The Blockchain is Here to Save Journalism, Says CEO of Po.et Startup
"Do we open up a marketplace that’s similar to sports free agency?"
Jarrod Dicker, the former head of innovation at the Washington Post, has a simple answer for what ails journalism.
“One of the biggest issues we’ve seen today is we really don’t know what a piece of content should cost,” he tells Inverse. “We sell subscriptions at a cost, but we don’t really know what that cost should be. It’s a constant guessing game of how to make enough money to fuel the mission.”
That word — “mission” — speaks to what drives much of modern journalism. It’s an industry always trying to strike the uneasy balance between the noble goal of informing the public and the tricky reality that, historically, it’s been damn difficult to convince said public it’s worth paying to be informed.
Dicker recently left the Post to take up his new role as the CEO of Po.et, a startup that wants to use the blockchain to redefine how writing and content are valued. Built on the same tech that powers bitcoin, Po.et offers creators an opportunity not just to register and assert ownership of their work, but also to reach audiences that might not otherwise discover their work.
“The beauty of Po.et and it being on the blockchain is it’s decentralized and open source,” he says. “It’s open to anyone to build on. At its best, Poet is a shared, decentralized ledger for registering licensing, attributing metadata, about creators’ portfolios of work.”
If this model takes off, Po.et would give creators a way to bypass traditional gatekeepers — like, say, the Washington Post — and get their content out there. The ability for creators to see every licensing request they receive for their work — and how much people are willing to pay — would, Dicker says, give them a better way to gauge the actual value of their pieces and determine whether they have the kind of support from readers they need to strike out independently.
“Do we open up a marketplace that’s similar to sports free agency?” Dicker asks rhetorically. “With brands and the communities setting a new price, we might find this is more expensive and more valuable than we thought.”
Decentralization is crucial to the model’s success. It’s not just a question of providing an alternative to traditional intermediaries — indeed, Dicker is hopeful that legacy media and other journalistic institutions can benefit from what Po.et offers — but also giving audiences a more direct way to affect the value of a work. Like any good blockchain tech, there’s an initial coin offering involved to help user apportion how much different pieces of content are worth.
“We’re enabling the users to build marketplaces, and through that they will come to content,” he says. “And they are rewarded if they are able to scout out certain deficiencies in it and find the core truth.”
The hope here, Dicker says, is that decentralizing media can in turn help democratize it. That’s why he says he decided to come aboard and take this gamble on the future of media.
“What interested me most about coming here is it’s not the sole purpose of one winner, it’s the belief that everyone can win,” he says. “And I hope and believe that we’re the ones who are going to do it.”