As a self-proclaimed tech nerd, Time President Keith Grossman is focusing on Web 3.0 technology with a new community initiative called TIMEPieces. He sees the technology as a natural evolution of the Internet and users’ needs.
“Web 2.0 is essentially the Internet plus social,” Grossman told INMA in an interview in October. “Web 3.0 in its most simplistic form is the Internet plus financial ownership.”
The opportunity comes just as publishers, including Time, recognise Internet users crave privacy and ownership over their online identity and data.
“People realise, ‘Wow, I’m spending a lot of time online. Why do I want to live as a renter when I can live as an owner?’” Grossman said. “I have a verifiable source on a blockchain that says I’m an owner; then what you’re allowed to do is ... buy a product and you own it.”
In March of this year, Grossman announced Time would move into the crypto space in several ways. All of the moves were precursors to the launch of TIMEPieces, a community of digital art starting with what’s known as one-of-one NFTs. It went live in September.
“One-of-one NFTs are the equivalent of fine art,” Grossman said. And, in using one-of-one NFTs, Time was able to capitalise on an asset it has had for years and essentially evolve it into what users want in 2021.
“The reason Time’s one-of-one pieces did so well is, on one end, we had a natural extension from our cover story — people buy Time covers,” Grossman said. “We chose 20 artists and told each of the 20 artists that they had one invitation that they could extend to an artist that I did not know who would never have access to a brand like Time.”
Since the idea was all about building a better future, Grossman saw giving these new artists a chance as a good fit. Each time an NFT is sold, which can be an infinite number of times, Grossman says Time will donate 1% of revenue to a charity they have yet to choose. The other 99% is split evenly between Time and the artist.
“I now have 40 artists who love Time, are advocates for Time, are telling their colleagues to think about Time, and enjoy working with Time,” Grossman said. “They don’t see it as a vendor/creator relationship, they see it as a collaboration and a partnership. They’re part of the family now.”
One of the precursors to TIMEPieces was that Time started accepting cryptocurrency for subscriptions on Time.com.
“I think that’s really important because what we’re signaling to people is we believe and acknowledge you. We see you. And unless a company is willing to do that, no one’s going to take their move into this space seriously at this point,” Grossman said. Time now accepts 32 kinds of cryptocurrency, and users can buy an 18-month Time subscription for the equivalent of US$49.
Grossman said another foray into crypto was doing a deal with asset manager Grayscale. He had them pay in Bitcoin.
“I hold Bitcoin on our books, and everyone knows it,” Grossman said. “We do not keep it a secret that we did that.”
Committing further to crypto
He also made crypto a priority with staffing.
“We were looking for a new CFO and in the job description, I put in the last line, ‘must be proficient in Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies,’” Grossman said.
All of those steps led Time into its weeks-old success with the launch of TIMEPieces. Grossman wants to ultimately see the community initiative as a larger ecosystem where crypto and publishing work in harmony.
“One of the things we did with TIMEPieces is you can take your digital wallet, and you can go to Time.com and connect your wallet to Time.com and it will remove the paywall for you,” Grossman said. “Picture what that ultimately means for a subscriber of multiple products: a better, seamless consumer experience.”
What’s most important to Grossman is allowing the TIMEPieces community to work together and tell Time what they want to see and how they should continue to evolve.
“We can develop the community around the fact that we can provide them with incredible access and we have incredible content,” Grossman said.
News media companies need to start looking at blockchain if they don’t already have a strategy for it, Grossman said. “Brands have to take the future very seriously. They might dismiss it today, but this is going to happen so fast.”
This case study originally appeared in the INMA report, Exploring Blockchain’s Potential to Transform Media.