Will Web3 Level the Content Playing Field?

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Web3 is the next stage of the internet. It involves a space where people operate on decentralised, almost anonymous platforms. Compared to Web2, which makes the user the product, Web3 makes the user the content owner. That means putting the control back into the hands of individual creators, through examples like creator coins, NFTs, and even rebelling against the dreaded algorithm. 

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The Web 2.0 content model favoured the large tech brands that own media hosting mechanisms, such as Twitch, YouTube, TikTok, etc.

But the decentralised technologies that have exploded in the last few years - De-Fi, Blockchain, NFTs, AR Cloud, Distributed ledgers, AI and ML, and The Metaverse - will mean a move towards data decentralisation and transparent, secure internet. Something that seems almost alien compared to Web 2.0's centralisation, data surveillance, and all-too-accurate prevalent advertising.

This all leads to a Web3 where users interact in a decentralised way, but with security. From money to information, all exchanges are conducted without the need for tech companies, banks, or any other middlemen.

Basically, Web3 changes the face of content as it moves away from creating for algorithms and these media hosting platforms, and instead requires a focus on creating for the community. 

This has been aided by the move from the attention economy, to the creator economy. 

Before the content economy, came the attention economy, a model where the most valuable commodity was - you guessed it - attention. This meant, according to Michael Goldhaber, the economy shifted from a material-based model to an attention-focused one.

This meant audiences consumed content from big companies like Google, Apple and Facebook. Whatever ad you were seeing was decided by the site you were on.

So along came the creator economy. In this model, individual creators took control of various online platforms, using UGC to engage with their audience. This model has democratised how content is made, shared and consumed, and has decentralised big-name platforms. 

So, will Web3 mean the content is more decentralised? Will it mean that individual content creators, and even brands, will have more control over how and when their content is seen? Will it pry the power away from ever-changing algorithms? Well, yes. But we're going to explain how. But first:

What is the Creator Economy?

The creator economy is putting financial control into the hands of the content creators.

Basically, the term sums up a means whereby creators can reach out directly to their audience for funding. So, there's an opportunity to bypass the traditional ways creators and influencers have made money in the past i.e. brands, agencies, and advertisers. 

The reason digital creators haven't been in full control of their careers in the past is due to this; creators have often had to represent brands or act in certain ways, in order to maintain their income. Content creators may have millions of followers, and plenty of influence, but they'd still have to bend to the companies that fund them. This means they're not fully in control of their own image, brand, or personality. 

What is Web3?

Web3 was originally called the Semantic Web by World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee, and was conceived as a more autonomous, intelligent, and open internet.

This internet would involve AI and ML which would process content like a "global brain", with all data being connected in a way that is contextual and conceptual. But this didn't pan out. The tech just wasn't.

What has grown from Web 2.0 is more similar to Berners-Lee's original web, which he described as a place where “no permission is needed from a central authority to post anything … there is no central controlling node, and so no single point of failure … and no “kill switch”.

This all leads to a Web3 where users interact in a decentralised way, but with security. From money to information, all exchanges are conducted without the need for tech companies, banks, or any other middlemen.

So if Web 2.0 makes the user the product, Web 3.0 makes the user the content owner.

A few elements that define Web3 may include:

  • Semantic web, where web tech is improved to create, share, and connect content through search and analysis, based on comprehension, not keywords.
  • AI and ML
  • Connectivity of multiple applications and devices, through the Internet of Things
  • 3-D graphics
  • Interactivity without the need to go through a trusted intermediary
  • Participation without the need for authorisation from a governing body

Creators and Web3

The reason digital creators haven't been in full control of their careers in the past is due to this; creators have often had to represent brands, or act in certain ways, to maintain their income.

Content creators may have millions of followers, and plenty of influence, but they'd still have to bend to the companies that fund them. This means they're not fully in control of their own image, brand, or personality.

Dragons' Den's Steven Bartlett sees this as a massive shift and gives the example of Soho House, a private members' club with exclusive access, which could, in theory, offer private memberships as NFTs, by using Web3 technology: 

What if there were only 100,000 Soho House memberships in the world as NFTs and the only way you could get one was going online and buying one from an existing member?  I'd say what would happen would be an authentic scarcity, with a finite number of memberships which would drive the price up every single time one is sold or moved.

Soho House would take a cut (from each sale) and, for me, that's going to be the future of ticketing, memberships, audiences, events, art and music."

“Web3 is the internet owned by the builders and users, orchestrated with tokens," says Packy McCormick. This offers a real shift in what is known as the "creator economy". Everything becomes about decentralisation and putting the financial benefit of creativity back into the hands of creatives. 

"You can now own the thing you create…I can now tokenise my community.

That means if you’re a ticketing company, if you’re a fashion brand, if you're an entrepreneur, if you’re a creator, you can now own the things you create”.

-Steven Bartlett

The creator economy has enabled individuals to create digital content that utilises blockchain technology. This could, number one, alter what the financial landscape looks like for these creators, and number two, make it possible to earn a lot of money on a single piece of work alone.

Peter Yang believes that, with NFTs, creators won’t have to deal with intermediaries who can take control of content rights, as well as their visibility and a percentage of earnings.

Platforms like BitClout have sprung up out of all this excitement. Over one seven days period the site saw 4,000 NFTs created, with 7,000 bids made, and 2,000 sold. BitClout self-describes as "decentralising social media."

So, What Will This Mean for Brands?

"For years, the creator economy was based around earning money through ad revenue sharing and brand sponsorships. The sponsorship market reached $8 billion in 2019 and is estimated to hit $15 billion by 2022."

 - Mediakix 2021 research

Creators now have the power to cut brands and advertising agencies out of the picture - if they choose to. Unlike broadcast media or social networks, some individuals can build businesses from only a small number of fans, buying content like NFTs, or donating through a Patreon. The whole model revolves around social tribes with shared interests, and passions. 

Joe Pulizzi constantly warns content creators against putting all their eggs in one basket.

So, it's unlikely that content creators will be severing all ties with brands, leaving influencer marketing dead in the dust. But, it does provide additional freedom for content creators, meaning that audiences won't lose the 'authenticity' and trust they value in their influencers. Audiences may grow fatigued with adverts for Hello Fresh or Magic Spoon, but if influencers have the ability to hand-pick sponsors, their audience will know it's a good product.

Maybe it'll even offer content creators the ability to team up with their favourite brands to create NFTs, placing the creative aspect into the hands of the influencer, who knows what their audience wants and likes.