Content marketing, the practice of raising interest in a brand through creative and not explicitly promotional material, has grown in lockstep with the rise of the internet. Social media postings, YouTube videos, blog posts and more have proven to be ideal arenas to target audiences and serve them with content that blends promotion and creatively valuable messages.
As the content marketing industry has reached new heights in the online era, distributed ledger technology appears poised to fundamentally transform it.
The Rise of Content Marketing: A Boon for Few
A report by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) indicates that digital ad revenue reached an all-time high of $88 billion in 2017, a 21.4 percent growth from 2016, with growth expected to skyrocket in 2018. And a recent report by Technavio, a global market research firm, has estimated that the industry will maintain a compound annual growth rate of 16.12 percent until 2021.
Without a doubt, the content marketing industry is a lucrative business with great potential for growth, but up until now, only a handful of beneficiaries are reaping the rewards. Even worse, these beneficiaries don’t create the content that is monetized and instead are merely intermediaries connecting consumers with content creators.
For instance, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube generate billions of dollars each year in advertising revenue but pass very little of their profits on to content creators. Their revenue models mostly involve placing ads on content and charging for them based on the number of views an ad receives. The publishers receive a small fraction of the revenue generated from the ads placed on their content with the bulk going to the broker.
Not only is this discouraging for content publishers, but it also enables the intermediaries to censor content that they do not agree with, limiting the public's freedom of speech. It is not uncommon to hear complaints that the likes of Google and Facebook are suppressing opinions that do not align with their own.
Enter Blockchain Technology
With blockchain technology entering the content marketing industry, these challenges may soon be a thing of the past. Distributed ledger technology is creating a decentralized content economy where there are no intermediaries and content publishers can earn directly from their work. With publishers earning money based on the popularity of their content, they are economically motivated to produce content that truly serves the audience’s interests.
Currently, the most popular decentralized content platform is Steemit, a blogging and social networking website with over one million users. The platform rewards publishers by the popularity of their content as determined by upvotes. The Steemit ecosystem involves three types of tokens, namely, steem, steem power and steem dollars.
When publishers create popular content, they earn steem dollars, a stable currency that can be sold on the open market at any time. The steem token creation depends on the interaction in the Steemit platform and is usually distributed to content creators and curators either as steem power or steem dollars. Just like bitcoin, people can buy the crypto for speculation purposes. Steem and steem dollars can be converted to steem power to increase voting power.
Another project with an even bigger user base is the ASKfm-backed ASQ Protocol. Just like Steemit, the platform enables content creators to get paid for the value of their work rather than the revenue they generate from advertisements placed on their content. With this project, consumers can order their desired content from ASQ-supported platforms and pay with ASQ tokens. Brands can also sponsor content and reward users who engage with it.
If, for example, a user is interested in a recipe, the user can order it through ASQ from a specialist content producer and send an instant payment using the ASQ token, as opposed to the traditional method where the content creator would publish the recipe for free and hope that people who read it will click on the accompanying ads.
With a starting audience of over 215 million ASKfm users and over 45 million Ning users, the ASQ project is expected to impact the industry in a significant way. Unlike Steemit, the ASQ Protocol is open to other platforms looking to offer more value to their publishers and consumers and to those interested in customizing their platforms to fit the ASQ model.
Apart from encouraging quality content and ensuring transparent sharing of revenue, content marketing decentralization also improves the consumer experience. Studies have shown that the traditional model of placing ads on content annoys most internet users. With projects such as Steemit and ASQ coming forward, this will be a thing of the past.
There are many ways that the content industry can benefit from blockchain technology. As the technology continues to advance, solutions to current issues are in development, which will change the industry as we know it for the better as well as our user experience.
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