World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers


Blockchain and the Future of News

Blockchain and the Future of News

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Summary

With conventional publishing models, the business structures underwriting them, and trust in journalism all under siege, it is not surprising that people are looking to new technologies for solutions.

Enter blockchain, often hyped as the answer to all publishing's woes.

Blockchain is claimed to be capable of supporting a new form of self-government and self-supporting publishing, free of the domination of technology behemoths – and large publishers. Blockchain advocates contend that it can shift the balance of power on the internet toward writers, artists and consumers.

They say blockchain-based publishing can change the nature of the user's trade-off. Nowadays he or she gives Facebook, for instance, private data in return for information, services and access to other users, and exactly how that happens is a mystery. The blockchain trade-off is constructive contribution and/or micropayments in return for the same benefits, and the terms are transparent.

Not only that, but the accountability built into blockchain is claimed to render bot-generated "fake news" and intellectual-property theft relics from the past, and to clear up the murky realms of programmatic and online classified advertising.

Part of the argument for blockchain is that it is based on a distributed ledger that records every single change (a bit like a document history) and makes sure that record is itself all but impossible to destroy. Theoretically that provides accountability without trusting it to a government agency, a tech company, or a large publisher.

As a so-called "trustless" system, blockchain is intended to inspire users' confidence by means of nearly-unhackable encryption instead of institutional or personal reputation. Blockchains are stored on users' computers, eliminating the need for a central point of storage and facilitating direct user-to-user interaction, without a clearinghouse. Any kind of information – including a news article, photo, or video – can be permanently stored or referenced on a blockchain.

In the newsroom

These are some of the ways blockchain is said to be capable of benefiting news publishers:

  • Re-establishment of reader trust. Since an article or image published in a blockchain-based system is marked indelibly with information about its origin, modification, time of publication and so on, readers can be sure of its authenticity.
  • Enhanced protection and monetisation of content. Blockchain technology can be used to track republication of images and articles, enabling publishers to enforce ownership and establish more effective licensing arrangements.
  • Deepened user involvement.
  • Defeating censorship. Once published, a news item cannot be removed or altered.

Advertising

The promise of accountability makes blockchain a highly attractive prospect for advertising as well:

  • For programmatic advertising, blockchain-based buying and statistics systems could bring transparency to an often murky, fraud-ridden ecosystem. Origins of ads would be visible and statistics reports would become incontestable.
  • For classified advertising, it could boost user security, verify information, and enable authentified transactions.

Case studies in the report are Civil, Sludge, Publiq, Katalysis, and inBlocks/Sud Ouest.

The report also includes some advice from a blockchain publishing expert on how to get started.


Date:
2018-12-21
Language:
English
Type:
WAN-IFRA Report
Number:
1
Author:
Petri Honkanen, Dr. Mats Nylund, and Magnus Westerlund
Cooperating Institutes:
Arcada University

Author

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WAN-IFRA

Date

2018-12-21 11:19

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