Mint Season 7 Episode 20 welcomes Matt Medved and Sam Hysell, the Co-Founders of nftnow, an award-winning web3 media platform on a mission to empower creators and bring NFTs from niche to mainstream. In this episode, we explore their revamped vision of building a web3 media outlet centered around tokenized media, the future of digital advertising, the potential of NFTs to revolutionize the media industry, their journey since our last episode in November 2021 and so much more.
I hope you enjoy our conversation.
- 00:00 – Intro
- 02:23 – Update on nftnow Since November 9th, 2021
- 05:41 – The Next Phase of nftnow
- 12:42 – Exploring Why NFTs Enable Greater Media Depth
- 15:18 – Thoughts on the Future of Digital Advertising
- 26:06 – The Vision of Creating Content Worth Collecting Through Tokenized Media
- 31:26 – Challenges in Building a Web3 Media Outlet Centered Around Tokenized Media
- 34:30 – Operational Challenges Faced in Building nftnow’s New Division
- 37:48 – The Future of Publishing in Web3
- 46:08 – Plans for the Future of Tokenized Media on the Now Network
- 49:58 – Outro
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With me today, I got two thirds of the nftnow crew, Sam and Matt, welcome back to mint. Thank you for being on again. How’s it going?
Matt Medved: Thank you for having us. It’s great to be back. It’s going so well man, like wow, what a ride like since our last conversation?
Sam: Yeah, honored to be back here, definitely has been, I think it was November of 2021. How much has changed since then, pretty much everything. So, ready to dive in.
New cycles, new nftnow, new me, new year, all the above. It was November 9, 2021, specifically, and you’re right, a lot has gone down, especially the market. The market is down, and we are in a bear market. Talking about all things nftnow and more specifically tokenized media, you guys have been pretty vocal about those two words join together for a minute now. I feel like we’re all on this boat figuring out what the next phase of media looks like in its conjunction with web three. So, I’m excited to hear what your takes are, especially as you introduce the now pass, the nftnow pass to the world. So, guys really quick, give us a quick brief on yourselves individually, 30 seconds and what nftnow is for those who don’t know, and we’ll kick it off.
Matt Medved: Sure, so I’m Matt Medved, co-founder, CEO and editor in chief of nftnow, come from 15 years in music and media, previously founded billboard dance, billboards dance electronic music brand, ran Spin Magazine as editor in chief, and ran content at modern luxury lifestyle publisher before co-founding nftnow in January 2021. And nftnow is on a mission to empower the creators of culture and to bring web three technology from niche to mainstream.
Sam: Yep, and my name is Sam Hysell. I’m also one of the co-founders and the Chief Strategy Officer of nftow, prior nftnow helped Gary Vee stand up Vayner talent, which was kind of replicating what Gary had done with his own brand for other talent before leaving to start my own agency called Knox media, that worked with a range of different leading record labels, musicians, to help them create and distribute content, grow and convert communities online. And it was actually, it was having a conversation as to how NFTs and web three could change and impact the music industry. And that sent me deep down the rabbit hole. Matt and I had crossed paths by were both working in music and saw a lot of problems, that were prevalent that industry that were being addressed by this technology. So it’s great to become, to co-found this business together and really be united around our mission of empowering the creators of culture.
Update on nftnow Since November 9th, 2021
When I think about nfttnow, I think about kick ass events, awesome editorial, creators of culture, like these are the few first few things that pop into my head, and soon to be tokenized media. And a lot has happened since the last time we were on the podcast, November 9th, 2021, to be exact. Matt, give me the rundown, what has happened since November 9th, 2021, and nftnow?
Matt Medved: Oh my god, what hasn’t happened. Well, look, we have grown as a team we have grown as executives and the space has just grown in general as well, even despite the current downturn. Super exciting. So, since we last spoke in 2021, we did our first edition of the gateway, which is our leading flagship event franchise, took over a bank building in in downtown Miami and turn to a massive audio-visual gallery. After that in calendar year 2022, we grew in every facet of the business. We also launched the NFT 100, which is our leading editorial franchise recognizing the 100 top creators and community leaders in the space. And in addition to growing the team and really starting to level up different franchises, like next up which focuses on rising artist, runway, which focuses on digital fashion. We got some exciting things coming in the works on the AI and gaming front as well. We also brought back the gateway, a web three metropolis. In December of 2022, five-day web three Arts and Culture Festival took over two city blocks, 12 buildings and brought the web three community together for a really, really special event, that was also free to the registered public. It was really important for us to make that inclusive. And now we’re starting off 2023 hitting the ground running, super strong. Getting ready to, you know, we just got gaming fresh off of the announcement of the now pass at NFT Paris and really looking forward to its launch this month.
That was like boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, one thing after the next. Sam, did Matt miss anything?
Sam: And there’s a lot we didn’t even mention it but I did keep it to the highlights, you know.
Wait, Sam those are like Matt’s highlights. How would you explain the last, since the last time we hopped on the pod?
Sam: Yeah, I mean, I think it’s been interesting. I think as the undoubtedly has been a little bit kind of gone into this bear market phase. I think we’ve definitely seen it shift towards builders and artists and creators, that are much more committed to sustainable long-term models, definitely flushed out a lot of the bad actors, some of the people that were more kind of looking for the quick cash grab. So, I think that’s created a very productive force within this space by way of really focusing on sustainable business models, sustainable companies, I mean, even seeing some of the stuff in tech you’ve been building has been great to see. So, that’s been great. On our side, it’s always kind of trying to be the signal and the noise, finding the stories worth telling, like I think we have a, we built a powerful platform and a spotlight really able to showcase that the people, the projects, the builders, that we believe are creating the positive precedents that can really unleash the potential of this technology. So, day in, day out, it’s amazing that we’re able to really empower and showcase and uplift these different people.
The Next Phase of nftnow
You guys have had quite a journey. And I mentioned a few of the keywords that come to mind when you think of nftnow and you guys are now transitioning into this new era of positioning nftnow, like this tokenized media movement, that’s like a good way to sort of frame it. How would you explain that? How would you describe this next phase of nftnow?
Matt Medved: Yeah, it’s a really good question. And Adam, I think like to really understand the next phase, you also have to understand where we’ve been and what’s broken about the current web two media model. You know, I think it’s really important to recognize that, from the very beginning, we wanted to do things differently with nftnow. So even in our early phase, if you go to nftnow.com. right now, what you won’t find on the site are programmatic advertisements. We don’t believe that that’s a viable business model, we believe in misaligned incentives. And I’ll elaborate a little bit about that. But we also want to leave that shit in web two. And they also won’t find any pixels or cookies, we don’t track our users, we believe privacy is a fundamental human right and consent is important. And so, from the very beginning, we have had these principles, and we always knew that the last thing we wanted nftnow to be was just a traditional web two media company covering web three, that would be a huge missed opportunity. And we all coming from various facets of traditional media, myself from the legacy media world, with billboard and spin and modern luxury. Alejandro with that on the business side of media, with Elite Daily and Verizon acquisition side and Sam with Vayner talent, and Knox, you know, we’ve seen firsthand just how broken web two media is. And what do I mean by that? Like, I think like a lot of things, that these kinds of things that people say will resonate with people, like, you know, like this is getting a lot of clicks, like being paid in exposure, like needing more reach all the time, just like endless, like drive to continue to like grow top line growth. Where did that come from? Right, like it’s almost we’ve internalized it almost because it’s just been such an, like a integral part of like the media game for lack of a better word, over the past, you know, few decades. And so, but it really, it really came to the fore with the rise of like digital media and social media, when social media opened up the traffic floodgates to all of these different media sites, all of a sudden, media companies saw this opportunity, this explosion in traffic, this opportunity via programmatic advertisements to capitalize on that. The rise of ad tech and the like, you know, for those who don’t know what programmatic ads are, those are those like annoying banner ads, which is like most, many of you may have them blocked with an ad blocker. But like, you know, they’re all over, like the sites that you go to every day, everything from like New York Times to YouTube, to most media sites that are not nftnow, and the thing is, the way that works is like the more people visit your website, the more impressions the ads get, and the more that that platform gets paid. And so, all of a sudden, media companies became incentivized to increase the number of clicks pageviews eyeballs at all costs. And what it did was, it turned that, it created this, what I like to call a clickbait race to the bottom, as algorithms like rewarded more sensationalist headlines, quicker trigger fingers, and repetitive kind of like, you know, repetitive coverage. A lot of media companies became indistinguishable from each other, the quality of coverage declined, public trust in media eroded as well. And so, as people chased, you know, this algorithmic traffic and web two media companies became reliant on platforms like Facebook, to really maintain their traffic goals. And so, they found out the hard way, when in 2015, Facebook changed their algorithm. And it decimated the traffic sources of the hundreds of media companies. It led to declining revenue, it led to layoffs and like I saw this all happen during my time. And why does that happen? It’s because in web two digital media, you are the product, like people are the product, they are monetizing your eyeballs, they are selling them. And the thing is that what’s really flawed about that is that in web to media, it’s all about audience scale, rather than audience quality. It’s quantity over quality. It’s all about audience scale versus audience depth. It doesn’t matter who you are, your eyeballs are treated the same. And that’s actually like a really short-sighted way of thinking about how it, like the role of a media brand in 2023. I think what’s also really important to say is that, what because we were all kind of like boiled down to the single metric of traffic. You know, literally like the brightest minds in Silicon Valley began like building ad tech and like optimizing to capture your attention, we became this constant attention economy. And as a result, publishers actually began prioritizing their advertisers over their audiences. Finally, like this all led, as led to attacks on privacy. Platforms began tracking users all across the web, without explicit consent, in order to sell more ads, this all fed into that machine. And this reached the point where, you know, a really unsustainable point where public trust in media has eroded, where now consumers are loyal to the headline and not the brand, because media companies tend to be interchangeable. And it’s become this like, really like surface level shallow, one way street transactional relationship between audiences and media brands. And we just know that there’s a better way. If there’s one thing that we’ve seen with web three is that, you know, the web two model was all about audience and building audience. Like I said, it’s like an audience’s aware that you exist, whereas web three is predicated on the idea of community. It’s a buzzword that gets thrown around a lot, but it actually is also, like undergirds this entire space. So, community wants to see you when, in fact committee wants to win together. And actually, in web three, they actually have a stake in doing so. So, what we’re looking to do with nftnow, and the now network, for which they now pass is your access key is to pioneer a community centric media model, in which our community is empowered within this ecosystem, not only to, you know, have sovereignty around how they interact with us and consume content, but also to have a say in what gets covered and community curated content series, to have, to actually be able to share in the value that they’re creating, and earn rewards by participating, engaging, sharing, contributing to nftow. And so, there’s a lot to unpack there, there’s a lot to get into, but what we really see is that this web two media model is irrevocably broken. It is not, it is unfixable. And the only way that we are going to move forward and create the deeper relationships that we care about is by embracing and utilizing web three technology to really create communities with aligned incentives.
Exploring Why NFTs Enable Greater Media Depth
There’s a lot to unpack in that statement, the first thing that I want to touch upon is there’s nothing worse than getting to a website. And the first thing you see is your entire page, just covered with ads, like you can’t even scroll through the article. There’s like, there’s one that hits you from the top, there’s one that hits you from the bottom, and there’s like a pop up from the right and a pop up from the left. And they’re like wait, I came to read this current event and like, what do you want me to do? You know, it’s like what do I do? It’s like, a lot of also like, there’s a few like crypto native media outlets that are at fault for this too. And I don’t want to name names. But if you’re active reading the web, and the crypto news, you’ll see a bunch of them kind of like targeted with this model. So, that’s number one. There’s nothing worse than that and I completely agree with you, Matt Medved. And the next thing that you sort of said is it’s hard to create depth in web two media. And that I guess you’re arguing that web three is an opportunity to enable depth and NFTs are sort of the premise to kind of unlock that. Talk about that from it. Like why do you guys think and Sam, you as well, like why do you think NFTs are that medium to enable the depth that we just, we kind of took advantage of and we lost in web two?
Sam: Yeah, I think it’s a couple key points, I’d say for starters. And we’ve seen this across different verticals within the broader web three landscape, which is that web three and NFTs give birth to a more valid and sustainable model for the promise of 1000 true fans, you’re able to have more viable economics off of smaller communities and smaller fan bases. You see this very clearly within the kind of web three music landscape, where people are able to generate the equivalent revenue of millions of streams off of 100 collectors. So, right there, it’s kind of flipping the script. Instead of optimizing solely for reach, we really are able to have a better economic model to optimize for depth amongst a tighter knit community. I think the other component too, is that I think in a lot of ways, web three tools and NFTs are just incentive alignment machines, they create deeper levels of participation, deeper levels of loyalty, people are able to access different levels of rewards and status within communities, by way of their journey as a collector. So, I think on our side too, it’s like we kind of have said numerous times that we feel we should serve people opportunities, not ads. So, by having these mechanics where we can really reward participation, drive deeper connection, drive more value, it really starts to create a more positive flywheel that revolves around delivering value to our community, rather than trying to build as big of an audience as we can, just so we can sell ads against their, like their eyeballs.
Thoughts on the Future of Digital Advertising
There’s something to be said, though, that I think web three unlocks a new form of quote, unquote, advertising. Because the global and I’m reading this on Google right now, the global digital advertising market in 2023, is valued to be $681.39 billion, like there’s no way that’s just gonna evaporate, sort of over the next few years, I find that hard to believe. But I feel like there’s an opportunity to create more depth, as you said, Matt and Sam, as you guys argued, but also do in a way where it’s more custom and tailored to the individual that sort of surfacing content. And when you look at on chain data, you can sort of surface and deliver things that are unique to that individual, that they’ll actually may even appreciate and say thank you to. I don’t know if you guys have any thoughts around like what the future of digital advertising even looks like. Or if you guys are on the boat that it’s going to completely disappear.
Matt Medved: Oh, it definitely won’t completely disappear, it’s going to be revolutionized as well. And I think like you said, with one amazing thing about web three is that, like there’s on chain data allows a deeper level of understanding and also connection with people. And so, I think that what we’re going to see is a much smarter form of advertisement, a much more genuine and authentic form of advertisement, that could actually be channeled into the places where it will be most impactful. I mean, like when you think about it this way, like the web three media, tokenized media is all about super serving communities, it’s all about understanding that not everybody needs the same things. And we’re not under no assumptions that, for example, our community or nftnow are all going to need the same thing. So, like we have, for example, we know that we have a lot of creators in our community, artists who are quite successful also artists were or photographers or the like, or poets, you know, there’s so many different creative elements now, who are looking to get into web three and looking to succeed, you know, they’re going to be looking for different things than, for example, builders in the space people who have projects, people who are launching protocols, etc. Then you’ve also got the collectors in the space, the people who are trading or you know, moving it more from like an art side of investment and collecting. And then we’ve also got the brands who are looking to enter the space too. And all of these different segments have different creative and consumer priorities. And that’s actually a good thing. That’s actually a thing that I think will help tokenize media platforms, differentiate between these audiences and help create opportunities for each of these audiences. And these different communities, rather than painting everybody with the same broad brushstroke of web two, I think, like that’s what we see time so objectionable about web two media and programmatic advertisement, is that it makes no distinction between audiences. So, like, you know, let’s be real, a bot in Vietnam that happened to like, you know, come across your page is treated the same, as you know, the CEO of a leading NFT marketplace. And these are two very different value propositions that play. And that’s why like, if you think about it, there’s actually a ton of value, like Sam said, in sometimes smaller, more niche audiences and communities that contain really high value users, for whatever that media platform is looking for. And potentially advertisers that can go along with that. So, it’s not necessarily that like advertisement is the enemy. Advertisement is a natural part of just of, you know, human marketplaces in commerce. It’s been going on for centuries, what I think was really objectionable is the algorithmic game that specifically programmatic advertisement created, which was entirely indiscriminate, boiled everyone down to one metric traffic, and created perverse incentives for media companies to actually throw all other concerns and all other priorities to the to the wayside in order to prioritize that. And that’s why we found ourselves in the place where we are, where, you know, where people have lost trust in media because of clickbait headlines, where people are creating content simply to surface on the Google algorithm, to get the clicks to satisfy the advertisers versus actually thinking, how can this piece of content actually create value for the community at play? And I’ll even give an example. Adam, we, you know, at nftnow we’ve done some partnered content, and we hold it to an incredibly high standard. We said no to almost everyone during our first year, the first people we said yes to were Coinbase and United Masters, and we did a partner content campaign with them around the top music NFT moments of the year. Now that piece is of old time. And what was really critical there was we knew that we could, that we had so many people in the music NFT ecosystem that were coming to our site, that were coming through our funnel, and we did an incredibly credible piece of content, that we would have already wanted to cover no matter what, like we would have done, we would have wanted to do music NFT moments anyway. And we did not in any way like compromise editorial credibility around that. And it was such a great piece of content that Coinbase, United masters wanted to put their name on it. And that was a win, win for everyone. Because not only did it drive revenue for us, it drove awareness for them. And it did so in a really credible way, where it was actually really targeted towards users, that would actually care. And that would actually make an impact. And so, it’s just one example but I just want to give an example and make it clear that like, I’m not saying that all advertisement is going to go out the window, right. Like the contrary, I just think it’s going to be able to be done in a much more empathetic, smart and unchained way.
I completely agree. The way I think about ads at the podcast is, I give out free NFTs to my listeners, people collect them every single season. And then from there in turn, I know who my audience is. And I could surface them better content, and better forms of monetization that are interest aligned. An example is noticing that a lot of my community is native to Zora, bringing people from Zora onto the podcast, surfacing content that they already enjoy, and seeing an increase in downloads accordingly. Noticing that a lot of my community creates like lens derivatives or nouns derivatives, trying to bring people as sponsors from those communities onto the podcast, offering deals and services that pertain to those communities and those brands. And everybody wins because you know who these people are from a high-level perspective in their activity on chain. And you can derive really cool insights and deliver more thoughtful actions accordingly. So, I completely agree with that. One thing that you said Matt, that was super interesting is, being able to understand who reads the content because you compared a bot in Indonesia, to an executive at like prominent company in, they hold two different weights. Now what, you know what that got me thinking and I’m going to shoot the shit right now, maybe a completely new idea over here, okay. But it really, it seriously opens up a rabbit holes, like a meritocracy. The wall is the gate, is your gateway into web three. And if you could tell based off the layers of somebody’s wallet, what content they’re also reading and be able to service those insights to people. So, if you could basically curate content based off like the topmost, the top 10% of Ethereum active users and track what they’re watching and surface that to other people. There’s something interesting over there. Is that what you’re implying to with being able to value one reader from another reader? Like determining the things that they’re consuming and being able to create more interesting content around that, or how are you guys thinking about it? Or is my head just like, I have a completely different rabbit hole right now?
Matt Medved: No, no, like I think you’re bringing up some great points, I think we are headed is that is more about empowering the users themselves to make it clear, like where they stand and to make it clear what they’re interested in and to have their voices heard. And so like, that’s why one of the like key parts of the now network, our community curated content series. So, for example, you know, I love to give this example. So, this one is really close to my heart, we launched the next up franchise and nftnow to support rising artists. And so, we actually spoke to our community. We did some tweets and discord posters, like hey, like what could we be doing more of? And people were like, like you guys do a really great job of supporting established artists. But like we want to see more coverage of rising artists. And we were like, say less like, we love to support rising artists, is about empowering creators. And so, we launched next up, and it’s been really special. Like if you go to the first next up that we did in January 2022, it was like, you’ll be like, these aren’t rising artists. But they were back then, you know, it’s like Alpha Centauri kid, Drift, Diana Sinclair, like before they’d really popped and like, you know, they’re like, no misses on that. And so, it’s been really special to create that, like that franchise. But the thing is, at the end of the day, I still, like I don’t want to be a gatekeeper. Like we didn’t get into web three just to become the new gatekeepers. Like that’s not what this is about. Like that, like gatekeeping is all web two. And so even still, when we do next up, like right now, in our current form, it’s like I get together with the editorial team, we all talk about artists we think are doing great, we like you know, check metrics, we do our due diligence, our research, and then we select editorially five artists, but like it’s still us, you know, making the decision there. And what I’m excited about is being able to open that up to the community. So, what we’re going to do is we’re going to, like next up, for example, we’re going to open it up, turn it into a community curated token curated registry, a TCR, where there will be unchained voting, where community members are empowered to not only vote on them, but also put forward nominations and obviously now pass holders will be empowered in that regard, to be able to put down, to put through like the you know, to put artists forward and vote and the like and actually have a say in in series like this. And we’re going to be, like next up is just the beginning. There’s a lot of plans for that but like, so it’s less about finding more, it’s less about using on chain ways to like track people and more about giving them a direct voice in that as well, Sam, I’m not sure if there’s anything you want to add to that but feel free.
Sam: Yeah, I mean, I think some, there’s ways in which we can create contextual experiences for different users. So, I think we’re not necessarily approaching this from a one size fits all capacity either, like we’ve done a lot of research, kind of paid attention to who are the members of our community, actually kind of developing the now pass and the now network. Did a series of different customer development research interviews, where we spoke with a very broad range of different people in the space and really started to see problem sets and challenges now between this emerge across what we’ve kind of defined as four core segments of our community, being creators, collectors, brands and builders. So, I think for each of them, the goals and pains and challenges of each segment are different. So, it’s similar to what Matt was alluding to. It’s how we go about creating opportunities, creating value for those people will also differ as well. So, there’s a lot of interesting and exciting mechanics as to how we want to deliver value, reward participation amongst our community. And that’s a couple different examples.
The Vision of Creating Content Worth Collecting Through Tokenized Media
Yeah, the theme of season seven, which you guys are a part of now is create content worth collecting and tokenize media falls in line with that tagline. What do you guys think of that tagline of creating content that’s worth collecting and trying to understand how that fits into the overall vision of tokenized media? Where do you see the two-playing tack? Like Sam, any anything come to mind with that?
Sam: Yeah, try some stuff and sure Matt will dive in as well. I think it’s twofold but it’s content worth collecting. Because I think on one side, it’s just that the value and think about how people would have these cover stories of iconic magazines throughout the years, right, where there’s just these iconic moments in times where people want to collect. So, I think that’s one side of the equation where there’s just such a deep level of emotional resonance, that drives this desire to have a deeper level of ownership and collectability. I think the other side too, is very much the, it’s not necessarily the content on its own, although that’s a big piece. But it’s also what you’re able to get as a result of having this collectible, and of being able to access other opportunities or access other rewards by way of actually collecting it. Whereas the collectability of the content is really just a kind of a validation that this person is down for the cause, that they do want to participate, that they do want to be able to reap some of the other rewards that we’ll be providing to people within the now network. But love to hear your take too, Matt.
Matt Medved: Yeah, no, I think that nailed it. It’s like, you know, I remember so you know, I come from legacy media, I remember, you know, the collectability around magazine covers, and obviously, we saw that as a proven model with everything that time did into the space with like that legacy that history, but we can take it a lot further than that. Like I remember, you know, at billboard, we released a box set around the BTS covers, right? Like the cards sold out immediately. This is very web two, you know, this dealer literally physical magazines, but sold out immediately, seven figures in revenue immediately. That’s the power of fandom. But imagine this, those BTS covers, you know, they’re cool, I’m sure the fans hung them on the walls and like love them. But imagine that they got them backstage at the show. Imagine that they got them entered into a raffle for the next, for sign CDs at the next, although not the next CDs. But you know what I mean, like sign merchandise at the next release exactly. Like there’s also ways that these tokens, this tokenized media and its equivalents can actually serve as opportunities to reward most loyal fans. So, like, even if you think about a podcast or podcast, we’re on right now, you know, that this gets tokenized maybe in the future, someone who owns this, who’s a fan of us and is a fan of what we’re doing and is like you know what? I’m here for nftnow, I’m here for Adam, I’m here for mint. Maybe they get entered into an allow list for upcoming dropping NFT now or something that mint is doing. And so, like what’s amazing is that, you know, by tokenizing media and allowing people who are in the moment, who feel the resonance, who also understand, you know what? I may not know exactly what Matt, Sam and Alejandra are doing with nftnow but I really believe in the vision and I understand and I want to take this journey with them or like I really believe what Adam is doing with mint, I’ve been following him for seven seasons and I think like I just see their trajectory. They’re able to share in that ride, they’re able to become go from just being fans to also being on some sense shareholders and that’s the power of tokenized media, is giving people an ownership in storytelling, giving them ownership in, you know, taking, like having a say and also a share in the future trajectory of their favorite media brands. And I think like what’s also really critical and really interesting to think about is like, do you think about the trajectory of like, like technology has always driven media forward, from literally like the Gutenberg Printing Press right? To like that enabled print media to web one, you know, and the first like digital media websites to, you know going into the, you know, the social media era, and then the mobile era, remember like, remember when everyone’s websites were designed for desktop, and then they were like, oh, shit, like now everyone’s on mobile, they had to adapt from mobile too Tokenize media is the next phase, it’s the next phase. And the sooner that publishers understand this, the more of a head start they’re gonna be able to get here. And that’s really critical. Because if you look back historically, it was the publications that were early to embrace digital, and the ones that were early to embrace mobile, who thrived on those platforms, and maintain their relevance till today. You know, I know this very, very well, because I started my career at billboard, billboards been around since the 1890s. But billboard notably was very early to embrace digital at a time that it wasn’t that popular. And that’s one of the reasons why billboard has the huge digital footprint that it has, and maintains its relevance till today, it’s like this is just the next natural phase of technological progression driving media forward. But what’s really critical is this time, it actually, like it has an opportunity to actually create and change the models and create more fairer models that literally benefit everyone and allow communities to take ownership in a way that just previously wasn’t possible.
Challenges in Building a Web3 Media Outlet Centered Around Tokenized Media
I love that. I think it’s very spot on. I think what you guys are building towards is very interesting and the ability to tokenize content and to create experiences around that and to align incentives with your readers and your listeners and everyone in between is definitely the way forward. I’m curious if you guys have experienced or it can imagine any challenges that come with building a web three native media outlet and focusing around tokenized media as a core primitive of what you’re doing. Any challenges sort of like that you faced already or that you think have yet to come?
Matt Medved: One thing I’ll speak to, I’m sure Sam has too is like old habits die hard, right? Like we’ve been, we have this web two media model like pretty much like pounded into our heads from, for the past, you know, two decades, right? It’s all about like getting the most eyeballs, getting the most followers, getting the most audience, like it’s all about that top line growth. And it’s hard to break both as an individual and as an organization, those habits and those, like it doesn’t happen overnight. It’s easy to fall back on that, right. But what you actually realize is that, that is what led us to where we are, this clickbait race to the bottom, this era of like indiscriminate media companies and lack of pervasive lack of trust, right. And so, like what we need to remember is that there is a better way now, however, like it’s not only cutting edge, like we are the ones cutting the edge, like you know, we actually went out, we’re like yo like, you know, like who’s, building tokenized media like that and just wasn’t being done in the way that that we saw fit. And we’re like, you know what, this is the, it’s the pioneers you know, it’s the pioneers you know, path which is you gotta go create what you know, is going to drive the space forward. And so, you know, I think that breaking old habits is really key. I think also helping legacy players understand what’s happening, and why they need to be a part of this revolution. I mean, we saw this with digital, you know, I think about all the print dinosaurs that took so long to embrace digital, many of them never recovered. Many of them, many of them were lost along the way, you know, and so, there’s a similar thing here, especially because the learning curve is arguably even more difficult. You know, I always say I went through the crypto learning curve in 2013 with Bitcoin, I still had to go through the NFT learning curve in 2020. And, you know, that was still challenging. There are a lot of people going through both concurrently. And that’s really difficult with the current UX and usability and the like. And so I think it there’s both internal challenges around like ensuring that like you level up your mindset and unlearn the things that have become so ingrained that it’s like so natural after so many years in media, and then also figuring out how to credibly advocate for what you know is the future to a market that you also need to meet where they are.
Operational Challenges Faced in Building nftnow’s New Division
That makes sense. So, from your perspective, from like an operational perspective, what are some of the challenges that you think you’ll face or that you’ve already faced was trying to build out this new and improved arm of nftnow?
Sam: Yeah, I mean, I think it’s a couple of things. I mean, there’s two points, one’s a little more operational. One’s just more broad macro perspective. On the operational side, I think some scaling community, right, like we’re speaking around the notion of a thousand true fans and super serving our core audience. I think that is the most important thing for us, for the now network is having an incredible experience for the people that are participating, giving them opportunities to elevate within their career, access to various rewards by way of different participation, exclusive access to different events. I think over time is striking that balance as the scaling community, without having a kind of adverse effect towards the value that you’re providing to every single community member. I think the other component, and this is on the more macro side when it just comes to challenges, and I think this is a challenge but also an opportunity is, Matt kind of spoke to the fact that trust in media at a macro level is kind of waning. I think we’ve also concurrently just seen the rise of this creator economy and just seeing all these different creators, who have really started to eat into that kind of pie of attention. So, we’re just generally seeing this big rise of creators, I think, even with nftnow, I’m not sure if you’ve seen K money has come in and replaced Matt as our CEO. K money is the Director of Social Video and nftnow. So, I think on our side to the extent that we’re, not that we’re finding really innovative ways to partner with creators, in the same way we want to bring power to our community, to contribute to things like next up and involve our community and the curation that we’re doing. We’re also bringing that same spirit of innovation towards how can we better involve and participate with different creators within the broader landscape as well. So, it’s not just like us speaking to our audience, but our community of creators, of participants, are all able to collectively participate and be rewarded for their participation within their own success.
Matt Medved: Yeah, it’s about getting out of this mentality that like media is a one-way street, right? Like if you look at these two legacies beat the brand or just literally just like, because there’s so incentivized to drive people to their website at all costs, to get their eyeballs to monetize and then discard for these programmatic ads. They are not like that’s the only conversation they’re having, is a one-way street to your eyeballs, and it’s not sustainable. It’s not empathetic. It’s not credible. It’s not authentic. And like what’s really important is like Sam said, understanding that tokenized media is a two-way street. It’s actually more than a two-way street because you’re creating an ecosystem, where people can connect and create value together in a community centric model, and do it all within this framework. You know, it’s really like it’s, it’s almost like a salve to like the, to the web two mediums like long standing wounds.
The Future of Publishing in Web3
What do you think publishing looks like in the context of tokenized media?
Matt Medved: Yeah, great question. Look, I think at a certain level, like all media will live on chain in some form. That doesn’t mean that all media will be, you know, traded, you know, in terms of like having speculative value or are having like, you know, collectible value or the like, but I think that the blockchain is absolutely incredibly powerful in terms of documenting in an immutable way. You know, what is it the discourse and the conversations that we’re having, like think about how many websites have been lost and all of their content, gone. Because the website went out of business because of a broken flawed business model. And you know, the servers, they couldn’t afford to keep the servers and it’s a real thing, people worry about, it’s like, what’s going to happen to the archives of these publications. And so, I think we’re gonna see a scenario in which all media, all published media will live on chained in some form. That doesn’t mean that all of it will be collectible, but I do think that there will be the archival element of that, then I think what you’re also going to see is really critical collectible media, around really major moments, around really major releases, around like things that people have that emotional resonance with, about like I was there, or I believe, or I want to be a part of this, you know, those forces. Because at the end of the day, human behavior and human psychology doesn’t change, just the technology finds new ways to empower enable and cater to it, right? And so, all of those things that we are feeling, you know, like when we see for example, if you see your favorite musician on the cover of a publication, you’re like, damn, I love that like, I want to be a part of that. Whether that’s in a traditional model that was like, you know what, I’m gonna buy that magazine, I will put it on my wall, right. In this context, it will be like, you know what, I’m gonna mint that and I’m gonna hold that, you know, like those moments are going to become largely on chain and that’s going to be a really powerful thing. As we think about harnessing that and this is going to go beyond just articles, this is going to be editorial, this is going to be socialist, is going to be audio, this is going to be video. This is going to be like a holistic and an all-encompassing ecosystem for tokenized media. We’re obviously in the early innings. And one thing I think that’s really critical as we think about the now pass, and we think about the now network, the now network is really the foundation for all of the initiatives that we have underway to build the future of tokenized media. So, we’re not going to go from, you know, from that, like it’s not gonna happen overnight. Right. It’s gonna be built over time. And I think that that’s really critical. Just like we’ve seen the adoption of this technology, take time within these market cycles of awareness and the light between the bulls and the bears, like, you know, we’re it’s gonna be a long haul for the future of tokenized media, but I also think things are going to move quicker than people think, you know, we’ve already seen for example, just the flood of big brands into web three, we’ve seen things that would have been unimaginable. You know, two years but unimaginable when we last spoke, November 2021. Like if you had told me some of these things will be happening. You know, like I would have been like, nah dude, that’s like five years out, you know what I mean? And so, it happens, it’s like slowly but then like all at once, and so we clearly see where the puck is going. We recognize that this is the next evolution of the Internet and it’s the next evolution of storytelling. And ownership is the critical component to that. Never bet against that. Never bet against the power of storytelling and never bet against technology.
As you’re speaking another thought comes to mind and you try to think of the phases and stages of tokenized media, where we’re at the inner cusp of trying to understand what tokenized media even means. And this next thing that I’m going to try to like to illustrate is something that I thought that I’m formulating as we speak. Okay, so the way Matt looks at it, the way nftnow looks at it, a couple other people look at it, it’s basically taking pieces of content, tokenizing that content, either doing a membership pass around your community to try to get them into the ecosystem from like a top-level funnel, curate experiences through that accordingly. So, it’s either publishing content and minting content and tokenizing content that’s then collected, either issuing a membership pass that then gets into this community of more tokenized content. I think that’s phase one. I think phase two is if we go back to what we were talking about earlier, and we say that the creator and the creator is either the writer, the graphic designer, whatever branch it extends from, actually ends up being the platform, then media companies will probably act as aggregators, because if I’m the platform, then when I publish content, I can mint that piece as an NFT. And if nftnow is sort of situated in the right proper structure, you can then aggregate that creator’s content and surface it through editorial, right? So instead of actually publishing content from a traditional website, you guys will act as aggregators, empowering writers to submit their articles, and then surfacing that content through nftnow for the reader, so you guys would focus on distribution, driving traffic, right and getting eyeballs on content, while at the same time recruiting these really talented writers, reporters, and you Matt, acting as head of editorial, surfacing that content to the surface because what that will actually do, it will create equitable playground, right?
Mat Medved: That’s right.
And if the creator is not necessarily like publishing on WordPress, that’s via nftnow’s database, right? It’s actually publishing content on chain that on chain content then gets surfaced across these news aggregators. Like that’s like the next step that I see, like a really like extreme farfetched tokenize media company, publishes content as NFTs and then we have the right proper things in place to actually read and consume that tokenized media, but I don’t think we’re there yet.
Matt Medved: Yeah, look, I don’t think it’s that farfetched. You know, I think that, like I think that, you know, we have a long way to go in terms of the evolution of tokenized media, but I think that that’s right. And I think that in many ways, we will see that model and we also like, you know, in a sense, it speaks to what we are really thinking through in stages, which is progressive decentralization. Right? Like you think about that model where you have a decentralized network of contributors, who you know, are all kind of are like feeding into that but really have their own autonomy, have their own, you know, have their own, their own IP, their own licensing, their own everything, but being able to kind of like aggregate that through, it’s like it’s a descendant of more decentralized model. And so, we’re thinking through just progressive decentralization for nftow, like what did those first steps look like? A lot of that is these more, like this content, you know, the community curated content series. Sam could speak a bit to lists like creator network as well, that you know, we’re kind of like outlining broad brushstrokes for and you know, I think that at the end of the day is really about incentivizing participation and increasing the, you know, the town, the town square, so that it’s not just, you know, it’s not just the big centralized media publications that have, like they have access to the narrative but really being able to bring many more voices to the fault. Sam, do you wanna speak maybe to the creator side at the high level?
Sam: Yeah, good to speak to the high level as far as when I can and can’t share. I do think but no, I fully aligned. I think what you said is brilliant, I think aligns with a lot of the ways that we’re thinking, which is that when you think about the different kind of stakeholders involved in this broader landscape of like, media attention, a lot of it is creators, and I think media publications that will win are the ones that are able to create the best models, to partner with different creators. So, I think the incentivization mechanics don’t solely rely on between like media publisher, in house staff, and audience and community, but a big subset of that community is actual creators. So, going back to the notion that kind of for us web three, and a lot of this NFT tooling is really incentive alignment machines. We definitely are spending a lot of time thinking and working to ensure that we can have quick alignment and incentive alignment with creators in our community.
Plans for the Future of Tokenized Media on the Now Network
That makes a lot of sense. I want to understand how you guys are thinking about sort of the future of tokenized media as it pertains to the now pass and the now network. Like where’s your head at and where you want to take this beast?
Matt Medved: Yeah, so look, the now pass, just to make it clear. The now pass is like your access pass to the now network. And we think about like, everything that, like that it’s all for that we’re offering, it’s all through the now network. You know, I think it’s really critical to understand that this is all very much a first step. You know, this is, we’re not gonna figure this out overnight. We’re being really intentional and like taking our time to create something sustainable. This is as I said, the foundation for all of our initiatives and building the future of tokenized media. And so, experimentation is a critical part of being a pioneer. And so, you know, our commitment is long term. And if I were to say to you that like yo, we got everything figured out the next five years, boom, boom, that would be disingenuous, because it would also be really, it would also be really short sighted because things change so fast. The people who succeed in web three and beyond are people who are nimble and able to understand that the technologies are changing every day, you’re able to embrace that, hey, what made sense there before this protocol was created, may not make sense after that. But I can tell you that we have a very clear North star in terms of how we envision this process, really being able to super serve our community with exclusive content and access, being able to increase retention. I think that’s a really critical part. So much of traditional media is focused on engagement and the short term like spikes and the like we’re looking at retention. How do we keep people coming back? How do we reach our most valuable users, the most valuable community members and super served them and reward them for participating, creating deeper, more authentic connections and a greater sense of loyalty? And then also, as I said, decentralizing that content creation and curation. And so, you know, there’s a lot, we have, there’s so much that, like we can’t speak to right now. But we have our incredible CTO and creative director, Aaron Baker, who by the way also designed the now pass artwork, which is fucking amazing, by the way, like I gotta say, like I love it. It’s like fully generative, original generative artwork that he created, based on this idea of this concept of being the signal in the noise. And that’s kind of what been one of our mantras as we build the nftow over the past two years, is about like create, being this big building credibility and trust and being that trusted signal in the noise because let’s be real during the Bull Run, there was a lot of noise and there’s still a lot of noise, you know, but it’s like, alright, what matters? Why does it matter? Make sure it’s the good actors who get covered and all that, make sure it’s a real-life innovators and the like, and so like build, so that that signal to noise concept was really critical for us. And so Aaron, created this incredible generative artwork based on that concept, which like, has all these nuances and it’s got like, you know, rarity trades, exclusive attributes, things like that, which will all you know, they’ll all have significance so he can’t, you know, can’t speak to everything yet, but like, you know, it’s really, really special. And he is also the one building out the product offerings of the now. He’s the, you know, he’s one of those like crazy multithread, seasoned coder, he’s an artist, he’s everything, you know. And what’s crazy is so like, what he has, he has some incredible like dynamics and mechanics in the works, that he can’t speak to yet but really being able to build, like build this like specialized suite of products, so that if you own an now pass and you access the now network, you can then kind of choose your own adventure, with like different offerings that really speak to you and what you, like what success in web three and beyond means to you, Sam, anything you want to add there.
Sam: Nailed it.
I love it. Your energy, both of your energy. Yeah, shout out Aaron, both of your energies are quite infectious. I’m excited to see where you guys take your vision of tokenized media, the now network and the success of the now pass. Guys before we wrap up, where can we learn more? Where can we stay in touch show it away?
Matt Medved: Yeah, well 100%. So look to learn more about the now pass specifically, go to nowpass.xyz. You can also follow the now pass like dedicated Twitter at @thenowpass on Twitter. To learn more about the now network and everything that the now pass on locks. If you go to nftnow.com right now, you will see pinned to the top there is an op ed, authored by myself and Alejandro called web two media is broken, the future of media is tokenized, which really maps out our vision for why web two media is broken and why tokenized media is the future and also speak to those first steps for the now network. And so, I think that’s going to be really critical. My camera just cut out.
Yeah, it looks like it did. Okay to pick up where he left off. By the way, wait, I might want to get him to say that again because he was like middle of it, and I want to make sure I get the video.
Matt Medved: Do you want me to access, I can’t change, I have another webcam.
Sam: Is your back is turning on the camera display Matt, is the camera dead?
Cameras that run on batteries webcams, really.
Sam: We are using, we have like DSLR rigs.
Oh, got it. It’s all good guys. No, not a problem. I can always ask the question again, Sam, you can take it over.
Matt Medved: Let me try turning it off and on again.
Let’s take it from the beginning. Okay, let’s take it from the beginning.
Matt Medved: I think I could take it from because I did the pass stuff. I could just take it from the nftnow side.
Sam: That’s to learn more about the now network. Okay, perfect. Cool.
Matt Medved: So, look, to learn more about the now network and everything we’re building for the future of tokenized media, go to nftnow.com. You’ll see an op ed pinned to the top there, authored by myself and Alejandro on web two media is broken, the future of media is tokenized, where we talk about why web two media is broken and why the future of media is tokenized and what will be offered for the now network in its first step. And then you can always follow along with nftnow at on Twitter at nftnow.
I love it. Sam any last words?
Sam: Grateful for everything that you’re building, grateful for you having us on the show today. Grateful for everybody that’s tuned in and listening and ultimately just very grateful that we have an opportunity to uplift and showcase and empower the different creators of culture and different people that are really at the forefront of this kind of technological movement. So it’s not us, it’s our community.
I love it. You guys are killing it, excited to see what happens. And we’ll have to do this again soon. But until then, appreciate you guys for being on.
Matt Medved: Thank you, Adam.
Sam: Cheers, Adam. Keep up the great work, man.