journalism era. This environment has caused mass uncertainty, layoffs and market consolidation in the journalism industry, and has severely limited the public’s access to quality journalism.
The digital disruption of advertising causes the collapse of the traditional business model for news publishing and mass unemployment
Print newspapers have been struggling mightily for decades as readers, advertisers and publishers have increasingly migrated to digital channels. According to the Columbia Journalism Review’s analysis of data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were more than 66,000 newspaper reporters or editors employed in 2005. Over the next ten years, more than 25,000 of those journalists left that workforce, a decline of more than 38 percent. During the same time period, the number of journalists at digital-only publishers grew by just 7,000.
The failure of digital advertising to support journalism as a replacement for print advertising: Google and Facebook are now the main beneficiaries of digital advertising sales
But even as journalists have struggled to make ends meet in this climate, the media industry at large has profited handsomely from the shift to digital. Search engine and social media giants have emerged as the ultimate middlemen in today’s model: as their platforms continue to grow, so too does their already-commanding influence over publishers. Journalists have to spend outsized time and resources focusing on how to cater their content to audiences on platforms owned by third parties. Together, Facebook and Google form a duopoly that commands between 60 and 70 percent of ad market share in the U.S. alone. This is even more alarming when one considers that the five most popular destinations for gathering news are: Google, Facebook, Youtube (owned by Google), Twitter (a major Google partner) and Instagram (owned by Facebook) — none of which self-identify as media companies.
This has resulted in a dire state, driven by mass consolidation and constantly shifting models seeking to optimize ad revenue. Just six corporations control more than 90 percent of American media outlets — a phenomenon that’s similarly playing out around the world. By and large, publishers prioritize attracting web traffic at scale due to its direct correlation with ad revenue, a pernicious influence over editorial decision-making. Digital convergence transforming content-commissioning, production, publication, and distribution, significantly increasing deadline pressure and leading to additional job losses.
Local, international, policy and investigative reporting — longtime mainstays of high-quality journalism — are increasingly rare practices in this climate. While these important subject matters can and traditionally have driven major social change, they’re also among the least cost-effective — and currently endangered — forms of reporting to maintain under ad-driven, scale-at-all-costs revenue models.
The Spread of Misinformation
Technology platforms have proved unable to adequately prevent the dissemination of misinformation, or “fake news”. Today public trust in the media is at an all-time low. It seems like the lines between fact, entertainment, advertising, fabrication, and fiction are increasingly blurred. And when disinformation and misinformation are published, the social news distribution system, dependent on peer-to-peer sharing, frequently sends the content viral, making it impossible to pull back, even if journalists successfully debunk it.
News publishers struggling to hold onto audiences as barriers to publication are removed, empowering any person or entity to produce content, bypass traditional gatekeepers. Moreover, audience expectations of ‘on-demand’ news, mobile delivery and realtime engagement on social media further increasing pressure on news professionals facing diminishing resources in a never-ending news cycle.
Journalism is ‘under fire’, facing a virtual ‘perfect storm’ of convergent pressures that feed ‘information disorder’. Concern about misinformation and disinformation remains high despite efforts by platforms and publishers to build public confidence. More than half of internet users remain concerned about their ability to separate what is real and fake on the internet, according to the 2019 Reuters Institute Digital News Report. Concerns are high in the UK (70%) and the US (67%), but much lower in Germany (38%) and the Netherlands (31%). Across all countries, the average level of trust in the news, in general, is down 2 percentage points to 42% and less than half (49%) agree that they trust the news media they themselves use.
The erosion of trust in journalism and mainstream media organizations causing audiences to dissipate further.
For many journalists, who believe strongly in freedom of expression and have long regarded themselves as essential support players in democratic societies, how to deal with ‘information disorder’ is a complex issue. Disinformation and misinformation go beyond challenging journalists’ reputations and safety. They question their purpose and effectiveness, and they perpetuate the degradation of journalism to the detriment of civic discourse. Improving standards and social relevance is in the interests of all future journalists, and to society as a whole.
The Lack of Freedom
Journalists around the world are seeing increased fear and violence in their line of work as media freedom faces further decline, according to data published by Reporters Without Borders. The 2019 World Press Freedom Index categorizes the media climate in more than three-fourths of the 180 countries and territories studied as “problematic”, “difficult” or “very serious.” Just 8% have a media climate considered “good”.
According to Freedom House’s Freedom in the World data, media freedom has been deteriorating around the world over the past decade, with new forms of repression taking hold in open societies and authoritarian states alike. The trend is most acute in Europe, previously a bastion of well-established freedoms, and in Eurasia and the Middle East, where many of the world’s worst dictatorships are concentrated. If democratic powers cease to support media independence at home and impose no consequences for its restriction abroad, the free press corps could be in danger of virtual extinction.
According to the Tow Center for Digital Journalism research, if blockchain can store almost any kind of data that needs to be secured, and can be accessed and modified by many different people, then it is a potential solution to a lot of scenarios involving both data that needs to be kept track of and people working collaboratively. The journalism industry is one such case study, since the way, tens of thousands of stories generate value every day is based on the intricate system of news production, distribution, and consumption — meaning how stories are created, shared, marketed, listened and reacted to.
Journalists need to be paid, news stories must be trusted by audiences, and uncorroborated information or rumors must be countered by maintaining a level of transparency around how information is gathered and how news stories are being told.
Targeted solutions use blockchain as an add-on to a news organization’s infrastructure, for instance by subscribing to a blockchain-based service. These services include creating blockchains to securely store the timestamps of the publication date and provenance of news stories. For the advertising business, on which journalism heavily relies, blockchains can store and keep track of ad impressions so that media organizations do not overpay for the inflated statistics of a particular ad. News organizations can become stakeholders in what are called “token-curated registries” (TCRs), where a list of business partners or other entities are ranked for specific purposes, and the registry is “edited” through a blockchain.
Alternatively, hybrid solutions may use blockchains to store different kinds of data, but also construct a network of stakeholder-driven organizations around a private blockchain so that participating nodes can curate the data stored under the blockchain, such as a token-curated registry, and also participate in the governance of the entire network.
Micropayments to Support Smaller Publications
While a reported 93% of adults in the United States get some portion of their news from an online source, digital publications are a dime a dozen. For any online publication, the idea of users paying on a per-article basis has appeal. These micropayments would reward authors for attracting loyal audiences and allow publications to break from advertising-dependent models that often come with conditions with respect to what content can and cannot be published. If audiences prove willing to embrace this system for publications that are worth they’re paying modest amounts for, smart contract technology serves as a system that could automatically, immediately process the payments.
Cryptocurrencies to Fund Journalists
In order to help re-establish news journalists who want to break real stories, new blockchain-based funding models are turning to cryptocurrencies as a means for readers to help fund the journalists and outlets they believe are fighting the good fight. A reader-endorsement model of funding is to represent a needed break from the binary, paywall vs. advertising choice that has hampered the industry’s credibility.
Blockchain-Enabled News Platforms
The lines between advertisement and journalism have been increasingly blurred by the injection of corporate sponsorship money into the industry. Publications are increasingly turning to content sponsored by corporate partners, and often those pieces are virtually indistinguishable from real news. This presents obvious conflicts of interest that further degrade the credibility of an ailing media industry.
Blockchain-enabled news platforms have several aims. For one, they will provide the technological underpinning for the direct funding of journalism. Secondly, they will exist outside of traditional funding models, allowing greater freedom for journalists to pursue the stories that are worthy of being reported on. These platforms will also archive stories, as the blockchain technology that allows for their existence also has the inherent benefit of permanence.
Permanently Maintaining Archives
It is important for journalists to maintain their online archives, whether it is for the sake of obtaining more and greater employment opportunities or simply as a matter of pride. But when a publication closes its door or ceases operation of its website, the cost of maintaining servers is often too great to keep an archive of past work. The blockchain is a permanent record stored across a distributed network. This means that journalists and other writers will have a permanent means of storage for their work, which provides a method for citing past articles and essays when establishing their credentials to prospective employers.
Tokenizing Reader Investment In Journalism
Media consolidation has forced startup journalists and publications to flock to jobs and mergers with the big wigs of the industry. The move toward a model by which readers help invest in and sustain operations of small, independent publications is being launched in order to maintain agenda-free reporting. This movement will be facilitated in part by the ability for publications to reward readers for their support, and for readers to show love to the publications they enjoy by investing in the proprietary coins that some of these publications are launching as a means of fulfilling the cost of operations.
The heavy reliance on advertising has diluted the quantity and quality of worthwhile content in both digital and physical publications, and readers are unwilling to wade through a seemingly endless slew of ads to locate the content they value. Considering that more than 28% of U.S. internet users have installed some sort of ad blocker and that advertising frameworks are largely dependent on the likes of Google and Facebook, alternative means for publications to remain commercially viable must be tested.
Much of the benefit of blockchain-enabled news and journalism outlets is a new paradigm that allows readers to directly contribute to the sustenance of their favorite publications through direct donations on secure blockchain platforms. This will help eliminate or at least decrease the dependence on advertisers, who often pay to have unsightly, distracting presences on websites and in physical issues of a magazine or paper.
Implementing Reader Input More Effectively
Apathy toward the media has created a malaise, and the effects are wide-ranging. Outright distrust in the old news media is rampant. A Gallup poll found that 44% of respondents believe news reporting is inaccurate, and that 64% believe that most news they see on social media is inaccurate. While users continue to interact with the news, too many outlets continue to ignore or fail to account for the wants of their readership, to their own detriment.
There are numerous blockchain news platforms that, having issued their own coin, allow investors to vote on decisions pertaining to the direction of the newsroom, much like stockholders can. Because readers will play a central role in funding these new digital newsrooms, they should have a say in new proposals to ensure that they may see that their investment is being repaid. This is a winning formula for the journalists as well, as they can ensure that they are providing a service that is in tune with investors, and in doing so increase the odds that their venture remains funded.
Compensating Commenters to Incentivize Interaction and Inspire Loyalty
In the era of neverending content streams and constant refreshes, finding a way to get readers to stay focused on an article for more than a few seconds can seem more difficult than solving a crossword puzzle blindfolded. The average internet page visit lasts less than one minute. Rewarding commenters for contributing information to an article or issuing a correction could help compel readers to interact more deeply and longer with each written piece. By establishing a framework to provide coins or compensation through a blockchain platform, a loyal readership eager to parse articles for potential errors means exposing those readers to quality content, increasing the chances that they will return not only for potential compensation but for the intellectual value that the content provides.
“Civil is a network that’s come together for ethical, independent journalism. Newsrooms have editorial independence and freedom, but being part of the Civil network makes us part of a community that’s testing new models for sustainability.”
— David Moore, Co-founder, Sludge
Civil is a decentralized network of independent publishers, governed by a shared set of ethical standards and an engaged community of news consumers. The goal of Civil is to create a sustainable, global marketplace for journalism that is free from manipulative ads, misinformation and outside influence. Civil’s cryptoeconomic model seeks to enable a more direct, transparent relationship between journalists and citizens while using blockchain to also strengthen protections for journalists against censorship and intellectual property violations. According to the whitepaper, the Civil decentralized communications protocol limits the need for third parties like advertisers and centralized publisher conglomerates. The protocol aims to support independent newsrooms initially focused on producing high-quality local, international, investigative and policy journalism. Essentially, Civil is a publishing tool or platform like Medium combined with a crowdfunding system like Kickstarter or Patreon tailored to support independent journalism.
Founders began promoting the project in 2017 when crypto markets were really heating up. Several journalists banded together to create the platform and several online newsrooms — including Sludge and Hmmdaily — as an alternative to the traditional media system’s broken business model. Project founders endeavored to sell a cryptocurrency token built on Ethereum, one that might simultaneously act as a fundraising mechanism as well as a “utility token” supporters could purportedly use to grade the veracity of content on forthcoming civil platforms. But Civil’s ICO failed to meet its minimum target of $8 million USD in the fall of 2018, and the raise was dropped and funds returned to investors. Civil has since been running on a reported $5 million USD grant from, Ethereum consortium ConsenSys, a company owned by one of Ethereum’s founders, Joseph Lubin. Last August, Civil entered into a content licensing partnership with the Associated Press (AP), in which the AP would deliver its content, including national and international news to Civil so that news agencies can access it on the platform.
How it works: What does it mean to say that Civil is owned and run by its community of journalists and their supporters?
The project’s ecosystem has its native CVL token — the amount of which will be limited to 100 million — that purports to provide financial sustainability and improve trust in journalism. The network launched this March. Since then, users are able to purchase Civil membership, including CVL which represents members’ voting power within the Civil ecosystem. The company was reportedly direct 100 percent of the net proceeds to independent non-profit organization Civil Foundation, which supports ethical journalism on a global scale. Apart from that, members got an equivalent number of CVL to their financial contribution to the Civil Foundation.
Within the launch, Civil: Self-Sustaining Journalism introduced the Civil Registry, an app that enables any newsroom to apply to be a Civil newsroom with the self-governing community. According to the Civil website, newsrooms apply to join the Civil Registry, and it is the community that vets newsroom applicants to ensure that they meet the standards laid out in the Civil Constitution. Members of the community are charged with ensuring that all newsrooms on the Civil Registry continue to abide by these ethical standards. Members have the power to challenge any newsroom that does not uphold the Constitution, and vote on issues using Civil tokens. In the first months after the Civil Registry launch, 422 members have staked 6 challenges to newsroom applications, as well as two separate appeals, and cast more than 4 million tokens worth of votes in challenges.
More than 50 independent newsrooms across five continents have been approved by the Civil community to participate in the Civil Registry. These newsrooms have publicly committed to adhering to the principles of ethical journalism laid out in the Civil Constitution. They will continue to be held accountable for the quality of their journalism by the Civil community for as long as they are on the Civil Registry, and if they falter, it is at the discretion of the Civil community to initiate a challenge. This means any news consumer, whether or not they choose to participate in the governance of the Civil Registry, can safely rely on Civil newsrooms with the assurance that this content is rooted in original and fair reporting.
Civil first spotlight focuses on a journalist-owned, journalist-run and ad-free publication Popula, the first Newsroom officially founded on Civil. Since June of 2018, Popula has been bringing its users a wide variety of interesting writing, art, and information from all over the world. The Popula team was using a grant from Civil, in part, to demonstrate how blockchain technology can protect the quality and integrity of what you read. On December 17th, 2018, Popula made history by archiving the first news article directly on to a public blockchain. On February 14, 2019, they introduced their crypto micro tipping system; using the MetaMask in-browser wallet, you can now leave tips of just about any value you like for your favorite authors and artists. This spring, Popula introduced a crypto-based commenting system for their subscribers.
Learn more about Popula here.
Po.et is a set of decentralized protocols and applications focused on content ownership, discovery, and monetization in media. Its mission is to power a better web built around the virtues of trust, verifiability, and accountability for media organizations and content creators. In the same way that blockchain technologies have revolutionized the financial industry, Po.et wants to transform the publishing industry by creating an immutable and distributed ledger for creative works that may serve as a platform for both centralized and decentralized media applications.
According to the Po.et whitepaper, the project extends the timestamping and hashing features pioneered by Proof of Existence to enable new commercial applications by including additional metadata and discoverability. While Proof of Existence requires users to have the original file in order to verify the file’s hash and timestamp, Po.et allows for the original file and its metadata to be discoverable. This makes it possible for anyone to verify both the authenticity of the original file and the associated metadata.
Po.et uses this shared ledger and data layer to create an extensible platform designed to record ownership and metadata for digital media assets. Po.et’s platform allows a user to generate an immutable ownership certificate of digital works, track and license assets on the web, discover new assets and verify the authenticity of discovered assets.
Po.et is building a better web. The better web is personalized, decentralized, and permissionless.
- The foundation of Po.et is attribution. The team enables multiple new ways to reference that content through the entire network to help establish validated claims such as ownership or authorship.
- The Po.et Network builds a set of ubiquitous information based on standard protocols to lower the friction in communicating the value of our content and how it can be unlocked.
- With the combination of verifiable reputation and on-chain discovery, the Po.et Network expands the options for monetizing content in a safe, controlled way. Both public and private marketplaces can be enabled.
- Everyone can see the actions taken on the Po.et Network and establish a history of certain behaviors by entities. Each piece of new information helps us be sure of who is safe with which to engage.
Benefits of Using Po.et:
- Fight False Narratives: When a claim is uploaded to the Po.et network, it begins to build a reputation over time. A user can build credibility by demonstrating a history of positive interactions, contributions, and predictions. These reputation signals determine whether or not you can trust a source, author, editor, etc. If someone comes out with an outrageous article but the author and publication have no reputation, you can use that as a signal to ignore it.
- IP Protection: By making a claim about your content on Po.et, you can prove that you owned, or were in possession of, a digital asset at a given time. This can be used as strong evidence for trademark and copyright enforcement.
- Censorship Resistant: With Po.et, there is no single entity in control of the data. You are able to easily publish content and make claims that can’t be taken down or censored by governments or organizations.
- Build New Business Models: By using Po.et, new business models can be built where each content creator and publisher maintain their own reputations.
The “Connecting the Dots” Milestone was announced on April 12th, 2019. Up until now, the team has been primarily focused on the basic mechanics of creating the protocol and tools to make Proof of Existence accessible and scalable. For the next iteration of Po.et, the team will take what they’ve done and expanded from the basic concepts to create more complex relationships. By the end of this milestone, they’re focusing on adding four new pieces of general functionality:
– Allow for all types of content, not just text
– Expand the vocabulary of metadata that they can use in the protocol
– Create additional ways to connect claims to each other
– Provide a way to create an incentivized content network using the POE token
Currently, Po.et has 6 official projects, 10 team members and more than 51 thousand community contributors.
The easiest way to interact with Po.et is through the Works Explorer. Read this for a deeper dive on how to get started with the works explorer and the motivation behind it. Basic timestamping and claims are available for free to all users. For premium features, like making claims about photos, videos, or audio files, users must prove ownership of at least 1000 POE. Here are instructions on how to “Proof of Poe” and make a claim about your first audio/video/image file.
In order to easily view claims and content on the Po.et Network, Explorer Web is a web front-end linked to a node that can retrieve and display those claims and works.
Learn more about how Po.et intends to help digital publishers thrive:
“So long as there are parties which would desire to be curated into a given list, a market can exist in which the incentives of rational, self-interested token holders are aligned towards curating a list of high quality”
— Mike Goldin, Co-founder, ConsenSys
adChain is a set of interoperable open protocols built on the public Ethereum blockchain that serves the needs of the digital advertising ecosystem. The first protocol under development is the adChain Registry, a decentralized whitelist of non-fraudulent publisher domain names. Other protocols for creative registration and verification, impression tracking, and malware detection, will be added in the future.
The adChain Registry is a decentrally-owned domain whitelist being launched as a collaboration of ConsenSys, MetaX, and Data & Marketing Association (DMA), an industry group with 1,400 active members and over 100,000 participants.
The adChain Registry was built to solve a rudimental problem for advertisers in the realm of digital advertising — sourcing quality inventory.
The adChain Registry is known as a token curated registry (TCR) because it relies on a community of token holders to curate it. To date, the team has published a lot of technical documentation, a white paper, and articles related to token curated registries (TCR’s)  . Much of that has been very in-depth. But the idea behind token curated registries like the adChain Registry is simple. The goal is just to curate a list. The token for the adChain Registry is called adToken (ADT), and curation takes place through various stages of applying, challenging and voting. To sweeten the pot, the team built a rewards system to incentivize participants to curate judiciously.
How Does the Curation Process Work?
Applying: Anyone can apply a website into the adChain Registry. All that it requires is a minimum deposit paid in adToken and the URL of the domain being applied. If you are wondering who sets the minimum deposit amount, it’s the community, through a decentralized governance process — to learn more about governance in the adChain Registry click here. Let’s assume the minimum deposit amount is 100 adToken. To apply the Adchain website into the registry, you would follow the instructions to apply a domain in the dapp and pay 100 adToken. That’s it. If you make it through the application stage length period without being challenged, then your website will be admitted into the registry.
Challenging: Since applications are open to anyone, there needs to be a method in place to ensure illegitimate or fraudulent websites can’t squeak in. This is where the challenge comes into play. Websites in the application phase are eligible to be challenged by anyone at any time. To issue a challenge, you match the same minimum deposit amount the website made to apply. So if you wanted to challenge adchain.com, you would pay 100 adToken to do so.
Voting: If a website gets challenged, then it kicks-off a voting phase. During the voting phase, all community members can vote to either support or oppose the website being challenged. The adChain Registry uses a token weighted voting system called Partial Lock Commit Reveal (PLCR). This means that 1 adToken = 1 vote. So the more tokens that you use, the more votes you can commit. If the majority of the community votes to support a website, then it will get added to the registry. If the majority of the community votes to oppose a website, then it will be rejected from the registry.
adToken Rewards: Applicants, Challengers, and Voters can all earn adToken rewards as a result of winning by majority vote. These are called special dispensation rewards. If the applicant wins the vote, then the special dispensation is paid out of the challengers minimum deposit, and if the challenger wins the vote, then the special dispensation is paid out of the applicants minimum deposit. Voters that voted on the winning side also receive a portion of the special dispensation reward distributed according to their token weight, i.e., the more token used to vote with the bigger the share of the reward. See voter rewards for more.
In the adChain Registry TCR — advertisers will derive value if it represents a premium source of inventory. Therefore, adToken holders are incentivized to curate a high-quality list of publishers (websites) because that equates to more value for the registry’s native token, ADT.
In the global digital advertising ecosystem, advertisers, because they have all of the money, hold all of the cards. And publishers need advertiser dollars to stay in business. If advertisers value the adChain Registry, then publishers will desire to be listed — for access to those advertising dollars. This further increases the demand for adToken since publishers are required to stake a minimum deposit in adToken to apply.
This is the virtuous cycle between advertisers, publishers, and adToken holders.
Narrative is the word’s journal, providing a scalable, smart subject-oriented network where the middleman is removed and network members have autonomy in a transparent environment.
Existing social networks subjugate their users with ambiguous content policies, providing little to no economic reward for the content they produce. Narrative flips the script by rewarding all of the users who positively contribute to the network. While Narrative utilizes blockchain technology to create a trustless environment for its transactions, it does not rely solely on blockchain for its operation. The fact is that blockchain is a poor choice for content management currently.
The project is built on top of the Neo blockchain. The value of the Narrative Network is represented by the NRVE token, a cryptocurrency that is used to pay for items of value (channels, advertising, etc.) and reward the users who positively contribute to the network (content creation, commenting, votes, and more).
Narrative is building a content network on a blockchain — similar to the already established Steemit. Narrative’s white paper outlines its goal to create an entire “Content Economy.” While Steemit has marketed itself as a kind of Reddit on the blockchain, Narrative appears to be positioning itself as a cross between LiveJournal and Jason Calacanis’ Mahalo. There is both an old-school blogging component to Narrative and a focus on topic-based collections of content.
Specifically, Narrative has three channels: Personal Journals, Niches (subject-based collections), and Brands.
The content in the system is organized by so-called elected moderators. This is particularly important in the topic-based Niches, each of which must have one owner and one or more moderators. There’s also a Tribunal, which is described as “like the “Supreme Court” of Narrative. The people on the Tribunal are voted in by the community and are expected to be the final arbiter of any content disputes.
The Reputation and Rating systems are used by Narrative to automatically bury low-rated content and feature highly-rated content, though users can customize their settings to disable or minimize the automation if desired.
According to the Narrative’s website, for now there are 7 Niches waiting for approval and 2,542 Niches for sale.
All revenue generated by the network, including new token generation, advertising sales, and channel ownership fees, is always included in the Network Rewards fund and the fund is distributed on a recurring basis in the following manner:
85% of all revenues generated by the network flow directly to the active participants (e.g., content creators, active participants, moderators, and other positive influencers).
Network Reward distributions are made each month, based on activity in the previous month.
Check out the latest network statistics (August 2019):
Steem is a social blockchain that grows communities and makes immediate revenue streams possible for users by rewarding them for sharing content. It’s the blockchain that can power real applications via social apps like Steemit.
Steem’s Whitepaper explains their platform as a “blockchain database that supports community building and social interaction with cryptocurrency rewards.” The Whitepaper abstract goes on to state, “An important key to inspiring participation in any community, currency or free market economy is a fair accounting system that consistently reflects each person’s contribution. Steem is the first cryptocurrency that attempts to accurately and transparently reward an unbounded number of individuals who make subjective contributions to its community”
Steem started out as the cryptocurrency on the Steemit platform that rewards users for community building through the upvoting and the posting of meaningful content. Founded in 2016 by Ned Scott and BitShares creator Dan Larimer, the Steemit platform, built atop the Steem blockchain, is a social media network that seeks to be a source of community-driven curated content such as news, Q&A and job boards. The more value a particular piece of content is able to deliver across a greater number of people, the greater the reward received by the creator. Steemit users can cast votes to create a hierarchy of content. The higher the upvote count received on a content piece, the more Steem is earned by its publisher. Steemit’s meritocratic system also enables users that hold more currency to cast more meaningful, greater influence votes.
There are over 1,237,000 unique accounts registered on the Steem blockchain
Launched in 2016, the project says it has already distributed over $100 million in cryptocurrency rewards and claims to be “the most successful decentralized reward system in the world.” Steemit has not been without its issues, however. Last November, the firm laid off almost 70 percent of its staff, citing the prolonged crypto bear market.
The aim of the Steem blockchain is to provide a platform for decentralized application hosting as well as decentralized data storage. By using delegated proof-of-stake as consensus protocol, a fast block time of three seconds and zero-fee transactions for users are made possible. Other blockchains using this consensus protocol are EOS.IO and BitShares.
STEEM token functions as a rewards tool in the Steem network, so when you post valuable or well-liked content or if you up-vote content before anyone else, you can earn STEEM. An interesting and somewhat abstract aspect of Steem’s platform tokens is that they have three different types of “asset classes:” Steem (STEEM), Steem Power (SP), and Steem Dollars (SMD). Their White Paper explains these concepts more in-depth on pages 8–11.
$59 595 935 rewards paid out to Steem users since June 2019
The next evolution of Steem will begin with the upcoming launch of Smart Media Tokens. Smart Media Tokens will allow anyone to create their own token, similar to STEEM, and use those tokens to fundraise, monetize content, and grow their own social communities.
The first social network built on the Steem blockchain is Steemit. It is a blockchain-based blogging and social media website, which rewards its users with the cryptocurrency STEEM for publishing and curating content
By voting on posts and comments, users get to decide the payout of those posts. Users also get so-called “Curation Rewards” for finding and upvoting content that gets upvoted by other users afterward.
Launched in 2016 as a fork of the Steem blockchain, Golos describes itself as a social media blockchain that allows its users to receive rewards for generating content and social activity on its decentralized platform. It was designed as an economic game with certain elements of gamification, where each participant’s influence is determined by his Golos power and the intensity of its usage.
Initially, GOLOS FUND blockchain was conceived as a social network for journalists and bloggers of Runet, as an independent blogosphere and mass medium without censorship. The Golos blockchain uses the DPOS consensus algorithm proposed by Dan Larimer, which reportedly provides high transaction speeds and network bandwidth. Golos blockchain code is based on Graphene 2 codebase.
Read more on Golos smart contracts here.
Users get rewards for writing and evaluating posts and it currently accommodates around 500 ths unique users per month.
CyberWay consensus algorithm is heavily inspired by Tezos’ and Cosmos’ one. So, active users are rewarded for voting and non-active users are punished for not voting. Every account is allowed to vote for several validators with staked tokens.
Workers are considered to be the most powerful tool for decentralized protocol improvements. The scalability and performance CyberWay introduces is fine enough for running complex social applications as Golos.
The absence of censorship and privileged accounts makes CyberWay more decentralized than EOS, there are no privileged accounts, no so-called “Constitution”, no blacklists.
CyberWay platform architecture:
PUBLIQ describes itself as a non-profit foundation, which uses blockchain technology to create a new, decentralized environment for content publishing. Its aim is to bypass centralized management of the media sector and give authors the freedom to publish their content without any external intervention. As a bonus, blockchain technology helps authors retain copyright and monetize their work.
PUBLIQ.network uses its own independent blockchain based on a modified Proof-of-Stake (PoS) consensus algorithm. The blockchain holds account related information, transactions, and content metadata. No one can modify the content at any stage of its publishing and sharing. Dr. Christian de Vartavan, adviser and global ambassador at PUBLIQ, compares the principle of blockchain technology to an old-fashioned bill spike: you pile up the bills by sticking them on the spike one by one, and you can’t remove or modify any of the previous bills unless you take everything off, which is simply impossible with blockchain. In the world of publishing, this means that it is impossible to make any changes — by mistake or on purpose — to the content once it is published.
Another important feature of the PUBLIQ’s blockchain technology is that content is not stored on one centralized website where it is vulnerable to, say, a cyberattack, but in decentralized accumulators, which makes any modification impossible because there are simply too many of them.
According to PUBLIQ’s whitepaper, this technology has the potential to bring more transparency to the publishing process, given that data about all participants are stored in the blockchain. It hopes this will dissuade content creators from posting fake news, as all information about anything one publishes will be stored in the blockchain.
Finally, the platform also offers a conditional unit that works a bit like cryptocurrency, called PBQ. You cannot use it to pay online but its function is to divide any revenue from advertising amongst all participants. Gagik Yeghiazarian, co-founder and CEO, said that PUBLIQ is integrating two exchanges: one centralized (fiat-to-crypto, which means any legal currency backed by a central government would be convertible to PBQs; and crypto-to-crypto, which will allow PBQs to be converted into another cryptocurrency and vice-versa); and decentralized one to support the easy translation of PBQs to other (crypto)currencies at the will of the stakeholder.
Who participates in content creation on PUBLIQ?
Nodes, who provide services of a validator, mine new PBQs according to their stake in PUBLIQ. They also provide information that a new element, for example, an article, has been imported to the blockchain. Then, information goes to seeders who use their hard disk space to store PUBLIQ content. The content then gets distributed via channels that can simply be news websites. Channels do not have the possibility to change any information but can filter content they want to display for their readers, i.e. by topic, date, number of likes, etc. Once content is published, companies can place an advert and pay in PBQs that will then be distributed to all parties involved: authors, seeders, and nodes.
One of the main advantages of this system is that those wanting to publish an article do not need to work with journalists or an established media organization to get their message out. Instead, they can just create their own channel and publish anything they want, in any language and on any topic.
On April PUBLIQ announce its migration to the Mainnet.
The team also announced that it is joining the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Blockchain of the UK Parliament (House of Lords & House of Commons), as well as becoming a permanent member of the Blockchain for Government Council (a subcommittee). Their Global Ambassador, Dr. Christian de Vartavan, proposed in the UK Parliament a new law. Namely, those printers are compelled to list on the blockchain the number of book copies printed for publishers. This for greater transparency in the payment of royalties to authors. Watch the full APPG-Blockchain Evidence Session №9, video with additional interventions of Damien Moore MP, Lord Truscott, Dr. C. de Vartavan and Gilane Tawdros, Director, DACS during Q&A.
Pressland describes itself as a comprehensive map of the global media supply chain, built to restore public trust.
The media’s day-to-day production of articles, videos, commentary, and other content can be visualized in much the same manner as a typical supply chain:
The team states that the media’s supply chain has been corrupted, top to bottom. There is a need for a new level of transparency to the entire production process, and Pressland is to bring “farm-to-table” accountability to the media.
Pressland Editors employs several techniques and technologies to collate and store indices of this data on a permissioned blockchain. This information is then published on the Pressland platform as a free resource; enterprise-grade tools are commercially available for third parties who need unfettered access to this data.
Employing an always-on data collection and analysis engine, Pressland indexes all media output: print and online articles, videos, blog posts, podcasts, newscasts and segments, social media posts. At the same time, the output is matched with its creators through an accurate and up-to-date collection of mastheads and freelance relationships, maintained by constant monitoring of industry developments and job changes as reported in trades, newsletters, social media posts, media lists, comment sections, and web forums.
The team has already developed technology that collects, analyzes and indexes individual articles. But this is really just a better media-list mousetrap. Their road map is much more ambitious: they intend to catalog the entire editorial lifespan of content, including editors, fact-checkers, producers and other influences on the production process. Think of a movie’s IMDb page that includes everyone from the star to the sound editor.
Planned data sources include but are not restricted to:
- LinkedIn profiles (within legal limits)
- Twitter bios, public tweets, and other actions
- Facebook bios and public updates
- Wikipedia entries and citations
- Trade websites, newsletters, and forums
- Publisher mastheads
- Publisher RSS feeds
- Commercial media lists (within licensing boundaries)
- Other public resources and directories
Data collection and processing techniques include:
- Natural language processing (NLP) and pattern recognition
- Link, hashtag and keyword analysis
- Always-on social listening
- Entity extraction, categorization, and collation
- Contextual disambiguation
- Deep-web indexing and forum-specific data-mining
- Industry-specific signal detection
- Meta-data analysis
- Manual collection and verification
- Human-intelligence microtasks
The team estimates that a few months of beta testing is required to achieve confidence in the accuracy of historical and current data. Open public beta is appointed for Q4 2019.
In the meantime, Pressland 1.0’s planned architecture looks something like this:
According to the Trive whitepaper, the project’s mission is to solve the problem of fake news for its users for $1 a month. Trive is a social science consensus engine that researches and clarifies facts through Human Swarmed crowd wisdom. The team incents people to do primary research into news stories, compensate them with Trive Coin, and hash/stash the results on the blockchain.
Trive creates a Nash Equilibrium incentive structure for the research into news story claims. An antagonistic relationship between researcher and verifier creates a checks/balances process that reinforces research quality. Trive creates a feedback loop to media companies that monetize your attention.
Trive is Wikipedia 2.0 +… A veracious fact checker with immutable blockchain indexing. Trive, through its incentivized users and engine, can sort the fact from the fiction of any claim made on the internet and scalable to the world.
The project is to eradicate fake news worldwide through alternative feedback mechanisms, incentivizing media, to tell the truth. The team also anticipates many traditional media fact-checking functions can be done faster and more efficiently using Trive.
How Does It Work?
To enforce system behavior and to prevent users from ͞gaming the process, the team ensures that all participants are pseudonymous, that witnesses are assigned randomly, and that no one can participate in the same game in more than one role.
Trive has 5 types of players. Each player is a pseudonymous wallet with an attached reputation score, no personally identifying information is ever collected.
- Consumers who consume the news and send stories of interest to the marketplace for Curators to find and research;
- Curators who bid on stories and publish lists of article claims with an incentive to maximize profit, reduce research costs and deliver quality;
- Researchers who are incentivized to find and document convincing true data quickly and efficiently, lest their time be spent for nothing and their reward has taken by someone better;
- Verifiers who verify the supporting evidence collected by the Researchers above, and are rewarded if/when the Researcher͛s err;
- Witnesses who review research and participate in the truth scoring process, earning a small fee and enjoying the truth discovery process.
Each of these roles has a set of incentives that maximizes the search for the truth and minimizes gaming.
Trive Engine users are compensated for the hard work of diligent fact-finding and verification. It is anticipated many Trive users will make their living doing nothing other than functioning at a high reputation level within the Trive ecosystem. Finally, an application that has no other motivation for monetization than discovering the truth, dispelling falsehood, and indexing it to the blockchain for the world to see.
SocialFlow is a social distribution and monetization platform that is purpose-built for media companies. Their client roster includes half of the top 150 media companies including Condé Nast, Meredith, The Associated Press, CNN, and the BBC. SocialFlow clients generate more than 50 million social posts per year, which combined generate more than 1.1 trillion in annual reach.
SocialFlow’s technology enables the world’s most successful publishers to easily distribute engaging social content while providing them monetization opportunities across multiple social networks. Their advertising products help publishers create new revenue streams from their social efforts. With native solutions and Attention Stream sponsored post ads, SocialFlow helps media companies leverage the unmatched scale and distribution of social channels.
A few months ago, SocialFlow announced the launch of the Universal Attention Token (UAT), a blockchain-enabled solution that is to improve the way publishers are compensated for their digital content. The UAT ecosystem has been predicted to launch in the first quarter of 2019. The Universal Attention Tokens that power the UAT ecosystem is to serve as the accounting mechanism for user activity and will be built on the Stellar network.
Jim Anderson, CEO of SocialFlow, discusses creating a new blockchain-enabled digital advertising system that replaces the traditional ad model.
Running time 09:41 Play Episode
SocialFlow’s Universal Attention Token (UAT) intends to directly tokenize user attention and reward publishers by their users’ real engagement. SocialFlow plans to leverage its relationship with major news organizations to track user engagement within its ecosystem and reward publishers for the engagement that they prompt from users. Blockchain enters the picture when SocialFlow selects users and rewards them with digital tokens as they interact with branded content published on SocialFlow’s partner sites.
Advertisers pay for ad placements, and SocialFlow curates that content in a broader landscape of editorial content supplied by its partners, rewarding both users (by giving them tokens) and publishers (by giving them hard cash based on users’ unique IDs that SocialFlow tracts throughout its system, from branded content to publishers’ content).
Incentivizing user and publisher behavior through token transactions segues into the following section on hybrid solutions. It’s one thing to use blockchain networks to store hashed metadata and monetize the benefits of security and accountability. It adds another layer of service when tokens (also blockchain-based) are mixed into decentralized networks, cryptographic transactions, and distributed databases. Tokens’ ability to shape organizational behavior by practically establishing an autonomous currency system within the broader world of national currencies and other financial instruments such as stocks, bonds, or options is one of the trends that fascinate — and puzzle — investors, technologists, and scholars.
Utility Token Structure And Technology
Within the ecosystem SocialFlow develops, the UATs circulate between Users and Publishers to account for User engagements within the system, with Advertising dollars serving as the fuel for token circulation.
Anticipated Benefits of UATs:
Publishers: Publishers who participate in the UAT system have more ways to monetize the content they publish to social networks, including “micro-subscription” options that in the past have not been economically feasible.
Users: Consumers have a better experience on UAT publisher sites, with fewer registration barriers and paywalls, and with less intrusive advertising.
Advertisers: Advertisers are able to participate in the system and engage users with consumer-direct ads on a cost-per-action (CPA) basis.
Learn more in the full white paper describing the anticipated UAT ecosystem here.
The idea of co-operating with the users seems to fit well with blockchain. Funded by Google Digital News Initiative, Maastricht-based Nwzer is a start-up working with their own version of doing news together with the public.
According to Nwzer’s webpage, the goal is to build the “first user-generated news agency”. Founder Karim Maassen talks about a platform that combines citizen journalism with artificial intelligence and blockchain. The basic idea is that the community creates content on the Nwzer platform and then an algorithm creates the service, basically a webpage, from that content using different data points. The team believes that one of the most important indicators of quality content is the reputation of the creator.
“We use the Ethereum blockchain for recording everything, all the user actions, and also the reputation score.” Other plans around blockchain are still open. “We might issue tokens, but they will be the exact reputation score. We like to add value to the system based on its purpose, rather than an ICO where it’s basically just crowdfunding.”
The attention- and advertisement-based media industry is broken. Fake news, misinformation and emotion-driven decision making is a direct symptom. Still, Nwzer believes that every voice should matter. Everyone should be able to participate in the global discussion.
The next step is Alpha-testing with a small user group. Nwzer also has several partnerships going on.
In a nutshell, blockchain can be a solution for micropayments for content creators and readers, digital advertisement tracking, or copyright validation, all of which can secure and boost the media industry, which currently struggles from pressures that feed ‘information disorder’.
As we can see, several interesting blockchain initiatives are on the road to solve these problems, seeking to bring power back in the hands of true writers, eliminating the corporate interests that often lead to biased reporting and advancing the agenda.
Moreover, the aforementioned projects are not alone in the fight to win back the public’s trust in media. Photography platform Unsplash counts billions of photo views a month, community-run news ecosystem Decentralized News Network is designed to distribute censorship-resistant, transparent, and verifiable news. More than a few non-blockchain startups and nonprofits are touting their own solutions. NewsGuard, started by veteran journalist Steve Brill, for example, is betting on its human-curated “Newstrition” nutrition labels to assign trust. OurNews believes in crowd-voting. Proof combines gambling and fact-checking.
Building new funding models, establishing new ways to engage readers, and trying out new improvements together, these projects possibly will be able to breathe life back into an industry that has been in crisis in recent years. With many believers, we hope that the initiatives powered by blockchain technology will repair the trust in journalism, and in the long run, will lead to a decentralized internet environment which will mark the beginning of a new era of journalism.
Whitepapers, webpages, and blogs of projects listed above.
Walid Al-Saqaf & Nicolas Seidler (2017) Blockchain technology for social impact: opportunities and challenges ahead, Journal of Cyber Policy, 2:3, 338–354, DOI: 10.1080/23738871.2017.1400084
Bernat Ivancsics (2019) Blockchain in Journalism. The Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism.
Sam Mire (2018) Blockchain For Journalism: 8 Possible Use Cases, Disruptor daily.
Journalism, ‘Fake News’ & Disinformation (2018) United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization // Handbook for Journalism Education and Training. UNESCO Series on Journalism Education.
What use is blockchain for journalism? (2019) A Polis Report By Mattias Erkkilä Managing Editor, Svenska Yle, Visiting Research Fellow, Polis, Department of Media and Communications, LSE.
Journalism, Media, and Tech Trends Report (2019) Future Today Institute.