Move from the content access economy to the content ownership economy
The chimps at Mailchimp banned me for life.
Build an email list and you’ll own your future, they say. Wrong. Centralized tech can still nuke a writer’s career for no reason.
I don’t know why the chimps at Mailchimp banned me. I will never know. It’s a dictatorship, where they lay the bear traps and wait for you to step on them.
Since being banned I moved to ConvertKit. Good guys but the risks remain the same. It’s not just newsletter platforms either. I’m up to six bans already on LinkedIn. And Gmail famously blocks emails based on keywords.
Great example: I subscribe to the Milk Road crypto newsletter. I have my Gmail settings set to never flag it as spam and always place it in my inbox.
Even with all these settings, the crypto newsletter ends up in my spam folder. Every. Single. Time. Accident? No.
This is why every form of tech we use will eventually have a decentralized version. The latest tech to be revamped by Web3 is the newsletter.
Whenever a new killer Web3 app comes out I wet my pants.
I discovered Paragraph.xyz this week. Bloody beautiful, mate. They’re the talk of the town after raising a pre-seed round of $1.7m from investors. Google even threw some money at them!
This is their motto (which I love):
Write content, grow your audience and foster a community — no matter if your readers are on Web2 or Web3.
The specific problems they seek to fix for writers are:
- Misaligned incentives
- A lack of ownership for creators
- Inflexible distribution of content
- A lack of transparency around writing stats
The current version of the internet most of us use is Web2.
We sign up and log in to apps and websites with our email. Not much has changed. In the Web3 world Paragraph.xyz has combined digital crypto wallets with email.
This means your content can be delivered via email to a reader or to a digital wallet. Chris Cantino nailed the importance of this:
Wallets are social apps waiting to happen.
Pretty soon we will store content, identity, and money in our digital wallet. This feature is hardcoded into Paragraph.xyz.
The next thing I noticed when checking it out was just how fast it was. The average newsletter or social media page takes about one second to load.
Paragraph.xyz takes 200ms.
Readers are goldfish these days. If something takes too long to load they’ll just click away. This is a big deal for SEO too. The web version of your newsletter content is more likely to be found if it loads quickly.
A bug with existing Web2 newsletter options is most of them don’t have good — or even any — SEO built in. This means you can publish your newsletter but people doing google searches can’t find it.
The massive downside is a limit on the readers you can reach.
It’s no surprise either that Paragraph.xyz is passionate about censorship of newsletter content too. With Elon in charge of the birdy app this will become the next online war.
Paragraph.xyz use what’s known as a permaweb, so your content will always be owned by you and can never be lost.
The other big difference with Paragraph.xyz is you own your social graph. This is a ledger of who you follow and who follows you.
In Web2 you don’t own that graph so if you leave or get banned then everyone who follows you is gone forever.
But when you own your social graph you can take it with you and transfer in and out of different newsletter platforms or even social media apps.
Takeaway: your readers are now portable.
Web3 is not a business model. It’s a set of technologies that enable a new generation of applications where users own their data — Chris Cantino
Let’s get to the juicy part.
In Web2 land a newsletter has email subscribers. In Web3 newsletter land you have memberships. The difference is enabled through NFTs.
Subscriptions grant access. NFTs grant ownership.
Most think of NFTs as JPG pictures people gamble on. Actually, an NFT is just a form of digital contract.
Inside the digital contract are a set of rules and deliverables. Code governs both and ensures each action happens automatically. With NFTs Paragraph.xyz users can also own the content they become a member of.
There are two ways writers make money with Paragraph.xyz
1. Earn program
In Web2 any content that isn’t free is referred to as “behind the paywall.” In Web3 it’s called token-gated content.
This is where unless a reader owns the NFT token attached to your newsletter, they can’t see member-only content. Writers earn money by selling these NFT tokens to their readers.
The other term for this is known as a subscription NFT. Unlike a traditional subscription, these can be:
Staked (to earn interest)
This new form of subscription allows writers, readers, and newsletter platforms to align incentives so all sides win.
2. Grow Program
A newsletter is nice.
But writers have to work to grow their newsletters. In Web2 land this can be annoying. You might write tweet threads and link to your newsletter. Or bust your chops writing content on LinkedIn.
With Paragraph.xyz they have “Grow.” It’s where NFTs help you to add incentives so readers will share and promote your content.
This means writing content isn’t the only way to make more money. You can reward NFT members of your newsletter with a cut of your earnings, add rewards for sharing, and go beyond just access.
Web3 is built on the idea of community. Modern newsletters allow readers to submit ideas, vote on what a writer does next, and discuss the newsletter at the bottom of the content.
Leaders emerge as your newsletter community grows.
You can give them:
- Bonus content
- Comment privileges
- Access to other content formats (video, podcast, illustrations, etc)
The bottom line is the community aspect of Paragraph.xyz becomes another way to make money from your newsletter writing.
For many creators, I suspect this will become the main way they get paid in the future. Content will be the magnet, not the main show.
And don’t forget …
All financial transactions in Web3 can occur in cryptocurrency or normal government-issued currency like the dollar.
This is yet another way to earn money.
If you choose to get paid in Ethereum, for example, it can become an investment. Historically over time your writing income can compound so you never have to starve.
So what am I doing?
Nothing right now. I am watching this new category of writing platforms closely. The big limitation is the average person doesn’t know how to set up or link a digital wallet in Web3.
And the front end of most of these new Web3 platforms is still hard to use. Until that gets better the majority of readers won’t use them and you’ll be building an audience in a lonely corner of the internet.
Recently we’ve seen Reddit have enormous success with NFTs. If this continues then newsletter platforms like Paragraph.xyz will go mainstream. If it doesn’t, then they will die like the Segway scooter.
It’s still too early.
But there’s a side benefit: all these new Web3 apps are putting pressure on the incumbents like LinkedIn and the little birdy app to change their ways.
Users are getting smarter and will soon demand to own their data. When that happens it will become even easier for writers to make money online and build prosperous futures.
So don’t ignore this new Web3 newsletter trend.
Stay close to it. Watch. Wait until you see the volume of readers on these platforms start to spike. It’s only a matter of time.
And watch what Elon does with the birdy app closely. He gets this new trend and wants to move quickly.
Final thought: get excited. The creator economy is heating up and there are more and more ways to make money as writers thanks to NFTs.
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