To blockchain or not? WAN-Ifra report looks at examples

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The value of blockchains in micropayments and advertising are analysed in a new WAN-Ifra report supported by its Global Alliance for Media Innovation.

Chief executive Vincent Peyregne says that while there is "something alluring" about the technology, questions remained about whether it would it work for newsmedia.

The report highlights many of the main areas where blockchain stands in news publishing and where it might be heading. "The promises of blockchain are seriously challenging industries based on intermediation, trusted third-party distribution, and transactional models," says Peyregne.

"For news professionals, this means that the radically disruptive nature of blockchains needs a serious exploration of challenges, implications and opportunities. There appears to be widespread agreement that blockchain is well-suited to intellectual property protection.

"The key is the technology's capability to indisputably record and display the origin and time of publication - and any republication - of any kind of content."

In news publishing, Associated Press is working with Civil to develop a means of tracking all transactions and allow the AP to enforce its licensing rights, while startups including Katalysis are using blockchain to help publishers ensure they are compensated for republication of their content.

Both cases are featured in the report.

Similarly, the accountability and transparency of publishing via blockchain are seen as powerful tools in the campaign to re-establish trust with readers, especially against the background of the garbage masquerading as news content that has overrun the web.

Blockchain is also seen as having potential to help publishers materialise their plan to implement micropayments solutions. In fact "tokenisation" - the (nearly) friction-free exchange of value enabled by blockchain - means news consumers can "in theory", earn credit by contributing anything from constructive comments to fact-checking to viewing ad content.

Many blockchain-based publishing platforms aim to enable individual content creators and freelancers to profit from their creative efforts. Peyregne says this disintermediation is a development that established publishers might want to keep their eyes on.

The second part of the report describes some of the implications of blockchain in the advertising business, especially classified and programmatic. Taken to its logical conclusion, blockchain's emphasis on accountability means more than indelibly attaching the name of a person to a piece of online content; it can mean establishing the identity of that person beyond doubt. The implications are far-reaching.

Blockchain can be used to restore trust to the often-rocky relationship among advertisers, publishers, and users, contend Guillaume Vasse of Sud Ouest newspaper in France, and Christophe Camborde of its technology partner inBlocks. Their starting point is storing users' consent agreements under GDPR, which they see as a springboard to larger projects.

Case studies in the report include Civil, Sludge, Publiq, Katalysis, and inBlocks/Sud Ouest. The report also includes some advice from a blockchain publishing expert on how to get started.

Employees of WAN-Ifra member organisations can download the report free of charge at wan-ifra_blockchain_report.pdf

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