This is a question I often get. So allow me to borrow a few minutes of your time as I unravel the origin story of Contentos. I hope you have a fantastic time reading, as I had, writing this.
No origin story is complete without knowing who the characters are. So allow me to introduce myself and my background, first. My experience as a developer in the software industry started about 10 years ago. I used to work at “Trend Micro,” one of the leading security software companies in the world. The years I spent with Trend Micro gave me the opportunity to hone my skills in software development and algorithm design.
After gaining solid experience, it was an opportune time to work with LiveMe and lead LiveMe’s expansion in the US. We were able to work with so many top-tier YouTubers, popular influencers such as Roman Atwood and David Dobrik, and Multi-Channel Network (MCN) companies such as Fullscreen or Studio 71. Long story short, the expertise I gained as a software engineer, as well as the insights I come to comprehend within the influencer industry, puts me in a very unique position to take a closer look at how technology can help global content creators, and try to figure out which parts work, and which don’t.
While my leadership journey is unique to me, my team share a similar background in their respective field of expertise working at top tier mobile internet companies or content creation businesses prior to joining Contentos. We started to wonder how the influencer economy can be improved for the benefit of content creators. This was back in 2017, blockchain technology is gaining momentum as the next big tech advancement and we agree. The puzzle pieces started to fit into place, blockchain technology will be the conduit to improve the content industry. But we kept challenging ourselves — does it just mean issuing an ERC-20 token on Ethereum then use it as an alternative to the existing digital currency?
If blockchain can only be used in such a use case, why would a regular user give up a well-designed, highly usable in-app purchasing (IAP) payment system in the App Store or Google Play and instead, use a token to make virtual payments? Peter Thiel’s 10x rule applies in this scenario, where he said that if a solution cannot achieve 10x better than others, the chance of winning is very small. Applying this rule within the blockchain industry, we realized that simply issuing ERC-20 tokens cannot change the existing content production industry. It simply cannot work.
While it has been clear for us that blockchain is a way to move forward, we have yet to fully discern how to maximize its potential. And for me, if a business cannot clearly define its value proposition, it shouldn’t even be started. Keeping all of these in mind, we were mindful about our decision to not do an initial coin offering (ICO) then rush off to any crypto exchange straightaway.
So we decided to investigate the nature of both content creators and content platforms — algorithms drive both. If you create content or manage a fan page on platforms such as Facebook, algorithms play a huge role in facilitating how everything works. When these companies change their algorithms, it will have a profound, but often unnoticeable effect on users.
Algorithms control many aspects of a platform. It shapes the way users use the platform and how shared content is seen by audiences. The “Recommended to you” section on YouTube or the ads inserted on Instagram feeds are examples of how algorithms drive content visibility. If you’re a new content creator on YouTube and the algorithm dictates the way your video will be seen, it might impede the growth of your channel if the algorithm works against your goals. Your work may not be seen by the right audience who are more likely to become your fans/followers/subscribers, thus, losing the chance to efficiently monetize your content. Many content creators modify the type of content they create for better chances of getting featured, even if it means sacrificing the type of content they truly love to make.
Moreover, algorithms also control audience’s preferences. Have you ever wondered why a certain content is recommended to you? Platforms often claim to “personalize” your experience but in reality, your interests and activities have been identified to align with certain companies, which then becomes an opportunity to convert you as a paying customer. Platform leverages on the data they collect about you and if you have been identified as a potential customer, then algorithms ultimately serve to improve the revenue stream of a platform.
Algorithms are tools centralized content platforms utilize to control the flow of content between content creators, audiences, and advertisers. If algorithms are the vehicles for this system, then data is the fuel that drives all of it. Without data from users, then algorithms will not work efficiently.
Algorithms are just sets of source code that decides when to do what under certain conditions. The key is the data input for the algorithms to process, which then decide the outcome. Let me give you an example, when a user uploads a Fortnite gameplay video, after the first 100 “organic” views, the platform will record not just the number of views but also many different data points such as the average time these 100 viewers spent watching, the number of new followers from these 100 views, how many likes, comments, shares, and so on. All these information will be crunched by a platform’s custom algorithm. If a new video performs relatively well in terms of attracting new followers, then the algorithm may decide to drive more viewership to this video. Similarly, if the video demonstrates it can keep audiences watching for a longer time, then the algorithm may decide to feature it on the front page. Meanwhile, content creators who want to keep producing a series of videos also learn from these sets of data and adjust their content production strategy to maintain great results.
If content creators and audiences have been accounted for in this equation, then what roles do advertisers play in all of these? If you want to place an ad of your business on a platform to acquire customers, being connected to users who have the highest potential to become your customers is a logical business strategy. And so far, the most efficient way to maximize this strategy is to rely on data-driven recommendations by platforms who use algorithms to analyze data on user behavior. These sets of data can also be used by advertisers to adjust user acquisition strategies such as changing to a more susceptive audience profile or even influencing how new ads should be produced in the future.
People say that information is power, but perhaps a befitting inquiry into this is, who is being empowered by all this information? The issue lies within the accessibility of data. Platforms gather raw data from users — a centralized system that holds your personal data captive without you being able to access it yourself. If anyone has the freedom to access data at their will, platforms might lose their dominance in the industry as soon as competing platforms detect buzz. Competitors could then poach these top creators by providing higher offers if creators switch to their platform. Free-to-access data is a threat to many content platforms’ core businesses, and no one is willing to take this risk. Similarly, if a platform shows the raw data of an ad, it could result in decreased control over an ad’s performance and revenue. (https://www.theverge.com/2018/10/17/17989712/facebook-inaccurate-video-metrics-inflation-lawsuit).
You may say “we have some performance analysis tools such as YouTube Studio or Facebook Ad dashboard, so we do have a way to access the data!” But please keep in mind, all these data are “processed” — these data aren’t raw. As a user, creator, or an advertiser, you will never be able to access the raw data, at least with the current prevailing technological systems we have. Which begs questions like, when were this information recorded, how accurate are they, how are they calculated, has my data been tampered, and what were the preconditions when they are recorded?
So until we have a truly reliable and transparent data storage to keep user behavior and engagement data, the challenges of helping global content run their businesses and bringing back the content value to creators will continue to persist. In short, we have to build trust back into the content industry.
We believe blockchain or distributed ledger technology (DLT) has the best chance to facilitate a healthier content ecosystem. While centralized platforms may have already established their businesses, their inherent centralization is a pitfall that blockchain systems veer away from. Blockchain, with its decentralization and transparency, is better geared at dealing with multi-stakeholder industries such as content platforms who deal with creators, audiences, and advertisers.
And that is why we started Contentos. We believe that blockchain is not just about issuing a digital currency, we believe in technology that’s specifically designed to serve today and tomorrow’s global content businesses. We believe in a system that safely stores user behavior and engagement data can provide significant value to all its users. We believe that transparency and accessibility of data can preserve the real value of content as it restores users’ trust to content platforms. These beliefs are the reasons why we exist.
On the 25th of September 2019, the Contentos team will turn our beliefs into reality.