A lot of people have been writing about how Blockchain technology may affect the attention economy, myself included. About how we might be witnessing the “dematerialized” world economy now being decentralized, as Harvard Business Review reports here. But if the monetizing of attention is mostly done via social media platforms; are we witnessing the start of the disruption of that pillar-become-scourge of our everyday modern lives, social media? And if so, which of the emerging platforms is the one most likely to achieve that?
“If you’re not paying for it, you are the product”
The monetization of attention on social media
Social media platforms make money off of the content you create, and grow their profits and their power with every post that you like, share, or even scroll over. They make money with every minute of attention you devote to them. And they may very well be damaging your psychological wellbeing while they’re at it.
History of social media disruption: Tsu
Blockchain based social media platforms aren’t the first to try to turn the monetization of content and your and my attention on its head. Short, recent history lesson for social media/attention economy fanatics, here: Social network Tsu was one of the first to try to allow users to monetize the content they created and curated themselves. It was a fun, and really weird experiment to be a part of.
Tsu boasted over 5 million users worldwide at its peak, but it folded because it couldn’t make the concept work (their assets are for sale on their website: founders of social media dApps take note). What’s interesting, is that Blockchain or distributed ledger technology — and the new way of thinking that it begets — might actually facilitate what the people behind Tsu tried to do a few years ago.
But few Blockchain startups are actually doing it. And fewer even have a serious shot at disrupting the attention economy and the oligarchy of the Facebooks, Youtubes and even Twitters of this world. Synereo and Steemit are in my opinion two of the more serious contenders who might put a dent in the content and attention monetizing monopoly. Or who might be at the top of Mark Zuckerberg’s acquisition wish lists. Here’s why, and also here’s why I prefer Synereo to the currently much bigger (and more talked about) Steemit.
As cointelegraph describes it, while the “traditional” social media outlets extract value from their audience for their own benefit, Steemit distributes the benefits of the so-called “attention economy” among its participants.
From the above article: “The system rewards users for posts and content curation: users upvote posts they like, upvoted posts get popular, authors of the popular posts and users who upvoted them get STEEM token rewards. Steemit also employs a logarithmic reputation system, in which every member has a score that represents their individual contribution to the platform and its community.”
For a short explanation of how Steem works, check out the video below:
Steem apparently was first conceived in and inspired by a thread on Reddit back in 2014. Steem has been growing steadily in market cap, while its token value is controlled and stays near the value of 1.00 USD. More info about Steem can be found on their website, www.steem.io.
Now, let’s first take a quick look at some other decentralized social and content distribution/monetization apps or platforms, before we get back to Steem and compare it with Synereo.
Decentralized social media platforms and content hubs
A somewhat more obscure example of a decentralized social network based on the blockchain protocol is AKASHA. AKASHA lets users publish, share and vote for entries, much like Medium and other modern publishing platforms. According to this article on Nasdaq it uses the Ethereum blockchain to store user-created content.
Users’ votes are bundled with Ethereum microtransactions, so users can earn some Ethereum if their content is good and other users vote for it. It is “in a way, mining with your mind”.
Japan boasts its own local initiative called Alis, which is somewhat similar to Steemit. The service enables users to consume reliable information from experts, post articles and receive rewards in ALIS tokens for trustworthy and valuable content. Authors of highly rated materials gain token rewards, recognition and trust from community members. The project is currently raising funds for further development.
Unlike Alis or Steemit, which are essentially social networks, the DECENT Network is a Blockchain-based content distribution platform that “ensures invariant storage of published materials and eliminates any intermediaries along with their potential influence and fees”.
The network can be used to publish any sort of media: music, programming code, video, images, books, etc. In terms of versatility, DECENT’s offering is fairly unique at this point. DECENT’s native DCT token is used to facilitate the trading of media assets and incentivizes network nodes to store content and verify new blocks. The network provides its members with a transparent, trustless and decentralized environment to store, consume and monetize original media content.
My personal favorite project in this space is the Synereo project, which you could conceptualize as a middle ground between content hubs like DECENT and social media platforms like Steemit. It is a decentralized social network aiming to provide its users with the tools to monetize their original content or good taste in content curation.
The system is built on a Blockchain 2.0 employing Proof-of-Stake consensus algorithm. The native AMP token serves as a measurement of users’ interest in the particular submission and as an incentive to exchange information, much like Steemit’s STEEM. Synereo has recently announced to move their infrastructure and native token to the ethereum Blockchain later this year.
An interesting post on Synereo’s social platform WildSpark may be sponsored (“AMP’ed”) by its author or grateful readers, listeners or viewers. Authors of popular posts get a share of the tokens invested into their posts as a reward, but curators also receive a share of AMPs invested further down the distribution chain. For advertisers who use Synereo platform to promote their product, AMP tokens provide the leverage to reach wider audiences, an incentive for sharing by said audiences and a reliable performance indicator.
The following short explainer video shows you how Synereo works:
Share the above video, AMP it: https://wildspark.me/?asset=HkYWt0WlM
Why should you prefer Synereo over Steemit?
As a professional marketing strategist and social media manager with a deep interest in ethical marketing, I’ve always been intrigued by attempts to change the flow of attention and content monetization. I was thrilled by the possibilities that Blockchain technology offered, and more so when I first read about Synereo, Steem and the like.
Synereo and Steem are in my view the two top contenders in this space because of the user base they both boast, and the work they’ve both done to create working functionality and a community. But my initial, gut-level feeling was that I liked Synereo more than Steem. I wrote this article partly to try to figure out why that was. After all; Synereo is smaller in terms of both user base and market cap (Steem: $ 874.124.040; Synereo: $ 23,139,691.0 ) — so who am I to go against the numbers? After having read whitepapers and articles from both and finding more information about them online, this is my conclusion for the time being:
Stronger theoretical foundation vis-à-vis the attention economy
The first thing that explains my gut-level preference for Synereo — apart from their slick, attractive and user-friendly browser extension “WildSpark” — we’ll get to that — is the theoretical foundation under what they’re doing. Their whitepaper offers more and deeper scientific and philosophical insights concerning the attention economy, the way it fits into human society (more on that, here) and how their decentralized application might fix what’s broken. That then translates to the main functional difference between it and Steem.
How to allocate voting power among users
That main functional difference is this: the way that voting power is allocated within a user’s direct and extended network. Where with Synereo your voting power is always relative to the people interacting with you directly and indirectly, and the relationships between the nodes — be it the relationship between your best friend or that with a 5th or 6th degree connection. At the same time in Steemit’s world, a user’s voting power is going to be related to the amount of (vested) interest the user has in the community (i.e. how much coinage he has to invest).
Inorganic and unbalanced distribution of power
Christopher Franko, a Blockchain expert at Expanse.tech, told CoinTelegraph that he has a Steemit account and really likes the platform. However, the one thing that bothers him is how inorganic and unbalanced the distribution of power is:
“Early on, it was obvious who wields all the authority in the system. In Steemit they are known as ‘whales’. The ‘whales’ are made up of the lead developer and a couple of his friends who essentially act as gatekeepers. The whales use their voting power to condition very specific content creators and public figures with thousands of dollars, with the hopes that these people will act as brand ambassadors which has been working.”
What this difference means — and it is based on the fairly old-world, free-market views in this Steem whitepaper — is that Steem, if built according to its vision, will just be a new place and a new mechanism to consolidate power and wealth in the hands of a few. Whereas Synereo, if their vision is executed in the way that they are formulating it, will keep the playing ground level as much as possible: your power is always relative to your influence in your direct network, and the influence of your connections in their respective networks, and so on. Meanwhile; content that is regarded as extremely valuable within the community will reap great rewards for the creator, as well as (mainly) the first curators and the people who invest most AMP’s into them.
Can you hustle the game by simply buying a lot of AMPs and investing them in content you want to have seen by a whole lot of people? Sure, and that is Synereo’s way to help you advertise something that matters to you a lot. But the power of your investment will be in your proof-of-stake and be limited by;
a. the power of the connections in your immediate network and their respective power, and so on, and;
b. simply by the value in the content as viewed by the community. Everyone gets a vote, simple as that.
Synereo: building on the shoulders of giants
The WildSpark app brings me to the third reason why I like Synereo so much. Other platforms like AKASHA and Steem are trying to build their own separate platforms for content creation, hosting and curating & sharing, and drawing users into it. Not Synereo. According to Nasdaq:
“The company is looking to develop a cross-platform social graph, laying the groundwork for a fully-decentralized social content app based on blockchain and distributed storage technologies.”
Synereo is the only project — to my knowledge — that is creating an API layer on top of existing hubs for content creation and hosting, sharing and curating. These hubs are all already populated with users; content creators and consumers/curators alike. All of these platforms (Youtube, and soon if I understand correctly also SoundCloud and Medium), are already trusted and familiar. And now, with the WildSpark 2.0 release expected this February, you will be able to integrate seamlessly between these three existing platforms, and share WildsPark links across the entirety of the internet. Including places like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, linkedIn and your personal blog/website, to AMP(-lify and invest in) content, and automatically encourage people in your network to do the same.
Build on top of the shoulders of giants, instead of starting next to their feet.
I can’t help but wonder, meanwhile, how any of the competing platforms in this space are thinking about competing, or — preferably — combining and integrating their services in the future.
Monetize your own attention
Whether or not you also like or prefer Synereo to any of the other platforms discussed in this article: please treat your own attention carefully. It is of utmost value, and not just economically. Invest your attention responsibly and consciously. And if you do, make sure that if anyone’s reaping the monetary benefits, it’s you or someone else who is actively adding value to your world.
Was this article helpful? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the whole or on specific points in the comments section, so I can strengthen my own thinking, my writing and to improve this article.