Journalism "Isn't Free," Can Decentralized Technology and Cryptocurrency Solve Funding Problems?
There is an ongoing discussion on the compensation systems in the world of journalism today. A post on twitter by The New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow attracted some responses that have led to the debate on the best ways to compensate content creators for the work that they do.
Generally, people usually log on to news sites or other sources of information on the internet and click away to consume content for free. Meanwhile, the content creators and everyone involved in producing content do so as professionals who have both personal and corporate bills to take care of. Most of the websites result to secondary means such as ads and sponsorships to cater for their bills and pay authors. What about a direct system to settle these bills?
I don’t know how people expect me to respond when they say they would love to read my column, but the @nytimes has a fire wall and wants them to subscribe. I will never tell you what to do with your money. But, journalism is a profession like any other. Do you work for free?
— Charles M. Blow (@CharlesMBlow) July 29, 2019
The limitations of the monthly subscription model
Some top news sites like The New York Times and Bloomberg have introduced a subscription package where you have to pay in order to access content on the website. Most of these subscription charges are small, compared to buying of newspapers and hardcopy magazines. However, this doesn’t sit well with most people who are already used to accessing content for free on the internet, and much of the best content may not motivate potential readers enough to go through the trouble and cost to sign up for a paid service just to access the occasional article.
This prompted a back-and-fourth discussion on various funding and prioritization models for journalism.
Times have changed, and so must funding models
Back in the days, we relied on hardcopy documents as a source of news and information as has been mentioned above. People bought these newspapers and magazines that was a direct source of revenue for the corporation. Journalists back then were mostly employees of corporations. Fast-forward to the days of the internet and a lot has changed.
Maybe it's the payment models that are outdated. Maybe in a massive information age, people don't want to pay a giant corporation when they just want to pay the journalist. Maybe people should be able to easily pay 1 cent per view.
— Joel Valenzuela (@TheDesertLynx) July 30, 2019
The decentralization that technology has afforded us gave rise to the birthing of a large market of freelancers. Many journalists who create content on the internet fall into this category, therefore their attachments to corporations may be on contractual terms. The knowledge of this is everywhere, but not many people actually settle down to consider how these professionals get paid. This is what Blow was trying to establish in his tweet.
Having come this far in technological development and with the knowledge that is available to the public, many content consumers seem to be tired of the old systems, especially when they have seen new innovations that are efficient and effective. Tired of the distorted system where majority believe that the real content creators are short-changed, even in an environment as open as the internet, they will prefer a system that pays the creators directly. This also they believe will make content consumption cheaper, since the overhead costs of running corporations will be eliminated.
New ways of funding content
Beyond future speculation, there are already existing platforms that are allowing a completely decentralized transaction system in content marketing. Platforms like Your.org, Steemit and Brave (which recently integrated Dash support into the platform) have taken content marketing to the next level, thanks to the implementation of P2P cryptocurrency payment systems.
On an RT News segment earlier this year, independent journalist Ben Swann outlined cryptocurrencies as a solution to funding independent media, including mentioning his Isegoria decentralized media funding project:
“One of the things that I’ve been promoting is a way to fund independent media using cryptocurrencies. We’ve done it with Dash and with SmartCash. We’re actually pitching a project at this conference called Isegoria, or Ise Media, which actually creates a treasury system so that independent media can get funded. This is a way that you can actually decentralize the funding model. It doesn’t have to come through advertisers. It can actually come through a community that builds up the treasury and then has the power to vote on content and on projects. We believe that is the future of independent media, especially as we watch sites like PayPal and Patreon deplatforming so many independent media out there.”
Swann was deplatformed for his hard-hitting and sometimes controversial Reality Check news show, putting the project on hiatus for nearly a year. The segment was revived with a Dash sponsorship in early 2018.