The media establishment, not least the newspaper business, has been facing rapid structural changes during recent years. The rise of smartphones means most readers consume news online, turning the daily paper into a luxury item rather than a must-have, and the rise in digital readership has far from compensated for the decline in print readership and revenue.
Media houses have experimented with various sorts of paywalls for online content, including pay-per-view sale, subscription, or sponsored content. But it is an uneven contest with online competitors such as Google, Facebook and Snapchat expertly converting high volumes of clicks and users into ad revenue.
This is reflected in the print media’s sales figures. In Denmark between 2000-2014, tabloid Ekstra Bladet lost 67 percent of its circulation, while the daily Morgenavisen Jyllands-Posten lost 58 percent and Berlingske 51 percent, according to the Danish Audit Bureau of Circulations. Meanwhile, user numbers for online media have soared, although readers remain reluctant to pay for online content, with many even blocking digital advertising.
The challenge of selling online journalistic content remains.
Blockchain could solve the problem
So far, there have been few takers to the subscription model offered by media outlets, and existing solutions were not suitable for swift, low-value transactions. But a blockchain-based proof-of-concept in the making could enable readers to access content cheaply without having to commit themselves to a subscription or to even log in, as their token credentials would be recognised across media outlets.
The proof of concept, which is currently being developed by Nets in dialogue with a number of media companies about their needs, and the desired path along which the system should evolve, would employ a means of payments to be used across all media outlets opting for the solution. This would potentially allow users to shop easily among a host of media outlets.
"Our vision is to build a system that enables low-value transactions which we don’t cater to today - it could be transactions right down to one Danish krone or less. This would allow the media to sell certain articles without forcing their readers to subscribe. The technology can be used for virtually all types of media, including the streaming of music, videos, but also for other application areas such as machine-to-machine communication and IoT further down the line,” says Simon Buchwaldt-Nissen, Director (Digital Practices), Nets.
A click is all it takes for the user to access the desired content on his screen:
"The strength of the technology is its user-friendliness to the extent that the user wouldn’t notice the transaction at all – but would naturally authenticate it. It would work on all platforms, including mobiles, as well as various other application areas – and if commercialised, the solution could be relevant in most geographies,” says Simon Buchwaldt-Nissen.
In addition to authenticating transactions, the blockchain could validate users’ online signature, verifying the identity of the user according to the credentials and user profile provided.
Behind the scenes
Nets’ Blockchain Lab is currently working on the micropayment concept with a view to securing a strategic partner to co-create and test a pilot as a next milestone.
With the recent establishment of Smart Payments, a new and independent innovation business, Nets is taking its innovation efforts to the next level to provide its customers with tomorrow’s payment services:
“Experience shows that it can be difficult to work with innovation, business development and partnerships in the context and premises of a large business such as Nets. What we’re after in Smart Payments is a more pioneering, almost self-disruptive setup in which we identify, nurture and commercialise the best of ideas for tomorrow,” said Susanne Brønnum when she took on the role as CEO of Smart Payments in October 2017.