The primary problem with the mainstream media is how it’s funded. Advertising now accounts for almost all of the money flowing into media. The issue with this system is the influence it grants the advertisers. To better understand this process and what’s wrong with it we have to realize that a newspaper, or any media—either in print or online—is NOT selling content, it is selling you. The newspaper is not being paid to write the news, it’s being paid to deliver eyeballs to advertisers. The means to that end, the way they grab our attention, is often by giving us information but it’s important to understand that the real product being sold is the reader not the content.
Advertisers are also not paying just for quantity, they are interested in demographics. In a nutshell, high value demographics, say middle-aged, high-income earners, are given a different value than everyone else. The more likely you are to spend money the more desirable you are to advertisers. Ten rich couples with lots of disposable income are worth far more than a hundred working-class families. So said newspaper is motivated to deliver not only a certain type of person but also to deliver content that encourages the readers to look upon the advertisers fondly and encourages them to spend their money there. The better they do that the higher the premium they are paid. You are not the audience—you are the product.
So what does Bitcoin have to do with this? (What is Bitcoin?)
Bitcoin is revolutionary. It creates new opportunities that did not exist or were not as feasible before. One such possibility is to re-organize and decentralize media funding which could shift the emphasis away from creating better consumers towards creating better content. The media is our primary source of information about the world and thus has profound influence in our everyday lives so a change there could ripple out in all directions, compounding the potential change.
Bitcoin allows near-instant micro-payments with little or no processing charge. Imagine you read an article that you appreciate, it taught you something interesting, exposed something important or even just gave you whatever information you desired. Instead of (or in addition to) clicking “like,” imagine you sent 25 cents directly to the author. The content is still free, but funded via tips rather than ads. Sure, it’s 25 cents you are spending that you would not otherwise but it is such a small amount that it’s mostly irrelevant to the consumer and in this system you are not being pushed to spend even more money on products you do not need. In essence this turns us from consumers of products to consumers of information.
The user base needs to grow and there are still kinks to be worked out within the Bitcoin system that would make this even more efficient but the basic framework is there now. Blogs and niche publications will likely be the first to adopt, and I plan to encourage those that do. As a bonus, seeing Bitcoin tipping apps may make some non-initiated readers curious to find out more. If successful the idea can spread, especially considering that this will be even more feasible as the Bitcoin community and protocol grows and improves. There are a few different applications already available for this and surely even more in development. To download the one I use at the close of this article click here. (Another option here.)