In the past few years, talk of cryptocurrency and NFTs have hovered around the media landscape like a dark, disorienting cloud for some, and a shiny, new opportunity for others. Through the market’s ups and downs, NFTs have manifested in a variety of ways that have had differing financial, sociocultural, and even environmental outcomes.
Bold multinational players such as Adidas, Coca-Cola, and Samsung drove excitement with splashy NFT launches that engaged their consumer audiences in unique and unexpected ways. Soon, other industries and brands followed suit. Publishers such as TIME, Sports Illustrated, and Forbes got in on the action relatively early as well, with creative executions particularly suited to their specific heritage or editorial voice.
By the end of 2021, quarterly trading volume for NFTs reached $10.67 billion. However, it wasn’t long before “crypto winter” set in in early 2022, with a collapse in currency values and a simultaneous decline in NFT transactions and prices. This headwind created a sort of existential crisis for brand marketers: was the NFT explosion a frivolous trend that would burn out as quickly as it arrived? Or would NFTs become a permanent fixture of brand marketing and consumer engagement?
Interestingly, the downward market pressures in crypto began to drive inspired innovation for NFTs that made them more sustainable, authentic, and consumer-friendly than ever. As prices and hype started to wane, NFTs began to evolve beyond overpriced collectibles into true tools for connecting communities, driving sustainability, and extending the ethos of brands.
Publishers are now in a position to learn from the successes and failures of previous projects. They have the opportunity to take advantage of NFTs in ways that drive editorial innovation, generate revenue, and connect readers with one another in special ways. As publishers explore how they can take advantage of blockchain this year, here are the top three NFT trends for publishers to look out for in 2023:
NFTs as a “passport” to unique experiences
Paid subscriptions are nothing new for publishers. However, leveraging NFTs as the mechanism for unlocking special content or experiences is a trend we’ll see more of in 2023. NFTs are already being used by organizers as conference passes, concert tickets, and membership club cards.
For publishers specifically, NFTs can be leveraged to elevate subscription models. NFTs can still serve as fun collectibles, however they can further act as a unique “passport” within the brand’s ecosystem to unlock various areas of content or access on their websites, apps, events, and beyond. Using NFTs as a pass will garner consumer loyalty and make owners feel like they’re ‘part of the club.’
Launching NFTs with brand sponsors
Advertiser support is the lifeblood of most digital publishers. However sponsors have yet to get in on publishers’ NFTs. With the industry’s growing interest in NFT projects and an increased willingness from sponsors to explore innovative initiatives, publishers have an opportunity to launch exciting NFT drops with the support of brand sponsors.
Publishers and their sponsors can make use of NFTs for contests, sweepstakes, scavenger hunts, and other engaging challenges to gain brand loyalty and recognition for both the publisher and the sponsor. There will likely be a convergence with the ‘free NFT’ trend as well, whereby a publisher can offer free NFTs to readers, all made possible by the advertiser. This gives publishers a sponsorable offering that makes the advertiser the ‘hero’ in the eyes of readers and collectors.
NFTs creating a new sense of community
Not only can NFTs give readers a fresh experience when interacting with a publisher’s content, they can also serve to form a sense of community between collectors who share similar interests or accomplishments. For example, publishers can tap into their brand’s heritage and history to develop NFT collections that excite and connect lifelong readers around their legacy of magazine covers, iconic photography, and more.
Going further, publishers can reward certain passionate community members with NFTs that connect them with like-minded readers. Imagine, for example, if The New Yorker awarded all Cartoon Caption Contest winners past and present with an NFT that granted them access to a community of fellow contest winners. Through these micro-communities, NFT-holders can express themselves creatively while simultaneously building relationships with other members. Building on this trend, several publishers are even building their own NFT marketplaces and ecosystems to drive brand engagement that is holistically aligned with their brand’s ethos, vision, and sense of community.
Reimagining publisher monetization opportunities in 2023
As we look to 2023, pervasive economic uncertainty and continued media fragmentation is on the horizon. Publishers are looking to new innovation and engaging strategies to stay afloat in this uncertain future, and by considering and leveraging NFTs, they can monetize content, engage audiences, and involve sponsors in ways that feel exciting and productive. The year ahead will be an interesting moment to see how publishers respond to the economic environment while taking advantage of technology trends that bring consumers and brands closer together.