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InContext / An inside look at the business of digital content

Why media executives can’t afford to ignore blockchain innovation

August 5, 2021 | By Darrell W. Gunter, President & CEO – Gunter Media Group, Inc. @GunterMGroup

Allow me to pose a few questions: Why doesn’t the U.S. have a modern high-speed rail system or solve the issue of droughts? Why doesn’t the U.S. have a national electronic grid to leverage solar and wind power? At least part of the answer is a reluctance to accept and adapt to new technologies.

Blockchain can and will play a significant role in each of these applications and services. However, blockchain is plagued by the negative stain of cryptocurrencies and a lack of understanding of the technology and its capabilities. That does not mean that we can afford to ignore it.

So, my question for you is, “Are you preparing your company to take advantage and leverage blockchain technology to grow your business and remain competitive?”

Without a doubt, blockchain is poised to impact the media business. That future will demonstrate the full force of Tim Berner Lee’s paper about the semantic web and blockchain will play a critical role. The blockchain train is about to leave the station, and you’d better make sure you have a ticket and get on board.

Blockchain technology will create new business opportunities in all sectors. Media companies have been slow to adapt to some critical technology evolutions in the past, which cost them dearly. We can’t afford to let blockchain to be another missed opportunity.

Are you blockchain-ready?

As an executive, understanding new technologies is essential. That’s because it could mean the difference between growing your business or going out of business.

So, how ready are you and your company for blockchain? Take this simple quiz to find out:

  1. My company and I have a complete understanding of blockchain technology.
  2. Blockchain will become an intricate part of business processes and applications.
  3. We have or are currently working on an application of blockchain technology.
  4. We have a working blockchain application that we are commercializing.
  5. My company sees blockchain as the strategic next technology for the next 10 years.

For every question that you answered, yes, give yourself 20 points. I have applied a score across each section of Roger’s Diffusion Curve in my rather unscientific study.

If you scored under 60 points, I would like you to consider the “what ifs” of not first understanding blockchain technology and how it could play a significant role in your business.

Missed opportunities

History has taught us that even brilliant minds can miss out on significant shifts. To put this in perspective, here are three examples of how a leading company ignored emerging technological and business model changes and eventually lost their business as a result.

Telerate vs. Bloomberg

Before Bloomberg, there was Telerate. Founded in 1969,  the Telerate system was the dominant terminal for Fixed Income Securities in the world. Dow Jones & Company, Inc. initially purchased a 32% stake in 1985. Eventually, Dow Jones purchased the remaining shares, bringing their total investment to $2 billion.

Founded in 1981, Bloomberg’s terminals first started to appear in Merrill Lynch offices in 1985.

By 1998 Bloomberg had displaced Telerate. Dow Jones had to sell Telerate to Bridge Information Systems for $510 million, a loss of $1.4 billion!

What happened? How did Telerate lose their luster, their dominance, and market share to Bloomberg? Data analytics, back-office systems, and customer service were the differentiators.

Blockbuster vs. Netflix

Founded in 1985, Blockbuster, became the dominant player in the consumer movie rental business, only to be upended by Netflix just over a decade later. Netflix created a new business model by mailing discs versus Blockbuster brick-and-mortar stores. The Netflix business model provided selection, convenience, low price, and satisfaction.

But Netflix did not stop there. Instead of just shipping DVDs, Netflix created a streaming service that competed with linear television and every premium film channel. Netflix beat HBO in a business that HBO created. Now media brands are trying to claw their way back with branded streaming offerings, but this isn’t going to be easy to do.

Sears vs. Amazon

Last but not least is Sears, which published the Christmas wish book catalog, and iconic brands like Craftsman and Kenmore, only to be squashed by the e-commerce king, Amazon. While Amazon was building a seamless ecommerce platform, Sears remained anchored to brick and mortar. Consumers loved the convenience of shopping from home. So, Sears — along with any number of retail businesses that failed to evolve — fell by the wayside. 

Time and again, newcomers leverage new technology and business models to overtake the industry leaders. Blockchain is no different. If you aren’t already figuring out how it will transform your business, you are ripe for disruption by someone who is.

These days, blockchain is being used for Asset Management, Insurance Claims processing, Cross Border Payments, Smart Property, and the Internet of Things. This article from Sam Daley highlights 30 Blockchain applications across many industries. The developments he outlines are just the beginning.

Blockchain and the future of media

Clearly, media companies have fully embraced digital. However, they are overlooking the possibilities blockchain has to offer to improve many aspects of their businesses. Blockchain technology can be integrated into multiple areas but here are a few examples that should appeal directly to media executives:

Content delivery

Launched in 2019, Eluvio Content Fabric uses blockchain technology to enable content producers to manage and distribute premium video to consumers and business partners without content delivery networks. It provides low latency, high quality (4K) content distribution, content monetization, and just-in-time streaming. It’s already being used by MGM Studios and FOX Networks, so it’s time to consider new ways to deliver streaming content.

Smart contracts

Blockchain-based smart contracts are contracts can be partially or fully executed or enforced without human interaction. Smart contracts are digital and embedded with an if-this-then-that (IFTTT) code, which gives them self-execution. In real life, an intermediary ensures that all parties follow through on terms.

Mediachain uses smart contracts to get musicians the money they deserve. By entering into a decentralized, transparent contract, artists can agree to higher royalties and get paid fully and on time. Streaming giant Spotify acquired Mediachain in April 2017. Given the increasing complexity of multiplatform content distribution, media executives will want to take a closer look at this business opportunity.

Digital advertising

MadHive is a blockchain-based advertising and data solution for digital marketers. The platform tracks, stores, and generates reports on customer activity, saving all the data to a private blockchain. MadHive’s targeted audience reports and real-time data monitoring give advertisers’ insights into their customers without compromising data privacy.

Clearly, digital advertising remains one of the largest revenue streams for many media businesses. However, increased consumer concern (and regulations) around privacy point to a need for new strategies. Blockchain provides detailed and precise information and data points that media executives would be wise to explore.

Content creation

Steem is a social media platform backed by blockchain. Its “Proof-of-Brain” community uses tokens as incentives, encouraging people to create original content. The amount of tokens distributed is based on the number of upvotes each article receives. Steem has paid over $40 million in tokens to creators. Blockchain is providing new business models and content creation models like this and media executives cannot afford to ignore the possibilities.

Blockchain for better business

My recent book, “Transforming Scholarly Research with Blockchain Technologies and A.I.”, provides a slew of examples of how Blockchain is transforming a wide range of industries. Don’t be lulled into under-rating its potential to impact the media business because of the shadow of cryptocurrencies. Blockchain will open new networks, improve efficiencies that will reduce cost, increase accessibility, transparency, and effectiveness.

Media companies that adopt this technology will position their company and team members for extraordinary success.

About the author

Darrell, an experienced digital publishing executive, has been at the forefront of significant information industry initiatives, i.e., Factiva, ScienceDirect, Scopus, BiomedExperts.com, ReviewerFinder, Underline, and Ripeta. Gunter Media Group, Inc. has advised many CEOs from startups to the most prominent publishers.

He is the author of the edited volume, “Transforming Scholarly Research with Blockchain Technologies and A.I.” His other publications can be accessed via his ORCID profile.

He is a graduate of Seton Hall University’s W. Paul Stillman School of Business (B.S. Business Administration- Marketing) and Lake Forest Graduate School of Management (MBA).

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