In the past couple of decades we have witnessed what’s perhaps one of the greatest shifts of power in the history of mankind, a global movement for the democratization and decentralization of information: the internet. Back in the 1990s, as the internet began gaining popularity, many feared it would destroy jobs and lead to economic collapse. Twenty years later, it is clear that quite the opposite took place. For every job the internet made obsolete, it created two additional ones, and much of the world’s economic activity today occurs digitally. But even though access to information and digital media have been incredibly democratized, this digital revolution is just beginning.
The next step of interconnectivity involves decreasing the power of intermediaries and increasing the power of users through decentralization. And I believe the gateway to broader adoption of digital currencies and decentralized platforms is an industry that I know and love; the entertainment industry. Decentralizing my TV requires changing the way content producers get funded and the incentive structure of online businesses like YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, amongst many other websites.
You see, in the process of democratizing access to information and content, we ended up creating some of the largest companies that have ever existed. We went two steps forward with the democratization of content enabled by the internet, but one step backward with the business models that were created in the process. Even though these services we love & use are often free of charge, we as users always pay a price for it: voluntarily, or not. And it all comes down to economic incentives.
Before the advent of digital currencies, it was difficult to design an economic incentive structure that could, simultaneously, benefit the user, the platform, and the content provider. Part of what makes it difficult to design something like this is the fact that government-issued currencies have high transaction costs, cannot be used for micro-payments and are not easily programmable. Cryptocurrencies have all of these properties, which allows businesses to design perfect economic incentives to increase the adoption of their services.
And like the internet, this second wave of revolutionary information technology is ignited by user-facing platforms. Napster, for example, was a driving force in increasing the internet’s popularity by introducing a new use case to this communication protocol we called the internet. Although it wasn’t fair to the artists producing content, Napster completely changed the way people accessed entertainment. Dead are the days when you had to check your TV guide magazine in order to catch your favorite shows, and Napster deserves some credit for that.
The way content is produced and consumed has been undoubtedly improved. So has the way content producers get paid. But the degree of centralization that enabled these improvements to happen is still not fair to the users. Although our options are bigger than ever, the way we access content is still centralized. There are ad-based platforms like YouTube offering free content in exchange for almost-constant ad consumption. Then there are cable television dinosaurs bundling cable TV with internet & phone services to try and keep a sinking industry afloat. Finally, there are online subscription-based platforms that constantly compete amongst each other- if you’re like me, you had to buy a Hulu subscription when Bob’s Burgers made the switch from Netflix to Hulu… And note that I’m only listing the legal options.
You can’t blame people for illegally torrenting their TV show if they cannot afford accessing content. But you also can’t deny that this hurts the producers of this content, and it’s particularly damaging to smaller, independent, productions. Not only are productions slighted, but eventually so are the audiences (fair production budget = the ability to create quality content).
It is clear that, so far, no platform has been able to create a fair monetary balance between users, content producers, and business model. When I first started writing this article, it was supposed to be about how digital assets could enable DApps (Decentralized Applications) to improve this imbalance. But then I stumbled upon a project called TaTaTu, which is working on a platform to do exactly that. And it gets better; the TaTaTu platform has a working product and some clever ideas to increase the adoption of digital assets by everyday people.
TaTaTu rewards the entire ecosystem
The idea of TaTaTu was conceived by the film producer Andrea Iervolino, who produced many successful films, such as The Merchant of Venice and, more recently, To the Bone. In essence, TaTaTu is a reward-based entertainment and social media platform that provides an assortment of digital content. It plans to offer premium content such as films and popular television shows, and in time, any user will be able to upload original content. Most importantly, TaTaTu is a user-centric platform that also fairly rewards content producers.
One of the things that I appreciate the most about this project is that it has a realistic execution plan. Too often in crypto we see very ambitious projects that are not-at-all down to earth when it comes to executing on their ideas. Like familiar services, TaTaTu will also serve ads to its users, which is a business model known to work. But the key difference here is in the way the proceeds from these ads are then distributed.
The TaTaTu platform will use a digital token system that rewards everyone contributing to its ecosystem. As long as you positively contribute, by either watching content or producing it, you are fairly rewarded. It leverages Ethereum in its smart contracts to conduct fair and transparent advertisement payments with TaTaTu’s own tokens (TTU). If you want to learn more about how Ethereum and smart contracts work, make sure to read my Ethereum, for Earthlings article, where I explain all of this.
Before I delve into the benefits of running a platform like TaTaTu on the Ethereum network, let’s take a more general look at TaTaTu and the incentives it providers to everyone that participates in it:
The Users Benefit
Not only will users have access to a platform that provides high quality content in exchange for watching ads, but the users will also receive revenue for watching content. Unlike any other popular entertainment platform, the user will receive part of the ad revenue from watching!!! (Quitting my day job NOW!!)… Users will also receive revenue for any content that friends that they referred to the platform watch.
Layers of intermediaries and annoyances are cut out. By giving time and attention to content (and, therefore, the adjacent ads), viewers are directly funding the projects they are passionate about. It is not like a subscription based system where you pay your monthly dues and leave it up to the platform to decide how subscription fees are distributed amongst projects. How well a project does is a direct reflection of how the audience feels about it.
The Content Providers Benefit
As mentioned earlier, piracy is a big problem for producers of online content. Once content is released in digital form, there is very little control over where it gets posted, and pirating punishes smaller productions that may be struggling financially. On the TaTaTu platform, content providers will be fairly compensated for views via advertisements. Unlike ad-based platforms like YouTube, that up until recently did not make any distinctions between serious productions and low quality videos, TaTaTu will have a premium content tier to differentiate a Hollywood-level from a home movie.
With a system that is user-centric, the TaTaTu platform has the potential to naturally build a loyal audience base. A by-product of using a blockchain system is strong, TaTaTu is also in the process of building a Digital Rights Manager (DRM) that will allow content producers and distributors to locate and enforce the viewing rights of their content. With both payments and licensing rights being executed on a blockchain system, TaTaTu’s platform provides optimum organization and transparency.
The Advertisers Benefit
Luckily for advertisers, given the hands on approach of TaTaTu, advertisers have more control as to what content their ads are matched with. This is in comparison, again, with a more centralized system like YouTube which handles all payment AND PLACING with companies seeking advertisements on their platform. This has caused some problems in the past on some ad-based platforms with companies having their brands associated with content that they find inappropriate or completely irrelevant to their product/service, and this technology allows brands to have more control over who their audience is, taking full advantage of their ad time.
The TaTaTu Platform Benefits
The TaTaTu Platform benefits as well. A fraction of the proceeds of ads will also go to marketing and other overhead costs to help maintain and improve the platform. And with a system that rewards advertisers, content producers, and audiences for not only watching content but also, eventually, for contributing to their social media platform, they are virtually creating a community that incentivizes growth for all.
The Industry Today
I imagine that if you’re still reading, you are an accessor of online entertainment in some form. To fully appreciate the benefits provided by TaTaTu, let’s review the options that we, as entertainment consumers, have to access our favorite television shows and movies online as to highlight the difference between a decentralized platform like TaTaTu and the current market.
- Subscription Based Platforms: Users pay a monthly fee to the platform that provides the entertainment, hence giving the platform control over what series, movies, etc. are produced and/or streamed via their platform. Netflix and other paid streaming sites like Hulu and Amazon Prime Video have become very successful in recent years with not only offering television shows and movies from networks that you could/can view on cable television but they have also begun to introduce original content that is both produced and distributed by their own network. Despite the popularity of these platforms, production costs and licensing rights are steep and with the amount of users sharing a single account along with missed profits from online content consumers who will continue to stream and download content illegally in order to access the same content for free, the missed profits are extremely high and once again, even though the users are what enable the platform to thrive- they are placing all power in the hands of the given platform.
- Advertising Based Platforms: Users access content in exchange for consuming ads. In this system, advertisers pay the platform to air their advertisement on a pay- per- view basis and the revenue from the advertisements is split between the platform and the content provider, with a large portion going to platform. One of the most popular ad- based systems is one that many of you are probably familiar with- YouTube. With such a large portion of ad revenue going to the YouTube platform, producers of higher quality content are disincentivized to allow their content to be streamed. This is probably why popular television shows and movies aren’t found here, as YouTube has become reserved for low- budget indie series, tutorials, music videos and an abundance of videos that would be categorized under “random”. There is nothing wrong with this system, YouTube has done an awesome job of dominating viewership and ad revenue from these types of videos but the company doesn’t exactly pride itself on Oscar nominees.
The Industry, Decentralized
From my above description of TaTaTu you have gathered that this type of platform also profits from a realistic, go-to-market strategy and that is an ad revenue system relatively similar to that of a traditional ad- based platform like YouTube. And I believe at the end of the day, an ad- based system will be the most profitable because regardless of how affordable subscription based platforms may be, there is a market for free, high quality content.
So what makes running an ad- based platform on the Ethereum network beneficial? There are a couple of things- one feature, which I touched on earlier in the article, is that multiple aspects of the platform are able to run on a blockchain system. Having a blockchain mechanism to track licensing Rights, as TaTaTu is working on, ensures that content is only being viewed by those who have been given permission. This incentivizes higher quality content producers as they can track where their content is being watched-hence trusting that their ownership will be safeguarded.
Because TaTaTu is Ethereum-based, digital identities are cryptographically bound and linked to account addresses, which is a huge deterrent from malicious activity on the platform, as creating fake accounts and identities is much more challenging compared to that of traditional internet securities. Again, for a more detailed look at Ethereum, check out my article Ethereum, for Earthlings.
When I first compared the numbers of TaTaTu and YouTube, I was a little disappointed- I wondered how content producers could make high quality productions when the percent payout seemed on a similar scale (even less) with that of content producers on YouTube. However, I loved the idea of this new technology and how it benefitted everyone- so I kept researching and dissecting TaTaTu’s white paper. It is now clear that the technology and platform itself is why TaTaTu will change the way we consume entertainment.
Although we can’t fully know the financial benefits of a platform like TaTaTu since it is truly innovative, with such a significant percentage of ad revenue going to content consumers, there is no way that the platform won’t pull in a much larger audience. I mean…a system that pays people to consume entertainment… I still can’t get over that! Also- the community that TaTaTu plans to build can’t be taken for granted when attempting to predict the success of the company.
It is not only a platform that provides entertainment but it is also a social networking system. Yes, YouTube also allows comments and likes, but on TaTaTu as a user you can create and manage a profile in a way that is active- not only can your profile represent a piece of you, but sharing content with friends is also rewarded by the TaTaTu platform. By rewarding its users to build and be active on their profile accounts, TaTaTu is making its ecosystem grow!
Ultimately, the use of a decentralized network not only naturally enforces transparency and honesty, but also enables TaTaTu to compensate its ecosystem with micro-payments. There is no hassle or loss of profit that comes with negotiating with the banks on how small transactions can be…. because of this technology, the community is able to be paid for every second of their time. With content providers, ad brands, and users all being paid via a single medium of exchange, all parties will have a digital wallet. (Here comes the cherry on top!) And as a user of the platform watching content, you will also have the ability to use your ad revenue to donate to charity. And that is the crux of what makes this idea and the TaTaTu platform so inspiring and innovative- it is empowering the people that enable it to run. Not only are users given a voice by being compensated for their time and compensating projects they enjoy, but they are also given the opportunity to help out the larger community by donating to charities that they are passionate about. I for one am extremely excited to see where this platform ends up. With such a strong team, idea, and plan to execute, I truly believe TaTaTu has the ability to pave the way for positive change, starting with the entertainment industry!