What news media publishers need to know about blockchain

By Shelley Seale


Austin, Texas, USA


How can blockchain serve media — and how can media serve it?

Angie Lau, CEO of Forkast News, joined INMA members for an exclusive Webinar in which she addressed these questions and explained blockchain and its implications for news media publishers.

Lau explained why the Asian market is leading the world in digital transformation.

“The Asian economy, even pre-COVID, was poised to be bigger than the rest of the world combined. We are certainly there, and the world has fundamentally changed,” she said. “Why blockchain is really interesting and integral is that in Asia, the blockchain tech market is accelerating at a faster rate than we’re seeing anywhere else in the world.”

Forkast News views its increasingly influential role in blockchain as a result of being based in Asia, Lau added. The two-year-old digital media platform was born on the Internet and will grow online.

“Blockchain is essentially a distributed ledger,” Lau said. “But more important is what it can do and why it is transforming every industry across the board.”

The impact of blockchain is that, for the first time in modern human history, economic power is being returned to the individual. The technology allows individual creators to monetise their work without an intermediary.

“For those of us in the media business, we have already experienced this with social media,” Lau said. “While we are speaking to our audience, the audience — via social media — is speaking to each other, and oftentimes skipping over the intermediary, which is legacy media.”

That is part of the evolutionary chain news media has already been experiencing. Blockchain is simply accelerating that economic trend.

“It is allowing people to engage with each other without trust being an issue. Blockchain, because it is disintermediated, because it is decentralised, the technology is also immutable. It is trust-less — which means trust is never a necessary component to doing business. You can imagine how powerful that actually is.”

Forkast publishes the sort of content one would expect from a digital news media company: newsletters, podcasts, reports, videos, live and virtual events. Lau explained these are simply facets of the organisation’s core value.

Forkast is a digital publisher that focuses on Asia and blockchain technology.
Forkast is a digital publisher that focuses on Asia and blockchain technology.

“Our core value is essentially bridging the gap between the blockchain industry and mainstream audience. But beyond it being a niche industry play, there is so much influence and impact in the real world that the mainstream audience is hungry and desirous to understand it. It’s very intimidating, and it’s often very technically dense.”

How Forkast resonates with its audience

The Forkast audience is a global one that is interested in both blockchain and what’s happening in Asia on the digital forefront. 

“Not only are we covering this space about experts for the mainstream audience, we are also in a part of the world where a lot of people aren’t,” Lau said. 

This geographical location in the epicentre of blockchain gives Forkast an edge, as demonstrated by its 35% open rate of its weekly newsletter — nearly three times the industry average.

“Forkast exists as a very niche play, and as a result of this we are able to really collaborate in partnership with a lot of mainstream, big organisations like Moody’s, Dow Jones, and LexicNexis,” she explained. “We serve this space well because each and every day, we are covering blockchain, distributed ledger technology, cryptocurrency, and all the emerging technologies that are shaping our future world.”

Unlike other media companies that may have one or two reporters covering blockchain — if that — Forkast focuses exclusively on the topic. This creates an opportunity for collaboration.

Forkast is the authority on blockchain and emerging technologies in Asia.
Forkast is the authority on blockchain and emerging technologies in Asia.

She shared Forkast’s current engagement numbers:

  • 1.3 million monthly unique visitors.

  • 2.3 million monthly page views.

  • 1.89 pages per session.

  • 22% returning visitors.

  • 58% of audience is aged 35+.

The decision to start Forkast ahead of the emerging blockchain trend was based on what drives all journalism: the responsibility to educate and empower the audience.

“We exist to serve our audience,” Lau said. “We are part of a greater goal, which is that we can serve our communities, we can serve our societies, and we can serve our nations and humanity to help them understand the world that is to come. If you can’t understand the future, you will never see your place in it.”

When it comes to the competitive landscape, Forkast is the only company that is focused not only on Asia and blockchain, but also research and data, the professional audience, conferences and events, and video products. Other either focus just on crypto or just on the business audience. Forkast acts as a bridge between those two worlds.

Blockchain for media

NFTs (or non-fungible tokens) are the units of data stored on a digital ledger, or blockchain, and they’ve been around for years. In 2017, Origin Protocol was founded as a blockchain platform for building decentralised marketplaces. 

Origin Protocol is a blockchain platform for building decentralised marketplaces.
Origin Protocol is a blockchain platform for building decentralised marketplaces.

Origin recently helped auction the most-viewed video on YouTube, “Charlie Bit My Finger,” as an NFT, setting the record for the largest NFT sale of a viral video. It is aiming to build the Shopify of NFTs to enable creators to engage differently with their fan base. Origin verticals include music, digital art, brands, and sports teams — even the athletes themselves. Next-generation NFTs may be tied to physical merchandise, content, or experiences, Lau said.

“We are only beginning to explore what the real applications and the real opportunities are,” she said. “The purchaser of the NFT has a lot of rights that are attached to the particular NFT. For this generation and the ones that follow, these significant, historical, digital markers are actually very much a part of our life and our culture.”

She compared it to art. In a gallery, one person might view a piece of art as a great creative work of high value, while the person next to them might feel it’s pointless or worthless, perhaps not even art. NFTs are the same thing, in the digital space. If news media companies start to apply this model to their own content offerings, they begin to see the value.

“As content creators, how do take a look at the NFT space and think about how we can redefine the relationships that we have with our audience?”

The billion dollar unicorn

Lau next pointed to Animoca Brands, a blockchain game developer founded in 2014, calling it the “billion dollar unicorn.”

Animoca Brands is the developer and publisher of a broad portfolio of blockchain games, traditional games, and other products and has invested in more than 50 investments in NFT-related blockchain companies. The company mission is to deliver digital property rights to 2.7 billion gamers, thereby creating a new asset class, enabling play-to-earn economies, and creating a more equitable digital framework.

“New boundaries of economy are being defined in the digital space,” Lau said. “We’re beginning to hear a lot about metaverse, which is essentially the online expression of the real world. Well, we’re seeing those lines blur.”

InterPlanetary File System

Launched February 2015, InterPlanetary File System (IPFS) allows users to host and receive content using a decentralised system of user-operators who hold a portion of the overall system — creating a resilient system of file storage and sharing.

Essentially, it’s a method of verifying the authenticity of information. In 2020, the visual intelligence tracking platform Sensity identified more than 49,000 deepfake videos — a three-fold increase since July 2019. 

“A lot of these companies are thinking up new ways of economically redefining content,” Lau said.

Decrypt tokens for readership

Another application of blockchain technology for news media publishers is Decrypt, which incentivises its users to read and interact in exchange for its utility token, called a DCPT.

Users create an in-app wallet and earn tokens for reading (three tokens), reacting with an emoji (one token), or sharing (two tokens). Jacob Donnelly, B2B general manager at Morning Brew, said that assigning such value to users’ actions on a platform is an incredibly difficult thing to do. 

“If you talk to 99% of media companies, they still can’t tell you the [lifetime value] of a reader,” Donnelly said.

On the other side are advertisers that are eager to get in front of such an audience.

Case study: South China Morning Post

The South China Morning Post (SCMP) is poised to launch ARTIFACT NFT.

“They’re thinking about NFTs differently,” Lau explained. “They are using NFTs as a technology base or platform to start archiving historical events and creating what they hope to be a new standard in archiving content.”

SCMP published a paper in July 2020 advocating for a standardised metadata structure for recording accounts of history and historical assets on the blockchain as non-fungible tokens (NFTs). 

Gary Liu, CEO of the company, said: “Blockchain offers immense potential to immutably preserve journalism that witnesses and explains history. The ‘ARTIFACT’ project is an opportunity to discover, collect, showcase, trade, and reanimate meaningful moments and objects from our collective human experience and we are excited to introduce this standard to the world.” 

The project roadmap includes plans for a decentralised authentication process that will eventually allow for anyone to tokenise assets using the ARTIFACT standard. 

Lau used libraries as an example. Libraries have been around for centuries as storehouses for humanities’ literature and knowledge. But what happens when a library burns down? All of the content is lost. In the digital world, NFTs and blockchain represent a way to permanently and safely archive every piece of content.

“These are the things that ARTIFACT and blockchain technologies are actually serving, a new purpose,” Lau said. “And it’s something that a traditional, legacy media company like South China Morning Post is starting to embrace. How are, increasingly, media organisations using blockchain technology to serve our purpose — which is, to serve the best of humanity?”

About Shelley Seale

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