Posted on Feb 08, 2022Read on

The anatomy of content tokenization

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Put simply, content tokenization — or tokenization in regards to web3 in general — is the ability to create, trade, and access social and financial rewards (thanks, Chris Cantino!). A cryptographic token economics model, at its simplest, could help content creators do a whole slew of things that ultimately benefit their community: bootstrap funding for a project, rally communities around a common goal, or reward early fans.

Unlike web2 content marketing where most content is a less-than-subtle sales ploy full of ads and pop-ups requesting data, the promise of content ownership, digital scarcity, and equitable investment in web3 means that the scales are suddenly tilted in favor of readers. 

Why tokens are important for content marketing

At the heart of the story of how the internet broke the media business model is the simple fact that the internet was not built to facilitate the flow of money. Payments weren’t built into the internet’s infrastructure—it was considered too risky. Marc Andreessen called this “the original sin of the internet.”

Li Jin, The Web3 Renaissance: A Golden Age for Content

Web3 is set to right that wrong, and tokens are a serendipitous side effect. 

For content marketers, this puts a huge focus on creating real, genuine value for audiences — financial, social, or otherwise. Tokens can (and will) play a huge part in creating reader value. For the first time, readers can earn just by engaging meaningfully with content, creators, and communities.

What content tokenization can look like

Tokens earned by giving away data

The fact that user data is going to be hard to come by in web3 is a feature, not a bug. But for content marketers (and advertisers in general), that fact alone is going to require a major pivot in business models. Rather than taking or forcing users to share data via cookies (RIP cookies), in web3, users can earn tokens by voluntarily sharing their personal data. This could look like your standard form fill, or it could be more involved, like a lengthy survey.

There’s nothing stopping content creators from doing this right now — rewarding readers with perks or straight-up cash for sharing their information. But there’s no incentive for this to happen, particularly when readers are bombarded with requests for their data. 

Tokens as a subscription perk

Millennials love subscriptions. And, as I wrote about previously, paid subscriptions — a format that has been proven to work relatively well for content could provide subscribers with governance tokens. These tokens could allow paid subscribers to receive perks like having a vote on the next piece of content or receiving Airdrops of NFTs or cryptocurrencies. 

Is this model exclusive to web3? Not necessarily, particularly the “Airdop” idea; we’ve all seen podcasts or publications that give away tote bags to “loyal” subscribers. However, with the removal of platforms as the middlemen, subscribers can (and should) reap more benefits to reward their loyalty and their financial contribution. 

Tokens earned by giving attention

The attention economy is real. Basic Attention Token is a great example of that: it rewards with tokens for viewing ads.

For advertisers, this means they’re getting a greater return (in theory). Rather than screaming into the void with ads that are immediately exited or ignored, advertisers can know their ads are more effective in reaching eyeballs.

I’ve also wondered if this “attention token” model could work not just for ads, but for reading content in general. We live in a world where people focus on headlines rather than the stories or facts themselves. What if creators could reward people for actually reading? This would require tracking metrics like Engaged Time, which may not be realistic in the cookie-less web3 world. If readers opt-in, though, it may not be that different from rewarding people who provide personal data. 

Tokens as an investment

NFTs are having a moment, for better or for worse. On Twitter, artists like Jessica Hische and RAC are doing the best at summing up why and how this model works for them — and ultimately, works for their fanbase, too:

For content marketers, this matters because with this model, original thought leadership will take precedence. Meaning that organizations that publish thought-provoking, helpful, or innovative content will find that other industry professionals may want ownership over those ideas and that content, too. 

Whatever the reason for purchase, it could be a way of belonging, a way of growing a collection, or supporting a brand/creator. For example, people can get books for free at a library or read them for free at a bookstore, many people still buy books to support the writer or fill up their bookshelves. In the web3 content marketing world, if a reader sees a new article by Reid Hoffman and wants to add it to their collection, they could (in theory) mint the article as an NFT.

In sum

Tokens provide access and rewards for creators and consumers alike. For content marketing, content tokenization ups the ante for quality thought leadership that supports a greater community and audience base.