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The Mutually-Beneficial Future of Reader-Incentivized Media
Last month, I wrote an article about Brave’s Basic Attention Token and the possibilities its model holds for big media outlets like the New York Times and Washington Post. Today these companies use annoying paywalls to encourage readers to subscribe. They broadcast headlines to news aggregators, but when you click, you can’t read the article until you subscribe.
The reason behind the paywalls makes sense. Writers and their employers need to be paid, and, generally, the internet of yore provides two ways for generating revenue: ads and subscriptions. You either monetize your traffic, so advertisers are willing to pay you or collect money from users directly in place of the ads.
There’s a problem with both of those models, though. In both cases, the reader/customer/consumer is the essential resource, and they’re completely cut out of the revenue stream. Rather than valuing and rewarding their choice and attention, media companies focus solely on profit. Traditional media is struggling because there’s so much choice, and people will often gravitate toward high-quality free options rather than pay or put up with ads.
This is where the Basic Attention Token, or BAT, is such a novel idea. Essentially, advertisers pay Brave, and Brave passes a portion of the proceeds to its users, who opt-in as willing participants in the Brave Rewards program. They’re happy to view ads because it benefits them. Instead of installing ad-blockers, Brave’s users are cranking their “ads per hour” setting to the max!
It’s similar in concept to BAT. Users are rewarded with DCPT for reading, sharing, and reacting to articles in the Decrypt app. Users are limited to earning just 20 tokens per day. The tokens have no monetary value, and they can’t be withdrawn. I’m not sure Decrypt knows exactly what the tokens will be used for, but they have a rewards store where DCPT can be exchanged for limited-edition NFTs and presumably things like swag in the future.
The concept is brilliant for many reasons.
First and foremost, it’s a huge incentive for readers. I can earn up to 3 tokens for every article I read. I can earn 2 more by sharing the article and another by reacting to it.
I can only earn 20 tokens per day, too, which is the perfect segue into the second benefit: it makes older articles more valuable. In addition to checking in on the latest headlines, I’m more likely to browse through older articles searching for interesting content that will earn me more tokens.
Reacting to an article earns 1 DCPT, so guess what I do to every article I read? These reactions provide valuable feedback to Decrypt, which will help them write more content that their readers like in the future.
The fourth benefit belongs to advertisers. Filecoin is sponsoring “season 1” of the reader token. I see the Filecoin logo several times a day as I’m in & out of the app. That’s great exposure for Filecoin!
I absolutely love what Decrypt has done, and I think this represents the future of media revenue. Treat users and readers as people, and reward them for their time. It can come in many ways. You can reward them with actual currency, like Brave’s BAT. Alternatively, allow them to earn a custom token, like Decrypt’s Reader Token, which can later be redeemed for swag that turns loyal readers into walking billboards for your brand.
It’s a literal win-win because you — the company — are earning revenue from advertisers at the same time you’re growing your reader base and rewarding users for their time and loyalty. More loyal readers mean more advertising dollars, leading to more/better rewards, so the cycle goes.
And consider the alternative. You keep showing ads or charging a subscription fee with no benefit to your users. How will you compete when an incentivized challenger rises? Why would you pick the browser that doesn’t pay you? Why would you read news from the source that charges a subscription instead of offering you rewards?
The established players with traditional models have an edge now, but the competition is closing the gap, and if the big boys of today can’t evolve, they’ll be left behind.