Like several other industries, the publishing industry (accounting for $26 billion of revenue in 2018), is busy reinventing itself, due to the huge impact of the digital revolution. The old-fashioned creation, distribution and revenue models do no longer work and blockchain technology can help the sector to take the next “quantum leaps” in various ways.

Several large companies active in the sector, such as the New York Times, are already busy with the implementation of the technology and new startups working on new solutions emerge on a weekly basis. Recently, I was invited to speak at the Telegraaf Media Group (one of the largest Dutch media companies) about the impact of blockchain on the sector, where I mentioned these four points of interest:

A Fair Compensation For The Producer Of Content

Some bookwriters earn millions of euros from their work, like Harry Potters’ JK Rowling ($ 55 million). However, they are in the minority; a sold book yields the writer between 50 cents and 2 euros and on average, only 3000 copies of a book are usually sold. The same holds for music makers. Spotify pays an artist between $ 0.006 to $ 0.0084 per stream. If you want to earn a modal income as an artist, you need at least 6 million streams of your song on an annual basis. Although platforms like Amazon KDP (self-publishing books) and Spotify have given the sector a boost in terms of revenu and reach, the majority of revenue is earned by all the intermediaries at the supply chain and only a small portion ends up at the original maker of the content.

There are various blockchain startups, that want to tackle this. Give content creators a more fair share for their work and make it easier to put the user of content in more direct contact with the creator of it. Good examples are Publica, which enables book writers to crowdfund a book. In exchange for the investment, the consumer receives tokens, with which he can retreive a copy of the book. The Chinese startup Weifund does this for all types of media and has already successfully facilitated the crowdfunding campaign for the movie ‘Braids’. The counterpart of the popular blog medium Medium, Steem, does this for blog writers.

Academics are one of the few creators of content, who are actually not producing this content for a financial reward. Looking at the huge time investment, this is of course strange. It is the current system, causing this. If you are not in a well-known research database such as JSTOR or Wiley, you’re not ‘on the map’ and can basically forget a nice career as a researcher. But these platforms are not paying anything (while they earn hundreds of millions of Dollars) to the creator. Former CERN and NASA-employees have set up the Orvium startup for this, with which on the one hand the peer-review process is clearly facilitated on the blockchain and on the other hand, academics are paid for their work. The Pluto startup focuses solely on reimbursement.

Is blockchain going to remove all intermediaries? No, there will certainly be parties like marketing agencies still be involved, but makers of the content will finally receive a fairer compensation fort heir work

Who Is The Creator Of The Content Anyway?

There is such an incredible amount of free content available on the web and every minute, there is so much content added, that it is virtually impossible to see which content should actually be paid for to whom. The much-discussed new European “Article 13” law is a first step in the direction of better licensing (and therefore payment) of content and prevents abuse of it. Technologically there are still a lot of hurdles to take, but blockchain can make this work a lot more transparent, fairer, more sustainable and more efficient.

As an example of this process, the organization Editions at Play has placed the book “A Universe Explodes” on the blockchain to show how this works. In addition, there are various startups that already offer working solutions to facilitate this. Mediachain offers a solution that securely stores and makes the metadata of music availible for everyone and was recently purchased by Spotify. The music streaming service was being sued because of unpaid royalties, which is, according to research because 25% of streaming music is not licensed. The Grammy-winning artist Imogen Heap has launched a similar solution on the market; Mycelia.

Through Civil, journalists can be paid directly by readers of their content and are no longer dependent on large media channels. There are also several solutions available for amateur writers, like the popular PO.ET, which offers authors a decentralized database to store content, but also shows who is uctually using your content (even if it is just a sentence). The startup offers a WordPress plug-in, making it very easy to direcly publishing the blog and put it ‘on the blockchain’. The Dutch company Fintage House is offering the same solution for movies and series, Artlery does this for art.

The End Of “Fake News”?

Every day I’m faced with fake news. On all online and offline channels and in the most ingenious ways, that make it look very real. In their research, MIT discovered that “fake news” is shared 70% faster on Twitter than real articles.

Blockchain can be used here in an interesting way, especially by using “wisdom of the crowd”, to prevent this from happening. There are therefore several startups that reward tokens, in exchange for creating real content, which is validated by users. For example, the startup Trive and Dirt have built a system that rewards fact checkers fort his. Publiq works with the authenticity score of readers, just like Civil. Not only startups are busy with solutions to this ever-growing problem, but the European Commission has also now made it one of its spearheads.

Ad Fraud Prevention

Digital advertising fraud (also known as click fraud) costs companies worldwide almost $7 billion a year. This number is furthermore increasing by 50% per year. Over $1 of every $3 spent on ads is fraudulent and the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) expects the total cost of advertisement fraud to increase to $50 billion in 2025. In the most ingenious ways, bots (now accounting for 48% of all global website visits) are used to artificially increase the number of clicks and views. Even online configurators of cars, such as BMW (for which euros are paid per configuration), are being manipulated.

It is a huge problem for advertisers and publishers and several solutions are build or building, with the help of blockchain. Several startups are busy with building platforms, that verify the authenticity of the ad impressions but also map relationships between advertisers, publishers, and consumers. IBM is currently working with Salon on their AdLedger project; a pilot to offer a shared “ledger” for making clicks transparent and transparent for both advertisers and publishers. AminoPay also offers such a solution, which furthermore helps with the optimal use of advertisements. AdEx goes one step further and offers “ad auctions” on the blockchain.

Making Content Easier Together

The use of blockchain technology can not only be interesting from a commercial point of view, but also in the area of ​​collaboration when creating content, major efficiency gains can be achieved. To make a great piece of content, often different experts are needed to create, edit, design, and market it. Currently, due to the costs, these type processes are only possible to setup and execute, for large companies.

One of the properties of blockchain is that the stored data cannot be modified, which prevents fraud and makes the history of a document with respect to ​​changes (made by whom, for example) completely transparent.

As I wrote in an earlier blog; blockchain technology is still relatively new and in many areas, still in its experimental phase. Although many startups have already successfully launched working products, their impact is still small. The possibilities are endless and I truly believe that the publishing industry can take great advantage of this new technology in the upcoming 5 years.

Jan Scheele is active in the web3 (blockchain, crypto, NFTs, DeFi) industry since 2013. Besides (former) CEO of a web3 scaleup and founder of an advisory boutique (working for governments, family offices and several multinationals), he is Digital Leader at the World Economic Forum and Board Member at the Blockchain Netherlands Foundation (BCNL). He is writing, consulting, speaking and training regularly about everything web3, all over the world. Furthermore, he is currently finalizing his book about the rise and global impact of blockchain technology.