If most web content today feels low quality, that's not just you. It's what ad revenue models encourage.
The Internet is one of the least consistent places in the world. In its relatively short life to date, it has seen an ongoing series of upheavals and changes, which are in turn changing the world in small but significant ways.
The world of Internet content creation has been changing especially fast, largely due to the monetary models that drive it. Accruing eyeballs to spam with low quality advertising used to be the main objective, but it has since been morphed by a combination of factors, including the ad blockers which dam up old revenue streams and the congealing of access under a small handful of tech giants such as Google and Facebook.
But advertising is still largely how content creators on YouTube and Facebook get paid. Unfortunately for them, it's now mostly in the order of a few cents, or a few fractions of a cent, for each viewer who sits through advertising while viewing their content.
Therefore, being a financially successful independent content creator means raking in the views. Millions are good, but billions are better. At the same time, content needs to be produced as cheaply as possible to keep margins high and as quickly as possible to attract more views overall.
The sheer size of platforms like YouTube means aspiring creators can't afford to ignore them and will then inevitably get sucked into the same incentive models.
If you feel like most of the popular stuff on the Internet these days is low quality interchangeable garbage, it's not (entirely) because you're getting old and kids these days are crazy. It's because most content is being produced under revenue models that encourage the quick and cheap production of dross.
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Unintended but not accidental
It's a perfectly logical revenue sharing model for platforms like YouTube and Facebook, but it's also an incentive mechanism that's driven some unfortunate outcomes. Beyond filling the Internet with production line junk, it's led to side effects such as the terrifying world of kids YouTube.
Consumers aren't thrilled either and are always looking for alternatives. Patreon, for example, is having a bumper existence.
It offers a way for fans to fund creators directly in a mutually beneficial way. Creators can make more than they could from the advertising churn, and fans can keep getting high quality content, rather than seeing their favourite creator's work get chewed up by the realities of scraping for ad revenue.
Could this be a blockchain thing?
Blockchain technology and cryptocurrency stands to reshape the Internet and its content once again. First, blockchain itself can bring some much needed transparency to the system to reassure people that their payments are going where they should be without middlemen taking exorbitant cuts as well as help fight plagiarism and otherwise bring a series of further advantages.
And second, there are some very interesting opportunities in cryptocurrency for anyone that needs to move money globally and in small amounts. It's worth emphasising that the ability to make international micropayments is extremely new and was only made possible with cryptocurrencies.
Just look at the Bitcoin Cash Tippr bot, for example. People are using it to tip people money on Reddit, just throwing a small amount of money to someone anywhere else in the world. There are a few large "tips" which look a lot more like payments, but for the most part it's just people throwing amounts as small as a few cents to each other around the world.
In this way, cryptocurrency allows for the creation of entirely new revenue models for content creators, which goes right to the heart of the problem – a lack of suitably diverse revenue options for creators. This also opens the door to direct monetisation of a much wider variety of content in a way that suits creators.
A full time Internet video maker might want to get patronised with regular income a la Patreon, an occasional e-poet might just appreciate the occasional handful of coins, a professional Elvis-impersonating stripper (for example) might want to charge viewers on a show-by-show basis and a professional Askfm respondent might release their answers for a certain price.
The end result might be a much more diverse and high quality world of content on the Internet. It also introduces new challenges though, such as finding a way of surfacing the "best" things and managing frictions between different platforms and creators.
These are some of the things the ASQ Protocol is thinking about. Created by the team behind Askfm, who you might remember as the crew behind a recent Mt. Everest crypto-PR stunt gone wrong, it aims to be more than a single platform. It aims to become a content monetisation and surfacing protocol that can be used across the Internet at large.
To get a better understanding of how it all works and what makes ASQ tick, we asked ASQ Protocol and Askfm CEO Maxim Tsaryk a few questions. A Q&A format seemed appropriate all things considered.
Q1. How does ASQ determine what value a user gets from content, beyond metrics such as likes and shares?
"Users on our platform will get a transparent and fair reward for the content they’re producing. The reward is based on the quality of the content and the demand it creates. This allows content creators to realize full profit from their materials rather than relying on media intermediates to share and promote it for substantial fees."
Q2. How does ASQ differentiate between high value and low quality content?
"We are implementing the mechanism of up-voting which will allow content creators to build an excellent reputation. This means that the most valuable and trustworthy content will be spread, while lurking among users will be reduced."
Q3. Is it possible that the Internet is just too big for this kind of initiative?
"The Internet community has already faced a lot of problems regarding exponential growth in data and information. It is increasingly difficult to find valuable authentic information quickly. Concentration of distribution sources of information by a small number of communications platforms, together with the explosion in the amount of information exchanged has introduced significant challenges to the consumption, creation, delivery, and storage of content. ASQ Protocol aims to help reorganize this status quo in the content economy by rewarding all stakeholders and increasing the content produced in the process."
Q4. How does ASQ differentiate itself from competitors such as Steem, TRON and similar?
"Platforms like Steem and TRON provide peer-to-peer (P2P) payments from consumers to content creators. However, they are relatively small in scale and narrow in the type of content they host. ASQ Protocol is introducing not only opportunities for C2C monetization, but also a value-driven business model to a much larger user base and for all kinds of content."
Q5. Will people be willing to pay to access content on ASQ? Why?
"At ASQ Protocol we strongly believe that high-quality information should be paid. Already we can see the growing amount of people who are ready to pay for really unique and useful content that can't be found using search engines."
Q6. What advantages does ASQ provide content creators over services like Patreon?
"Patreon is a niche platform, focused on the brands and influencers themselves. It provides only one opportunity - to buy and sell influencers’ content. Unlike Patreon, on ASQ Protocol users don't need to be influencers to make money. Rather, all users can choose the content to monetize and the way to monetize it. This autonomy sets ASQ Protocol apart from platforms like Patreon."
Q7. Will the content creators who choose to use ASQ for exposure and provide content for free undercut those who want to get paid?
"The platform doesn’t fundamentally work like this. ASQ Protocol creates a whole new ecosystem for the content economy. Market forces of supply and demand will be key. Creators who provide high-quality content will be definitely in demand, and therefore will get paid. The token economy flows will depend on the quality of content and the revenue model used for content sharing. At the same time, users with low quality content will be unable to gain substantial exposure."
Q8. Do you foresee the rise of advertising and web content-related projects, such as Brave Browser's BAT, affecting ASQ? Are these kinds of projects a fundamentally different way of approaching the same problem (domination of the Internet by a handful of advertising giants)? Are these compatible with ASQ?
"We don't consider BAT as a primary competitor, since the aim of that system is providing privacy for surfing the Internet and anonymously capturing user attention to reward publishers directly. At ASQ Protocol we are focusing on content creation, sharing and consumption. ASQ provides a front-end methodology for determining the importance of quality content, thereby providing different monetization models for customers and business units."
Q9. Is ASQ at risk of becoming the next Internet gatekeeping giant if it succeeds?
"The ASQ Protocol’s mission is to foster the growth of individuals and society at large by making original, high-value content available to everyone, everywhere. ASQ plays the role of an assistant for apps & platforms, so rather than becoming a gatekeeper, success would make ASQ more like a gateway. The ASQ Protocol has the potential to replace existing huge gatekeepers like Facebook or Twitter and other social media giants, since it provides a distributed protocol of trust where actions are transparent and visible to all."
Q10. If Facebook offered to buy Askfm for $10 billion, would you take it?