BLOCKCHAIN INDIA SPECIAL EDITION JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2019 9
New report: A practical approach
to blockchain in publishing
By Dean Roper
Is demystifying blockchain possible?
WAN-IFRA recently published a report,
in cooperation with Arcada University in
Finland, that examines how the technology
can be applied to news media.
The report, “Blockchain and the Future of News,” (can
be found on www.wan-ifra.org) highlights areas
where blockchain could prove useful to publishers. The
report is aimed at people wanting practical insights for
where this emerging trend stands in publishing and
where it might be heading.
The following is an edited excerpt from the report’s
introduction, offering insight into the technology.
‘How dare you say that word…’
Many presenters, while talking about blockchain as a
tool for publishing are often reluctant to explain what it
is – and might even avoid mentioning the term altogether.
The principle of blockchain itself is complex, and the
cryptography, data structures, and computing routines
underlying it are almost impenetrable for a layperson. It
is an immature technology, evolving at lightning speed in
multiple directions at once.
Blockchain’s image has been damaged by its most famous
application, bitcoin. The markets for a few cryptocurrencies
are reminiscent of the Wild West, with overnight
millionaires and burst bubbles galore. At one-point,
Facebook banned (later partly rescinded it) ads for cryptocurrencies.
The price of bitcoin dropped dramatically in
2018, and more than a few analysts predict it will soon
Blockchain’s usefulness for publishing, however, will
survive any such collapse. In the words of Dominik Thor,
CEO of Vaultitude, a blockchain-based intellectual property
protection company: “Many people are trying to
apply blockchain to whatever comes to their mind simply
because there’s a hype around it. I think you have to
think about whether the technology actually brings
something to the table and is useful for that kind of industry.”
There appears to be widespread agreement that
blockchain is well-suited to intellectual property (IP) protection.
The key is the technology’s capability to indisputably
record and display the origin and time of publication
of any kind of content.
In news publishing, the Associated Press is working
with Civil to develop a means of tracking transactions
and allow the AP to enforce its licensing rights. Start-ups
such as Katalysis are using blockchain to help publishers
ensure they are compensated for republication of their
Similarly, the accountability and transparency of publishing
via blockchain are powerful tools in the campaign
to re-establish trust with readers.
The permanence of blockchain-based publishing
makes it attractive to investigative reporting sites and
anyone else who is subject to censorship, hacking, or
cyberattack. Thus, it has value as a tool for preventing
governmental or corporate interference in publishing.
Blockchain also has the potential to help publishers
realise their dream of micropayments for content. 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
Thus, the roles of consumer and provider become
blurred. (Tokenisation is running into serious real-world
problems at present, as Civil can attest to.)
Many blockchain-based publishing platforms aim to
enable individual freelancers, activists, and the likes to
profit from their creative efforts. This “Uberisation” of
publishing is a development that established publishers
might want to keep their eyes on.
What about advertising?
Can publishers put blockchain to work to help right the
sinking ad ship, which is being dragged down by fraud
and a lack of reliable statistics? In the second part of this
report, Pete Marsh argues they can.
Furthermore, Peter Zollman describes some of the
implications blockchain has for the classified-ad business.
He reminds us that 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 oftenrocky
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.
News publishers wanting to “get their feet wet” in
blockchain, wishing to explore the technology and what
they can do with it without making a large investment or
taking a big risk, are offered some advice in the last section
of the report. Take heed.
can download the
and the Future of
and the Future of News
TOWARD A NEW MEDIA ECOSYSTEM