Every time you open a website, go to Facebook or watch a YouTube video, there’s a transfer of value happening in the background.
A micropayment takes place – advertisers (they pay money to get your attention), publishers (they create content that you want to consume) and the ad platforms (they manage the relationship between the previous two).
What’s being traded is your attention. All these website banners, video ads on YouTube or sponsored stories on Facebook cost a microscopic amount of money per ‘unit of attention’ (a pageview). In total they create a multi-billion dollar business and form a lifeblood of the global online economy.
When people talk about the potential of the blockchain technology, they often mention banks as the ultimate middlemen to be disrupted. But behind our everyday browsing there is this invisible and highly sophisticated ad marketplace. Attention is money and the middlemen of ‘attention trading’ are the online advertising giants – Facebook, Google, Yahoo and many other advertising platforms.
Just pause for a while and consider how many micro-transactions you’ve triggered today, just because of your own browsing, app downloads or social networking. To use a financial world analogy – online advertising giants are clearing houses for micro-transactions between ‘attention creators’ (publishers, app developers) and ‘attention buyers’ (advertisers).
All these ‘money-for-attention’ exchanges take place on the internal, closed and proprietary ledgers of Google and Facebook allowing these companies to generate enormous amount of value by operating these ledgers.
With the blockchain protocols and technologies like Bitcoin, Ethereum, Counterparty or Open Transactions, we’ll be soon able to redesign this model and slowly eliminate the middlemen, allowing for a truly peer-2-peer, ‘attention exchange’ marketplace. This will put creators and curators back in the driver’s seat and enable a whole new range of business models based on content production and curation.
Think about investing in someone’s blog or even a comment. Being paid for sharing stuff that others find relevant or valuable. Becoming a shareholder in someone’s Instagram feed. Or even social network cooperatives where proceeds from ads are redistributed directly to the top contributors on the network. Possibilities are infinite here.
It’s a mind blowing stuff and there are teams already working on redesigning the value flows in social networks. Just look at the LTBcoin project pioneered by Adam B. Levine from the Let’s Talk Bitcoin Network.
To me the blockchain is not about the grocery store payments or even online ecommerce. The Mastercard debit card works just fine there and habits change slowly.
I expect the ‘blockchain’s killer app’ will emerge from the ‘attention economy’ and social networks where millions of users create and curate content every day. And it will happen sooner than we all expect.