Journalism is the activity or profession of writing for newspapers, magazines, or news websites or preparing news to be broadcast.
It can be distinguished from other activities and products by certain identifiable characteristics and practices. These elements not only separate journalism from other forms of communication, but they are also what make it indispensable to democratic societies. History reveals that the more democratic a society, the more news, and information it tends to have.
On the other hand, digital journalism, also known as online journalism, is a contemporary form of journalism where editorial content is distributed through the Internet, as opposed to publishing via print or broadcast.
There are different types of journalism, which include:
- Investigative Journalism
- Political Journalism
- Crime Journalism
- Business Journalism
- Arts Journalism
- Celebrity Journalism
- Education Journalism
- Sports Journalism
- Lifestyle Journalism
- Print Journalism
- Cyber/ Online/ Digital Journalism
- Broadcast/ TV/ Radio Journalism
Among this, digital journalism is becoming more popular and it is rising globally because all the other types are included here, i.e., digitally.
Now, let’s see how blockchain can help journalism. Before we go through this, let’s discuss first what blockchain is in short.
What is Blockchain?
Blockchain is a system of recording information in a way that makes it difficult or impossible to change, hack, or cheat the system, as it is essentially a digital ledger of transactions that is duplicated and distributed across the entire network of computer systems on the blockchain.
Role of Blockchain in Journalism
There are several blockchain initiatives that seek to place the power back in the hands of true journalists, removing the need for corporate interests that often lead to biased reporting and agenda-pushing. By relying on new funding models, establishing new ways to involve reader input, and trying out new improvements to the journalism field enabled by blockchain technology, people in the industry hope to breathe life back into the field.
We can say that the journalism industry is one such case study, since the way tens of thousands of stories generate value every day is based on the intricate system of news production, distribution, and consumption, which means that how stories are created, shared, marketed, listened and reacted to.
Journalists need to be paid, news stories must be trusted by audiences, and uncorroborated information or rumors must be countered by maintaining a level of transparency around how information is gathered and how news stories are being told.
Here’s a breakdown of the type of blockchain applications that are currently being tested in journalism:
- Targeted solutions: using blockchain to store important metadata that journalists and media companies use on a daily basis, and which they want to securely store and edit through a blockchain.
- Hybrid solutions: targeted solutions + cryptocurrency = a transparent and accountable business model based on self-governance.
Possible Use-Cases of Blockchain in Journalism
- Micropayments to support smaller publications: Journalism in the digital age is a ruthless, hardscrabble game of survival, and finding ways to stay afloat financially is key to establishing a following and finding long-term success. While a reported 93% of adults in the United States get some portion of their news from an online source, digital publications are a dime a dozen. Most publications use the same means to attempt to reach their user base and new readers, which can result in these systems ultimately being a wash. For any online publication, the idea of users paying on a per-article basis has appeal. These micropayments would reward authors for attracting loyal audiences and allow publications to break from advertising-dependent models that often come with conditions with respect to what content can and cannot be published. If audiences prove willing to embrace this system for publications that are worth they’re paying modest amounts for, smart contract technology serves as a system that could automatically, immediately process the payments.
- Cryptocurrencies to fund journalists/projects: Newspapers have served as a precursor of things to come as the world has turned to digital outlets for their news. Paper advertising revenues fell from around $60 billion to about $20 billion between 2000 and 2015, and the advertising crunch eventually extended to online publications as space became increasingly crowded. For many, the solution to this existential problem is clear: come up with new ways to fund real journalism, so that they can be freed from the restrictions of corporate sponsors. New blockchain-based funding models are turning to cryptocurrencies as a means for readers to help fund the journalists and outlets they believe are fighting the good fight.
- Blockchain-enabled news platforms: Advertisement and journalism have been increasingly blurred by the injection of corporate sponsorship money into the industry. Blockchain-enabled news platforms are already in the works, and they have several aims. For one, they will provide the technological underpinning for the direct funding of journalism. Secondly, they will exist outside of traditional funding models, allowing greater freedom for journalists to pursue the stories that are worthy of being reported on. These platforms will also archive stories, as the blockchain technology that allows for their existence also has the inherent benefit of permanence. It is the hope that these platforms will usher in a revived era of hard-hitting journalism that has faded in recent decades.
- Permanently maintaining story/research archives: It is important for journalists to maintain their online archives, whether it is for the sake of obtaining more and greater employment opportunities or simply as a matter of pride. But when a publication closes its door or ceases operation of its website, the cost of maintaining servers is often too great to keep an archive of past work. Blockchain is a permanent record stored across a distributed network. This means that journalists and other writers will have a permanent means of storage for their work, which provides a method for citing past articles and essays when establishing their credentials to prospective employers.
- Tokenizing reader investment in journalism: Magazines, newspapers, and digital publications who consistently fight to stay out of the red are often more than willing to take nine-figure sums to stabilize cash flow or sell outright but accepting cash always comes at the cost of operational autonomy. The move toward a model by which readers help invest in and sustain operations of small, independent publications is being launched in order to maintain agenda-free reporting. This movement will be facilitated in part by the ability for publications to reward readers for their support, and for readers to show love to the publications they enjoy by investing in the proprietary coins that some of these publications are launching as a means of fulfilling the cost of operations.
- Eliminating advertisements: Advertising has weakened the quantity and quality of content in both digital and physical publications, and readers are unwilling to look at seemingly endless ads to locate the content they value. Newspapers aren’t the only news and journalistic medium that has an advertising dependence problem. The benefit of blockchain-enabled news and journalism outlets is a new paradigm that allows readers to directly contribute to the sustenance of their favorite publications through direct donations on secure blockchain platforms. This will help eliminate or at least decrease the dependence on advertisers, who often pay to have unsightly, distracting presences on websites and in physical issues of a magazine or paper.
- Implementing reader input more effectively: Those who read the news have little say as to what stories are covered, which are not, or how news outlets go about doing their business. This has led to a readership that feels talked down to instead of catered to, and the result is a drained populace. There are numerous blockchain news platforms that, having issued their own coin, allow investors to vote on decisions pertaining to the direction of the newsroom, much like stockholders can. Because readers will play a central role in funding these new digital newsrooms, they should have a say in new proposals to ensure that they may see that their investment is being repaid. This is a winning formula for the journalists as well, as they can ensure that they are providing a service that is in tune with investors, and in doing so increase the odds that their venture remains funded.
For journalists, blockchain is both a potentially monetizable, shiny new thing and a moment of reckoning at the same time. Blockchain can be deployed as solutions for micropayments, digital advertisement tracking, or copyright validation, all of which secures and boost a media company’s bottom-line.
Thus, it remains to be seen whether the communality, forced transparency, and data-freezing affordances of this technology garner mainstream support in the journalistic community.