Just a few years ago, blockchain was the up-and-coming phenomenal technology that would transform the business practices of nearly every industry. The hype has since died down, partly due to a lack of viable, real-world applications. That doesn’t mean blockchain will fade away. The technology is still new and most of the work being done is still experimental. But it does have the potential to have a widespread effect on business and societal models. Here are a few examples of how your publishing operation will likely benefit from blockchain technology in the not-so-distant future.
Blockchain: The basics
If you’re like most people, you really don’t “get” blockchain or how to put it to use. It’s most often referenced as the underlying technology for bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. Although blockchain will play a role in publishing in the not-too-distant future, it can’t be considered a trend for 2020 because it’s still in its infancy and publishers aren’t sure how to integrate it into their operations.
Blockchain, in simplest terms, is a chain of blocks. Each block contains information (e.g., date, time, amount, participant(s)) about a transaction. The chain holding the blocks together is basically a decentralized ledger, distributed across a wide network, that records these transactions. The data in these blocks is encrypted and cannot be altered without consensus with other network nodes, making it a very secure method to carry out many types of business transactions.
Three promising uses in publishing
Although blockchain has not yet entered mainstream use, there’s little doubt it will eventually. Here are three ways that magazine publishers may use blockchain:
- Increased reader benefits. As more magazine content moves to digital, blockchain provides a better, more secure way for readers to access and consume that content. It will allow new content distribution platforms that will provide easy access to a greater variety of magazines and more secure payment options. Readers can choose and pay for only the content they want, rather than pay for a full magazine or subscription. Publishers also will benefit by being able to charge for individual pieces of content.
- Better payment options for content creators. Writers, photographers, and editors will benefit from the automation that blockchain provides. It will reduce the need for third parties and mediators, which means more money for the content creators. It will reduce time for payment processing and make accounting easier for all parties. Blockchain will enable smart contracts that automatically release payment whenever publishers accept content.
- Reduced fake news. Fake news often gets more views than real news. Blockchain can trace content origins back to its creator. It enables a shared, single version of the truth, based on audit trails and indisputable data. It will effectively blacklist and block fake and fraudulent content from reaching its target audience.
Challenges for implementing blockchain
Blockchain is an exciting technology packed with possibilities and potential. But it’s not without implementation challenges. One of the biggest is understanding how to effectively put it to use in publishing. Unfortunately, there are few use cases to follow, especially for publishers.
Blockchain is expensive to implement and requires a great deal of storage. It also has a steep learning curve and requires talented experts to implement it effectively. That talent will become more commonplace, but as of yet, it’s not easy to find.
The hype over blockchain is real and it is justified. But so far, most uses are still experimental. It will eventually live up to its exciting promise, but for now, it’s important to learn what you can about it, stay informed about its status, and be ready to implement the technology when the hype becomes reality.