Utopia for the News Industry

by Sebastian Posth

Last week it has been reported that pre-orders of Björk’s new album ‘Utopia’ will include a credit of 100 AudioCoins, a cryptocurrency announced and launched in 2015. Although startups in the music industry have been ambitious in developing applications and services on the blockchain and introducing cryptocurrencies as a method of payment and remuneration (or other purposes) for artists and musicians for some time now, this album release seems to be one of the first occasions where a dedicated cryptocurrency has been offered to a large group of consumers in a trade market environment other than the gaming industry.

This event won’t go unnoticed within the music industry and it might serve as an example for other media industries of how to reach a global audience, introduce new ways of engagement between artists and fans and compensate artists as well as offer rewards for fans for sharing news and updates about new releases, local events or merchandising.

When pre-ordering the new Björk album, fans will receive 100 AudioCoins as a reward, deposited into an e-wallet created by Blockpool, a London based specialist for blockchain based solutions and applications. The company has also been involved in the launch of the AudioCoin (ADC) cryptocurrency.

In its launch statement it says:

„Our remit was to empower and engage music lovers all over the world and to break down any barriers that prevent music consumption even in third world countries. […] AudioCoin builds on the Peercoin and (by association) Bitcoin protocol to provide a new way to consume music. It breaks down the barriers of traditional e-commerce systems and provides a super cool way for music fans and artists to engage in viral marketing. The main gain is that artists (producers) and music fans (consumers) are rewarded tangibly and thereby rendering the current streaming model both archaic and redundant.“

Although many applications still need to be developed and deployed, the infrastructure that would support payment applications for audio content with the AudioCoin cryptocurrency seems to be available. Furthermore, by using blockchain and cryptocurrency, one could also think of innovative ways of rewarding fans for sharing links to music, websites, platforms or information on the band’s tour or merchandising via social networks. Blockpool’s CEO Kevin Bacon mentions another possible use case in an interview with musically.com: “You could create blockchain-enabled digital treasure hunts, although what we don’t want to do is turn this into Pokémon Go! But why not reward your fans for engaging with what you do, and reward them in a meaningful way?“ In a playful and experimental manner, fans could interact with artists – and be rewarded for their interaction. Cryptocurrency could serve as a means and medium to easily exchange value, content or remuneration within a stronger, multilateral artist-fan relationship.

One of the most crucial aspects for maintaining and growing a dedicated cryptocurrency environment in a special segment of interest is mentioned by Foster:

„The more exciting piece of this is people coming in: a gateway to come in to crypto, rather than simply getting people to part with their cryptocurrency to get an album. This adoption story is important: getting crypto is a barrier.” 

By giving away AudioCoins in the context of content purchases and offering a wallet to safe, receive or spend the coins, fans would be introduced to a whole new level of interaction with artists and content they like. Providing fans with dedicated coins is not only a teaser for using cryptocurrency, but a way to facilitate options for new and innovative models of communication, interaction and loyalty between artists and fans.

The giveaway of 100 Audiocoins in the context of the launch of Björk’s new album provides a perfect example of how journalists and news publishers could use blockchain and cryptocurrency in their specific environment.

Similar to giving away coins for pre-orders, magazine and news publishers could supply readers with dedicated news media coins for their cryptocurrency wallet.

So how could readers receive the coins? And for what actions would they be credited with cryptocurrency? Readers could be rewarded for sharing links to news articles or other content. Coins could be part of an affiliate program for promoting print or online subscriptions. Or, active subscribers could be receiving coins as a kind of payback for a (monthly) subscription or for buying printed or special editions of papers or magazines.

Once in possession of cryptocurrency coins, what could readers do with them? Readers could use the coins as some kind of credit, known from a lot of customer loyalty programs, exchanging them for gifts and bonuses or status upgrades. They could pay with dedicated coins to get access to special news content dossiers or enhanced media content offerings.

In such an environment, powered by blockchain and cryptocurrency, authors, publishers and readers would benefit in multiple ways: Readers, on the one hand, would be rewarded for sharing and promoting content. Authors and news publishers, on the other hand, could introduce readers to quality paid content by bundling additional content like videos or interviews, etc. to the content that is offered for free.

In the long run, paying with cryptocurrency would provide a seamless and cost effective way to sell or pay for content. By earning coins in a smart and playful way, participants could get familiar with the use of cryptocurrency and wallets. And eventually readers might be willing to exchange fiat currency for cryptocurrency in order to get access to a newly created content environment.

The options seem endless. It will be the task of the media community to come up with smart ideas to actively engage customers and readers and to promote the interaction between content providers and consumers.

The Content Blockchain project has been working on the creation of a global and open blockchain ecosystem for news and media content as well as on providing basic applications on which publishers and media start-ups in the news industry can develop their new business models, services and applications. Please feel invited to get in touch.