Steve Dempsey: Blockchain's turn to save media
Blockchain is a sequential database that records online transactions, which can never be modified due to its encrypted and distributed nature. In plain English, that means it's a system that doesn't need centralised authority to track interactions, the way a currency requires a central bank.
The best known blockchain product is bitcoin. But there have been some other stranger uses. There's Whoppercoin, a blockchain-based rewards programme from Burger King in Russia.
There's Dentacoin, a cryptocurrency to help dentists and patients share medical records, trade products and pay for procedures. And there's Potcoin, a cryptocurrency for the cannabis community, best known for sponsoring Dennis Rodman's trip to North Korea.
But it's not just dentists and dope-fiends that should take an interest in blockchain.
Po.et is a company that hopes to use the power of blockchain to support the troubled media industry. It has pedigree from the world of publishing; its new CEO is Jarrod Dicker, previously the vice-president of innovation and commercial strategy at The Washington Post.
"Po.et aims to be the platform for a new decentralised media economy," Dicker says. "That means it needs to power advancements in both attribution and valuations of media. Attribution is at its core. At its base, it is a shared, immutable, decentralised ledger for registering, licensing and attributing metadata about content creators' portfolios of works.
"On top of this foundation, we can build marketplaces and decentralised applications that use token-based reputation systems and the power of the network effect to crowdsource truth and attribution and reclaim value for content creators, publishers and advertisers alike."
Sounds promising, if fairly jargon-laden. But what does it mean? Po.et is trying to create a system for evaluating all online creative assets; journalism, photography, music, art and so on. This system could become the basis for a functioning marketplace, that puts a market value on creative work, and ensures the creator of that work is remunerated. But that's not all, according to Dicker.
"Po.et tokens being used as a commodity within the platform is highly plausible," he says. "If we do become the search engine for creative assets, then people will be able to use this to license content or commission content. I don't want to pigeonhole us and say that is the only way that tokens will be used, because I think there's a lot of people that are builders and not consumers who think that the point of the token is to build better applications on top of the po.et protocol, which we want to incentivise."
So far, however, po.et is being used for attribution on a variety of media platforms such as Bitcoin Magazine. The next step is Po.et verification for a host of media platforms, offering content creators an easy method to own and classify their IP.
Dicker believes this could also help in the fight against fake news. "Who wouldn't want to own their IP, whether they're publishers or independent journalists?" he says. "There's a value to them participating in the platform in a seamless way. That's at the core and that needs to be incentivised. We know technology can only go so far. We've seen with Facebook, Google and YouTube, with fake and promoted content that's trending, that there needs to be some human element. And that's where I see this incentivisation happening."
Po.et is owned and controlled by a diverse and international community of token holders. This decentralised set-up means an old-school command-and-control mentality doesn't fit. "I think it's important to note that we don't manage the community of token holders," Dicker says. "It is a community that has grown organically as the company has grown and continues to engage in its own capacity. Crypto communities require 24/7 global feedback, which is a lot different from a standard venture-backed startup."
Dicker is all too aware that the media industry has turned to the same technology companies that have disrupted their once-cosy existence to save their bacon. But Silicon Valley saviours, to date, have proven to be false prophets.
"The media space often falls within a reactive economy; meaning, they adapt to market situations and whatever cards are dealt to them. Formats and platforms like Facebook Instant, Google AMP, vertical video, etc are not products that were created based on a creator's need; they were based on platform need, and because media companies are so beholden to the platforms for traffic, they must react and adapt. Blockchain is different."
Sunday Indo Business