How blockchain technology will likely disrupt the media industry is still, for the most part, unknown. But we know that this new technology will impact different media types, including news, publishing, and music.

Blockchain technology was initially developed to support cryptocurrencies, but people have quickly found other applications, from music royalties to voter registration. Similarly, there are potential applications for blockchain within the publishing industry, including bringing transparency and security to payments, copyright, and content distribution.

Applied correctly, blockchain could change most of our systems. To get a better understanding of how, let’s delve deeper, while also looking at how impacted industry workers can take advantage of its benefits.

What Is Blockchain?

A blockchain is a shared and unchangeable digital ledger, with each block in the chain duplicating, recording, and distributing transactions. While this is happening, blockchain is also tracking the lifecycle of assets in a network, meaning it can help protect digital content, reduce intellectual property piracy, and ease the distribution of digital collectibles.

Once a system becomes part of a blockchain, it records information in such a way that makes it impossible (or unreasonably difficult) for that system to be changed, hacked, or otherwise manipulated.

Blockchain In Media and Publishing

Some of the biggest problems in media nowadays relate to royalty payments, data privacy, and intellectual property piracy. In fact, a 2017 study by Deloitte found that media digitization has allowed for the widespread sharing of content that ultimately infringes on copyrights. Deloitte's solution? Blockchain, which it said provides creative industries with a much-needed overhaul.

Understandably, many publishers and media professionals are hesitant about blockchain, but now is the time to explore how this emerging technology can create beneficial changes within the industry. 

Below are some ways the media and publishing industries can incorporate blockchain into their business models:

Disintermediation and Direct Monetization

For many industries today, content creators and publishers receive payment through a third-party service provider or intermediaries.

Let’s take the music industry as an example. Intermediaries in this industry include streaming services such as Spotify, Apple Music, and Soundcloud, as well as music labels, publishers, managers, and distributors.

A recent CitiGroup report found that consumers spend around $43-billion a year in the U.S. music industry, but artists only ever see roughly 12%, or $5-billion of that money.

With blockchain technology, it will be possible to remove all intermediaries, allowing publishers and content creators to register their content on a blockchain platform, track and record its distribution, and receive direct micropayments from users or audiences through smart wallets.

​​Once a content creator has registered their property on a blockchain platform, the blockchain records every usage of that piece of content. This tracking enables real-time, flexible, and fully transparent consumption-based pricing mechanisms, like metered billing.

Smart Contracts

Smart contracts allow content creators to sell their work directly to consumers in blockchain-based marketplaces without costly and time-consuming intermediaries.

Creating contractual agreements with blockchain technology can reduce contract creation time and cost and can also be utilized to execute automatic micropayments between the consumer and the creator. Without involving third parties, subscriptions and advertisements, discounts, and deals can be automatically executed and documented.

Digital Rights Management

Piracy and unauthorized distribution of intellectual property (IP) cost the TV and film industry in the United States an estimated $71 billion annually.

But with Blockchain technology, creators and artists can add digital ID stamps to published materials, thus protecting copyrights for creators and publishers. Creators can then store and manage their IP on an immutable, time-stamped ledger.

Blockchain can also aid the expansion of digital property management. It allows users to share digital copies of their created works with others — as if it were a physical book — while preserving their ownership and preventing piracy.


Non-Fungible Tokens, better known as NFTs, are blockchain-based tokens and digital assets. They often appear in the form of music, graphic art, in-game items (avatars, video game skins, etc.), GIFs, collectibles, and videos. They are bought and sold online, usually using cryptocurrency, and are generally encoded with the same software as numerous cryptos. They tend to be limited run or one-of-a-kind — hence the 'non-fungible' aspect.

Their potential is high. They can provide significant opportunities for publishers interested in monetizing their content archives, mainly as images — and several prestigious media outlets are already on-board.

The Economist, for example, is one of several publishers that have experimented with NFTs. In 2021, the publication auctioned off its October “Alice in Wonderland” NFT cover, featuring a perplexed Alice standing by the rabbit hole as bitcoins cheerfully jump into it. They raised more than $420,000 for The Economist Educational Foundation, an independent charity that teaches young people to analyze current affairs.

Artists are also taking advantage of NFTs. The 2021 sale of an NFT by renowned digital artist Mike Winkelmann, known to the public as Beeple, fetched a mind-numbing $69.3-million at British auction house Christie’s. The NFT artwork “EVERYDAYS: THE FIRST 5000 DAYS” consisted of 5,000 images representing the artist’s creative journey over 13 years.

Beeple’s NFT received 353 bids, reaching $1-million within the first hour of the auction. “EVERYDAYS: THE FIRST 5000 DAYS” is the third most expensive artwork ever sold by a living artist — fourth when adjusted for inflation. Before Beeple’s record-breaking sale, the artist had already sold over $28-million in crypto art. 

But why would people be willing to pay substantially more for something they could likely find online for free? Many believe that it all comes down to bragging rights. Each NFT has a built-in authentication code that works as proof of ownership, which means that even if thousands of people out there own a screenshot or reproduced image of an NFT, they don’t own the original — and to the true collector, that's worth its weight in gold.

Audience engagement

Increasing audience engagement may also be possible using blockchain technology. In March 2018, Decrypt Media, a next-generation media company and creative studio, launched its Decrypt Token rewards program on its mobile app, where readers can earn tokens as they read, share, and interact with their content. This helped grow their audience by 2,000% in 2020.

Thanks to blockchain’s ability to maintain data integrity, companies can also advertise faster and more efficiently, translating into greater audience engagement.

Summing It All Up

Blockchain has many potential applications that go beyond cryptocurrency. Though the full scope of blockchain's potential to disrupt is not yet fully understood, many industries are already benefiting from this emerging technology, from healthcare to logistics, government, and media.

The transparency, fairness, time and money savings afforded by blockchain are poised to make media and publishing industries more efficient while recognizing the value of content creators. Another incredible quality of blockchain is its ability to protect intellectual property, something many industries and artists have not yet been able to achieve.

And the possibilities for other industries are endless.

Written by Angelica Z.

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