Blockchain and NFTs are changing the publishing industry

Web3 has become the most sought-after investment sector of 2022, as use cases for nonfungible tokens (NFTs), the Metaverse and other blockchain applications come to fruition. Therefore, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that different segments of the publishing industry have begun to use Web3 technologies to transform traditional models. 

For example, the textbook publishing giant Pearson recently announced plans to use NFTs to track digital textbook sales to capture revenue lost on the secondary market. Time magazine, which was founded 99 years ago, has also been using NFTs to create new revenue streams, along with a sense of community within the publishing industry. Keith Grossman, the president of Time, told Cointelegraph that the magazine is demonstrating the new possibilities of engagement that Web3 brings to the publishing industry. He said:

“Web3 can evolve one’s brand in a world where individuals are moving from online renters to online owners, and privacy is beginning to move from platforms to the individual.”

Web3 enables a community of content owners

While it may seem non-traditional for one of the oldest, most renowned magazine publishers in the industry to host an NFT gallery, Grossman explained that Time has dropped nearly 30,000 NFTs to date. He added that these have been collected by over 15,000 wallet addresses, 7,000 of which are connected to Time.com to remove the paywall without having to provide personal information. “Along the way, the TIMEPiece community has grown to over 50,000 individuals,” Grossman pointed out.

To put this in perspective, Grossman explained that in September 2021, Time launched a Web3 community initiative known as TIMEPieces. This project is a digital gallery space hosted on the NFT marketplace OpenSea, which has brought together 89 artists, photographers and even musicians. “The number of TIMEPiece artists has grown from 38 to 89. It includes the likes of Drift, Cath Simard, Diana Sinclair, Micah Johnson, Justin Aversano, Fvckrender, Victor Mosquera and Baeige, to name a few,” Grossman said. 

Isaac “Drift” Wright’s piece from the Slices of Time Collection. Source: Keith Grossman

While notable, the more important aspect of this growth lies within the distinction of “audiences” vs. “communities.” According to Grossman, very few people in the publishing sector distinguish between these two groups, yet he noted that Web3 provides a “tremendous opportunity for those willing to explore this oversight.” For instance, Grossman explained that an audience simply engages with content for a moment. However, he pointed out that a community aligns around shared values and is provided with the opportunity for constant engagement. He said:

“Healthy ‘communities’ have moats making them harder to disrupt or circumvent. However, they take a lot of work to develop and nurture. The long term benefit of a community is stability — and publishing is anything but stable.”

Indeed, NFTs may be key for providing the publishing world with the stability and audience interaction it requires to advance. As Cointelegraph previously reported, brands are using NFTs in a number of ways to better engage with customers over time.

Other sectors of the publishing industry are starting to employ NFTs for this very reason. For example, Royal Joh Enschede, a 300-year-old Dutch printing company, is entering the Web3 space by providing its clients with an NFT platform for “crypto stamps.” Gelmer Leibbrandt, CEO of Royal Joh Enschede, told Cointelegraph that the postage stamp and philately world is very traditional, noting that nonfungible tokens will allow for expansion. He said:

“The crypto stamp opens up a global market that will appeal not only to the classic stamp collectors but also to collectors in their teens, twenties and thirties who buy, save and trade NFTs. This is naturally very appealing for our main customers — over 60 national postal organizations worldwide.”

The crypto postage stamps are launched as NFT collectibles, but they can naturally also be used to mail documents. Source: Royal Joh Enschede

According to Leibbrandt, Royal Joh Enschede started thinking about ways to use blockchain technology over two years ago, yet the Dutch printing firm decided to start with crypto stamps due to the utility and market fit. Leibbrandt explained that not only will stamp collectors be able to own a unique NFT, but the nonfungible tokens will also serve as “digital twins” intended to provide an extra layer of security and authentication to its physical products.

Leibbrandt also pointed out that linking physical objects with their digital counterparts offers customers additional features. While he noted that crypto stamps are just the beginning of Royal Joh Enschede’s Web3 journey, he explained that the company has started developing “notables,” which are meant to rival secure printed banknotes. He explained:

“Through the use of special printing techniques, we can add, among other things, augmented reality, which in turn provides access to special online promotions and a communication platform. Notables are unique and the NFT element can be used as a collector’s item, along with a means of payment in the Metaverse.” 

Like Time, crypto stamps and notables are enabling Royal Joh Enschede to build a community of collectors capable of engaging with the platform and each other. “All kinds of new applications can be linked to these, such as access to real-life events like Formula 1 or Tomorrowland, where only a few notes give entitlement to VIP packages. We are building our business for the next 100 years,” Leibbrandt added. 

Furthermore, independent news organizations are starting to apply Web3 technologies to solve one of the biggest challenges facing the media industry today — “fake news.” For example, Bywire is a decentralized news platform that uses artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and blockchain to identify false or misleading news content. Michael O’Sullivan, CEO of Bywire, told Cointelegraph that the platform has built and deployed a “trust or not” algorithm. “This can provide readers with an ‘at-a-glance’ reassurance that the content served on the Bywire platform is trustworthy, and those who produce it are indeed accountable,” he said.

O’Sullivan explained that Bywire’s AI technology is capable of “reading” an article in a matter of seconds before it goes live to determine the trustworthiness of the content. Once this has been established, the algorithm generates a recommendation, along with the reasoning behind its determination. “The why is vital because it helps consumers become conscious of the motives and intentions of content producers,” O’Sullivan remarked.

While innovative, O’Sullivan pointed out that any independent news organization can aggregate their news content to Bywire, exposing it to tens of thousands of readers per month. Like other publishers using Web3 technology, O’Sullivan noted that Bywire has a community of readers associated with the platform, noting that these individuals are incentivized to read the content. “Every reader gets a free EOS account and can start earning token rewards immediately, which can be later used in the democratic oversight of the network.”

Will Web3 advance the publishing industry?

Although Web3 has the potential to transform the publishing industry by allowing various sectors to reach and interact with new audiences, the impact remains questionable. For instance, it’s been noted that there is still a lack of clarity among publishers regarding how blockchain can and should be used.

Lars Seier Christensen, chairman of Concordium — the Swiss blockchain firm powering Royal Joh Enschede’s NFT platform — told Cointelegraph that nonfungible tokens currently mean nothing to most organizations. However, he believes that NFTs and other Web3 technologies will soon become the norm:

“Let’s take one step back from the acronym NFT because it can be confusing. What has been proven is that a blockchain can store immutable data — i.e., the records are final and unbreakable, and this data is fully transparent to everyone by simple access to the chain search engine.”

Regarding consumers, Grossman also mentioned that individuals should not be using the word “NFT,” adding that they certainly do not need to know what blockchain platform is powering these applications. “They should be engaging with brands based on the experiences being provided,” he said. Grossman further remarked that the rise of computers sparked constant discussion around technology until Steve Jobs explained that the iPod could hold “1,000 songs in your pocket.” Grossman believes that a moment similar to this will happen for Web3 but has yet to come:

“Most people’s perceptions of NFTs and blockchains are defined by the extremes — extreme good and extreme bad. The reality is that an NFT is just a token that verifies ownership on a blockchain, and education is needed to provide companies and individuals with the many ways in which it can be used to provide value.”

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