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Earn money by viewing ads? How blockchain will disrupt the marketing industry in the years to come

Since the summer of 2020, I have been on a journey to learn about and understand the future implications that blockchain technology can offer. I had dabbled with cryptocurrencies like bitcoin and Ethereum back in 2017 but never really took the time to educate myself on the topic back then. But when COVID-19 hit in 2020, I wanted a personal project to learn something new instead of scrolling the news, and social media feeds all day long. So, this seemed a good time to figure out what blockchain technology and bitcoin were all about. However, when plunging into the rabbit hole of blockchain and cryptocurrencies, I did not realize that the implications of this technology could have such an impact on my profession in (digital) marketing.  

 

This blog post is an attempt to share my discoveries and enthusiasm on the potential of blockchain technology in marketing with people who haven’t pondered these implications yet. I have not come across many articles on this topic, so I thought there might be room for one. 

 

If you are completely new to blockchain technology, here is an excellent 6-minute video that explains in brief how blockchain works. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SSo_EIwHSd4 

A lot of the narrative around blockchains and crypto, in general, is very divisive, in my opinion; either excessive hype from the “believers” or very condemning from people who dismiss the technology or have not fully understood it. I dislike both approaches and try to remain objective because I realize that many of the solutions provided by blockchain are in their infancy. Nevertheless, I believe they will prove to be a better alternative to many solutions we are currently using in marketing and digital interactions in general. 

Trust and privacy issues are shadowing online marketing  

A lot of the discussion about the problems with online marketing revolves around a few significant issues: user privacy, unethical use of data by tech companies, personal information security, and advertisement overload. There is a continuous decay of trust online, with big internet companies harvesting and using their users’ data to make money without proper consent from the users of their services. People are now awakening to these issues. The introduction of new legislation such as the GDPR and the California Consumer Privacy Act steps in the right direction to create a sense of control for internet users on how their data is being used. Further, removing third-party cookies, mainly driven by internet browser companies, is also a step in addressing the privacy issues mentioned above.  

 

Although companies like Google offer invaluable services to many, a significant part of internet users think that the trade-off that a couple of companies are raking in billions of dollars yearly of internet users’ personal data does not seem like an entirely fair deal. At least not when the users do not have a transparent view of what their data is being gathered and used for.  

 

Blockchain technology can provide an alternative to the issues mentioned above in at least three ways:  

  • Better privacy as users can choose what information they share 
  • More security as there is no single “honey pot” to break into to get all user data  
  • Monetary incentives for internet users to view ads and share data with companies they trust voluntarily 

 

Although there is a lot more to be said about how blockchain can address the aforementioned security threats, the rest of this blog post focuses more on how blockchain technology could change how the online ad business could function in the future. 

Earn money by viewing ads?

Ads are considered a necessary nuisance nowadays by many internet users and a key component to free internet. But how would you feel about ads if you could choose to view them and get money by viewing them? Blockchain technology offers this possibility. As the nature of blockchain is decentralized, there is no middleman such as Facebook or Google to use your data and serve you ads. Instead, you would be part of the monetary exchange between the advertiser (the company that pays to show you the ad) and the publisher (the service/webpage that publishes the ad).  

Internet users could view ads in exchange for digital currency, such as cryptocurrency tokens, by using blockchain technology. Further, there is scope for this method to be extended to users sharing their data with certain companies or services. If you choose to share information about yourself, you will get more rewards. Users can then decide what they want to do with their currency/tokens: Use them to buy services or products online, exchange them for traditional money, or tip content creators they want to support.  

Does this sound futuristic and hype? Well, it is already possible today. The best example of this is the internet browser Brave (www.brave.com). Created by Mozilla Firefox co-founder and creator of Javascript programming language Brendan Eich, Brave aims to be the fastest and most privacy-centered internet browser and ad platform. Brave users can earn tokens in exchange for viewing ads. These tokens, called Basic Attention Tokens or BAT, can be considered frequent flyer points for watching ads. Brave users accrue BAT monthly based on how much they have used Brave and how many ads they have seen. 

Brave has more than doubled its users in a year and has 25 million monthly users (February 2021). As a result, the price of one BAT has been swinging from 0,25 € to almost 1,3 € in 2021. You can check the current price here (https://www.coingecko.com/en/coins/basic-attention-token).  Presumably, the value of BAT tokens will increase if/with more users adopting Brave, thus making it more attractive to advertisers and creating more competition.  

To give perspective on how much money you can potentially earn with Brave:  

I have personally used Brave for almost a year now on my laptop and my phone. During this time, I have received about 10 BAT worth of tokens.   

Blockchain will disrupt the creator economy as well 

I have used all my earned BAT to support a couple of crypto content creators that I have found helpful in my quest to understand the blockchain/crypto landscape better. I found it very cool that I can support these creators for their excellent work directly. Although my support to them has been modest in monetary terms, this led me to another revelation: blockchain will also disrupt the creator economy.  

With cryptocurrencies, it is easier than ever for you to support the content creators you like directly. Almost 1 million participants already accept BAT tokens. This could offer a new income channel for content creators and influencers. It could also make them less reliant on centralized platforms like YouTube or money from companies through influencer marketing. This would have profound effects on digital marketing too.  

The same disruption can occur in other digital services as well. For example, the compensation model for artists of, e.g., Spotify, is not based on which artist you listen to, as the vast majority of the money goes to the few artists that get the most plays in general. Through blockchain technology, users could allocate their monthly service fees to the artists they want to support. You can check Audius (audius.org) for an example of a “blockchain version” of Spotify. 

The implications for marketing do not stop here 

I see that there are many further implications for the marketing industry besides the ones mentioned above. E.g., more reliable marketing: Better ad fraud detection through blockchain technology, better transparency in ad serving, more accurate ad metrics, etc. I also think there are many things we are yet to discover. Adoption is still pretty slow, but Gartner estimated in 2019 that it would take five to ten years before blockchain technology becomes transformational in most industries. I think this same timeline applies to the marketing industry as well.  

I encourage all marketing professionals to spend a few hours learning about the basics of blockchain technology. I find the topic super fascinating and believe that know-how in this area is critical for understanding where our industry is heading. 

Further reading: 

f you are new to blockchain, here are a couple of books that I found helpful to familiarize the subject: 

I recommend the book for Finnish readers: Lohkoketju – tiekartta päättäjille.  This book is the first seminal book on blockchain written in Finnish. I found it very helpful and well-written without excessive hype.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/44429900-lohkoketju

Also available on Storytel as an ebook. 

 For English readers: The Truth Machine: The Blockchain and the Future of Everything is a good primer on the subject. I found this book also helpful and inspiring. 

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34964890-the-truth-machine?ac=1&from_search=true&qid=LqFC5LNh3s&rank=1.

This book is also available in Storytel as an audiobook. 

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Ville Fredrikson
August 25, 2021