Tokenizing Content: Equitable Outcomes

News, Opinion | June 14, 2018 By:

Content is all around us – information that we see, hear and share are all different forms of content. Whether we are makers who create and upload content or, consumers who interact and share the content, we are essential players in the content ecosystem. As we consume or create content on the daily, more and more content platforms arise to facilitate information transfer and social interaction without the physical dimension. However, content contributors, consumers and content platforms have frustrations over the current state of affairs.

Contributors do not get their fair share of the financial pie

Many content platforms, such as YouTube, Quora or Zhihu, are driven by user-generated content (UGC). They are founded upon user creativity and interaction or reactions to uploaded content, worth millions of dollars daily. Yet, there is an inequitable distribution of its rewards between contributors and centralized hosting platforms. Those who create, distribute or interact with content often have no control over or share of profits generated from their work, website traffic or subsequent forms of monetization.

One of the hottest buzzwords in China over the past few years is ‘Internet Thinking’, a term that refers to the interconnectivity that our mobile devices bring about. With internet thinking, content platforms are thinking about big data, users and closed-loop marketing; they are capitalizing on your attention and data by selling advertising or marketing coverage. However, while the platform reaps rewards through traffic monetization, the users and contributors are not rewarded.

Misrepresentation and fraudulent behavior

The overwhelming flux of content on the mobile internet makes it difficult for users to choose and filter the content they consume. Content could be re-posted, doctored or truncated by the time it reaches users. Without authentication or verification mechanisms, the trustworthiness of online content simply cannot be determined – as we have seen with the recent “fake news” phenomena.

Click-farmers – bots or people who have been paid to repeatedly click on links or order forms to generate a distortedly large volume of traffic – and paid search engine rankings exacerbate the misrepresentation of information. In addition, there is an increasing amount of spam bots and malicious contributors who create and distribute misleading information. These can include false reviews on online marketplaces that boost or damage the credibility of merchandise or other users, for example.

Challenges that online platforms face

Online platforms face two big problems, namely user growth and retention and, efficiently monetizing their platforms. New platforms are springing up on the daily, all of which are very similar in offering, leading to low costs of switching to other platforms. The high number of users switching between Meituan-Dianping and Didi Chuxing, the two largest online-to-offline (O2O) players in China, exemplifies this elasticity of membership between platforms.

Tokenizing a content platform

By tokenizing and placing economic value on user contributions, content platforms can reward users fairly, incentivizing loyalty and meaningful contribution. These contributions extend beyond original posts, videos or articles to comments, likes, up and down votes. Every user interaction with the platform contributes to the ecosystem and can be rewarded with tokens. These tokens can then be used as status indicators to influence content, as currency to access premium offerings or just as economic incentive. With Steemit for example, users with more Steempower have votes that carry heavier weight.

Giving users a stake

As the platform grows, tokens become the currency for participation. They represent a stake in the ecosystem, a form of capital for users to leverage and encourage content they want to consume. For example, when they can upvote on content they like, the respective content creator gets rewarded with tokens. Content creators then strive to create material that is meaningful and relevant to the community, providing a somewhat organic quality filter and removing the burden of user acquisition and retention from the platforms.