Blockchain media company Decrypt is experimenting with a new way to finance its work through rewarding readers for their attention with its own token.
The brand, which launched in 2018, covers all things decentralised web and notably cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin or Ethereum.
To start doing what it preaches, Decrypt has launched its own token that the readers will be able to collect and exchange against vouchers for Amazon, Airbnb, and other services as a reward for their attention.
Here is how it works: instead of selling pixels on its webpage for display adverts, Decrypt will charge sponsors a fee for an exclusive right to mint the token during a limited period.
This gives sponsor access to selected data about user behaviour and an opportunity to get their brand in front of an audience that is difficult to reach through traditional advertising.
All that users need to do is download the Decrypt app and create a virtual wallet where they will collect tokens for actions, such as reading and sharing articles or subscribing to the newsletter. There is a limited number of tokens a day and, in time, readers will be able to exchange them for gift cards.
This way, rather than just bombarding readers with adverts or selling their data, Decrypt will use the token reward programme to build a loyal audience that truly engages with its content.
"The advertising model is broken in media," says Josh Quittner, editorial director and co-founder of Decrypt on its website.
"Publishers have been forced to compete for a dwindling slice of advertising by chasing clicks and practices that can lead to compromises in editorial integrity."
Although Decrypt is funded by ConsenSys - a New York-based business incubator - which allows it to maintain editorial independence, about a year ago it started to look for new ways to make its reporting sustainable.
"We’ve been looking at tokens and tokenomics for some time and we want to explore how to capture peoples’ attention and reward them for it," says Matt Hussey, editor of Decrypt.
"We spent about a year throwing everything on the wall and see what works. We are trying to understand people’s incentives and motivations."
Hussey explained that Decrypt’s core audience is in the 18-45-year-olds bracket, college-educated, male and English-speaking.
Their motivation to read content about cryptocurrencies falls within three broad categories: the anti-establishment libertarians who are excited about a decentralised currency that cannot be controlled by a single state; the unbanked, whose access to traditional financial services has been denied for various reasons; and the curious, who heard about cryptocurrencies and want to know more.
While most blockchain publications focus on "how to get very rich very quickly", said Hussey, and assume high level of knowledge about blockchain, Decrypt wants to be a learning space where readers can discover how to navigate blockchain space safely.
Since announcing the launch of their token earlier this month, Decrypt had more than 6,000 subscribers which demonstrates interest for and the potential of this new model.
Correction: Previous version of this article stated that sponsors get transaction fees from users of the token, which was inaccurate.
Want to receive journalism news and job updates straight to your phone? Subscribe to Journalism.co.uk on our Telegram jobs channel for latest job opportunities, and our news channel for a weekly digest every Monday morning.
Free daily newsletter
- Newsrewired to offer 40 virtual places to local journalists thanks to support from the Google News Initiative
- From gloom to boom: leveraging the 'coronabump' subscription surge
- Dying to get online: independent media’s 'last-chance saloon'
- How broadcasters and the government can prepare young people for the next 'infodemic'
- What will newsrooms look like after the pandemic is over?