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Meditations on onchain media

What is onchain media?

It’d be tempting to define it as:

“Media in the form of text, audio or video that’s put onchain”

But that would be a very naive definition that probably wouldn't stand the test of time.

Online media domino

Imagine it’s 1997, and I’m about to write an essay about online media. What would I say? 

Probably something like: 

“Thanks to the Internet, we now have two types of media. 

Offline media that we know well - like newspapers, TV stations, and radio. And online media where you put text, audio & videos on the Internet, a.k.a. online, hence the name “online media.”

But that would be a pretty shortsighted definition. Because it’s not only about where the media is stored (online vs. offline) but also about the new format this storage unlocks.

Online magazines aren’t just PDF scans of offline magazines - they offer an entirely different format. Articles are longer because they’re not constrained by the newspaper’s length. They have more images for the same reason. They have videos. And hyperlinks that connect them with other sources.

That’s definitely more than just “putting text on the Internet.”

And, as we know from “Creator Economy 101,” it was just the first piece of the domino.

Online media not only changed the format but also changed distribution. Since everyone had a digital printing press, ideas could be distributed more permissionlessly. For the first time ever, you didn’t need to work your way up in a newspaper, TV station, or radio to reach millions of people. Everyone - with enough skills, work, and luck - could become a writer, YouTuber, or podcaster. And some outliers like MrBeast get more views than Superbowl. 

In the meantime, social media arrived, which made online media interactive - people could comment on every piece and the discussion became often more important than the original content. It gave even more power to the people, as everyone could now share their opinion on the posts by journalists, scientists and politicians. 

This move also opened the golden era of free speech, where Twitter threads, 4-hour podcasts and 40-page long articles let us share our perspectives without being cut off by the TV presenter. And although the media world is still imperfect - we all heard about YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter censoring and shadowbanning users - our media sources are way more decentralized than they were in the 90s. 

So, an innocent move such as “putting text, audio, and video on the Internet”, changed the world.

Skeuomorphic phase of onchain media

Okay, so let's get back to onchain media.

If I were to reiterate the definition, I would say that:

“Onchain media takes the form of text, audio or video that’s put onchain and uses blockchains’ strengths to create a new format of content.”

And what could this format be? What would be the “hyperlinks, printing press, unlimited length & interactivity” of onchain media?

Hard to tell.

We have already explored obvious paths such as token-gating access to articles and videos, following the content edits onchain, integrating seamless payments, creating memes around the idea by the memecoin holders' communities, and increasing support of citizen journalism. But I think we are still in the “Let’s put this PDF article online” era.

So please experiment, try and break things. Let's see how media can change based on your onchain history. Let's use tokens to design incentives for journalists to stay objective. Let's use ledgers to track the provenance of ideas, so we know who started the chain of thoughts.

The onchain terrains are still wide open for trailblazers. Who knows, maybe you will be the one who discovers a format that will define the next decades of human communication.

So let's end the skeuomorphic phase of onchain media.

PS: And if you do it, please share your discoveries on Kiwi.

PS2: And if you liked this post, please share it with your friends or like/RT/comment on the Twitter version.

Thoughts based on the Broadcast panel we had at Dappcon ‘23 with Kat, Phillip & Rafa.

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