Web3 Is Disrupting the Publishing Industry

30 May 2024

Historically, online publishing has been dominated by platforms owned and operated by large monopolies. While these platforms offer convenience and reach, they often come with inherent limitations such as lack of transparency and algorithmic bias. Writers may also have to rely on intermediaries to facilitate transactions, which can lead to platform lock-in.

Decentralized publishing platforms are challenging these limitations, by leveraging blockchain technology they prioritize user ownership, transparency, and fair monetization.

Blockchain technology is at the core of Web3, a decentralized internet where users have greater control over their data, identities, and interactions online. Unlike the traditional Web2 model dominated by centralized monopolies, Web3 aims to create a trustless, transparent online environment. This is particularly interesting within the publishing industry.

By leveraging blockchain's immutable ledger and cryptographic security, writers can securely publish their work without having to rely on a central authority. This not only ensures the integrity and confidentiality of their content and data but also enables transparent and auditable records of transactions and interactions.

Decentralized publishing platforms utilize this dual advantage of security and transparency to ensure fairness in content distribution, monetization, and governance processes. Writers can confidently track the performance of their content, view transaction histories, and verify that royalties are distributed accurately and fairly, thereby generating trust within the platform's ecosystem

Additionally, Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) offer writers an innovative way to monetize their content. By placing their content behind an NFT paywall, writers enable readers to purchase NFTs for access to their gated content. If they wanted to, readers could then resell these NFT access keys on the secondary market. This resale potential essentially allows readers to mitigate their expenses by recapturing a portion of what they’ve spent.

There are multiple ways writers could use this new approach to content disbursal, to both increase revenue and generate deeper engagement with their audience. An example could be to provide readers access to alternative endings for stories, or even access to exclusive one-off limited edition pieces.

Large publishing companies are already seeing the potential of Web3 technology for the publishing industry. Time magazine has already launched a collection of NFTs, TimePieces. The success of these NFTs is evidence of the publishing industry's exploration into the Web3 space.

Yet, alongside its potential, Web3 has encountered some substantial barriers hindering widespread adoption, particularly among non-technical users. High gas fees and the need for wallets and tokens to participate have been among the primary obstacles impeding accessibility and usability.

For instance, consider Mirror, a platform leveraging the Ethereum blockchain that allows writers to convert their work into NFTs. Purchasing these NFTs requires readers to pay a gas fee, which fluctuates based on network congestion and transaction complexity. This cost can vary depending on factors like the time of day, network activity, and computational resources required for the transaction.

This means they are paying not only for the NFT itself but the computation costs for the transaction. Gas fees associated with the Ethereum network pose accessibility challenges.

Additionally, to facilitate these transactions, users must register on the platform using a wallet—a process that adds complexity for writers and readers alike. Achieving widespread adoption requires a more user-friendly approach.

One notable platform addressing these concerns is Nuance, built on the Internet Computer blockchain, which implements a reverse gas fee model that eliminates gas fees for users. Instead of users, it's the platform itself that pays the computation fee. The platform is free to use and writers are able to form a direct financial relationship with their readers via token tipping and premium articles gated behind an NFT paywall. The only cost to writers is a nominal platform fee on token tipping and NFT sales.

Nuance also streamlines the onboarding process by enabling users to sign up using their Google account, generating an internet identity without the need to open a wallet. Simplifying technical barriers while emphasizing the benefits is key to attracting more users. With technology seamlessly integrated into the background, writers and readers can fully enjoy the platform's advantages without having to understand the complexities of blockchain technology.

As the Web3 industry gains momentum, it's crucial for participants to exercise caution and conduct thorough due diligence before engaging with any platforms or projects. While Web3 holds tremendous potential for innovation and decentralization, the landscape is largely unregulated, presenting both opportunities and risks for users.

Similar to its predecessor, Web2, which saw the rise of social media platforms and online marketplaces, Web3 users must be vigilant about protecting their interests and assets. Although governments around the world are beginning to introduce regulations to address various aspects of the blockchain and cryptocurrency space, the regulatory framework is still evolving and may not fully address all potential risks and challenges

Web3’s entry into the publishing industry represents a move towards decentralization, transparency, and user empowerment for writers and readers. While challenges like gas fees and technical hurdles remain, there are blockchains that are tackling these barriers and offering viable solutions, focusing on user experience and accessibility.

As the ecosystem progresses, these obstacles are likely to diminish, enabling broader adoption and realization of Web3's potential in reshaping digital publishing. However, participants should exercise caution and diligence in navigating this evolving landscape to mitigate risks and ensure a secure experience