Fake news is an enormous problem facing both society and media companies. It is a problem that, despite many efforts, no one has yet cracked. There are two reasons for this:
First, the solutions proposed so far tend to be zero-sum — one or more groups must lose for the others to succeed. Changing the newsfeed algorithm to show you less sensationalist content might help cut fake news but it certainly won’t help Facebook’s earnings.
Second, most of the initiatives are based on adding either people or technology on top of existing systems. This is not only shortsighted for such a complex problem, but it is also irrational to believe that experienced journalists and editors are less capable or reliable than the proposed replacements.
If we want to escape this “post-truth” world, we need to solve fake news. In doing so we will finally create a news industry that is truly digital first and optimised for the 21st century. It is this belief that has led Nic Hodges, Rohin Aggarwal and I to spend innumerable hours (and dumplings) over the past year working on a solution.
Today we’re pleased to share the first iteration of that solution.
Spot is a blockchain protocol for purchasing digital news in whatever form it takes: text, images, audio, video, VR. Spot incentivises people and publishers to share and promote high quality news, while punishing those who create and distribute fake news.
We believe fake news can be countered by decreasing media’s reliance on advertising revenue and social platform distribution. These two factors undermine trust by obfuscating real and fake sources. They pollute intent by spurring a race for clicks. And they weaken the fourth estate by forcing publishers into an unsustainable business model.
Over the past few years, publishers have been developing business models in which readers — not advertisers — fund news. But so far the uptake of paid news has been limited. That’s where Spot comes in.
Spot accelerates the industry’s shift towards paid news by facilitating three critical innovations:
- lower and more flexible pricing structures
- greater exposure for high-quality news distributed on social platforms, and
- increased trust and differentiation among news brands.
By reducing prices, increasing visibility, and establishing trust, Spot makes paying for news easier and more appealing to readers, and more feasible for publishers.
Critically, Spot is a blockchain protocol. This means that the majority of end users will not need to know or think about Spot — just as we currently don’t spend time thinking about other protocols like HTTP or SSL.
As a protocol, Spot has led us to imagine a huge number of use cases that will empower readers and publishers:
- Imagine if you could unlock every news site on the internet for 30 minutes. Or if you could buy an individual article (or video or podcast) from a publisher when you clicked on it.
- Imagine if you knew that the news your friends and family share on Facebook and Twitter was worthwhile and valuable, not clickbait or fake news.
- Imagine if you were rewarded with credits for sharing the content you love with your social networks.
- Imagine if newsrooms could hire more journalists to make sense of an increasingly fast and complicated world through specialist coverage, greater depth, and more investigations.
That’s just the beginning.
The news industry has been in turmoil for the last decade. Now, for the first time in a long time, there’s a reason to be excited about the future of news. We’re thrilled to be part of this journey and look forward to you joining us.
We would like to acknowledge the many talented people who have helped inform this project. Thanks Marcus, Sasa, Stuart, Turi, Melody, Casper, Ryan, Lorne, Jae, PK, Kain, Jordan, and Al.
We also invite each of you reading this to share your own comments and suggestion for Spot.