Decentralized Social Media and the Future of Content Creationby@scottdclary
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Decentralized Social Media and the Future of Content Creation

by Scott D. ClaryJune 6th, 2022
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Decentralized social media is where users have control over their data, and can choose to share or keep it private. This is in stark contrast to centralized social media platforms like Facebook, which owns all user data and can do whatever it wants with it. The prospect of decentralized social media, where creators have more control and a share of the profits, is incredibly exciting. Pearl S. Buck: The future of social media and the future of content creation is exciting for content creators such as myself.

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The young do not know enough to be prudent, and therefore they attempt the impossible — and achieve it, generation after generation. — Pearl S. Buck

In my time as an interviewer of highly successful people, I’ve always been amazed at the way people build businesses and tackle new, and emerging industries. I’ve spoken to such a large co-hort of amazing individuals, but I’m still astounded by the genius that comes out of incredible futurists that try and solve new problems in ways I’ve never thought possible. They’re creative, daring, and intelligent. They have a vision and go after it full force, knowing full well that the thing their building has no roadmap or game plan and every single aspect of the business they’re building, they’ll have to figure out for themselves.

Recently I spoke with Luke Lintz, a serial entrepreneur who stepped out of an economics class at 16 to organize his first e-commerce business. 90 days later he sold his entire $8,000 inventory at an ROI of 375 percent. And get this — he’s 22 years old, already the founder of an incredibly successful business venture called Highkey Enterprises LLC.

Talking to this guy was like a whirlwind. We spoke about everything from entrepreneurship, to dropshipping failures, to crypto and more. When I walked away, head spinning, I was stuck on one topic in particular: decentralized social media and the future of content creation.

This is something I was excited to flesh out in an article, because I think it holds a lot of weight for content creators such as myself. Stick with me — let’s dive into this fascinating topic headfirst.

Intro to decentralized social media

Luke Lintz has his hand in everything lucrative. His team at Highkey Enterprises went headfirst into the influencer and celebrity space, helping creators grow their social media presence through their company Highkey Agency.

With 90 percent of their net worth in crypto, and their own high-performing coin/NFT project called Fraternity Apes Party, they were also heavily invested in blockchain technology. This unique crossroads between social media and crypto is where Luke developed a passion for the incredible possibilities the blockchain held for the future — in particular, decentralized social media.

I’d only heard about this concept in passing, so I was interested to hear Luke’s insights. He told me about a blockchain called DeSo. It’s designed as the foundation for decentralized social media platforms and apps, and Luke is in full support of the concept it stands for.

“We’re heavy believers in the aspect of decentralized social media. We think that decentralized social media is 100% the next step — giving people ownership back over their content, giving people ownership of the platform, giving people control of advertisements.”

This struck a cord with me immediately. For the longest time, creators have been getting screwed by social media channels; they make money off of the eyeballs looking at talented creators, while the creators themselves get crumbs. The prospect of decentralized social media, where creators have more control and a share of the profits, is incredibly exciting.

The future of social media

The idea of decentralized social media is that users have control over their data, and can choose to share or keep it private. They also have control over the distribution of their content. This is in stark contrast to centralized social media platforms like Facebook, which owns all user data and can do whatever it wants with it.

Short for Decentralized Social, DeSo is one of these up-and-coming platform hosts. It’s a level one blockchain that enables decentralized social media applications and platforms. Decentralized essentially means that there is no central authority controlling the network; there is no one company or individual owning and managing the platform. It’s entirely community-owned.

“There are already tons of applications built on it,” Luke explained, “But it’s nowhere near where we believe that it’s going to be.”

Here’s an excerpt from the DeSo visionary statement:

Today, a post submitted to Instagram, TikTok, or Twitter belongs to these corporations, rather than the creator who posted it. And the monetization goes predominantly to these corporations as a result.

In contrast, DeSo stores all of its data on a public blockchain, which means that anyone in the world can run a node that exposes their own curated feed.

On top of that, storing all of the data on a public blockchain makes it so that, with one engineer, anyone can build a social media experience that’s competitive with the existing incumbents.

It cannot be overstated the extent to which this lowers the barrier to entry for creating new social media products. It becomes possible for existing publishers to trivially spin up social apps and experiences as direct adjacencies to their core business, and allows upstarts to innovate on a relatively even footing with megacorps for the first time.

While DeSo is just one company of many undoubtedly to come, it gives a good idea of what we can expect.

Why we need a new social platform

If you haven’t heard of the decentralized social media trend, you might be wondering — what’s wrong with the platforms we already have?

Lots, as it turns out. Especially if you’re a content creator.

Centralized social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube have several major problems for creators. For one, the platforms can (and do) change their algorithms without warning, dramatically affecting how much traffic a creator’s content receives.

The platforms also have a history of arbitrarily deleting content, often for no reason. They don’t skimp out on their ad revenue collection, either — creators often see their videos demonetized without warning or explanation.

In short, centralized social media platforms are not creator-friendly. They’re owned and controlled by massive companies that don’t always have creators’ best interests at heart.

You don’t own your data

It’s been a commonly known fact for a while now that when you sign up to a social media platform, you are essentially paying in personal data. Now, I know what you’re thinking — but content creators still own their creations, don’t they?

That’s both a yes and a no. If you look at the privacy policies of platforms like Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram, you’ll see that they all reserve the right to use your content in any way they choose. They can sell it to advertisers, use it in marketing materials, or do whatever else they please with it.

Of course, you still own your content. You made it, and it’s your intellectual property. But while you own the content, the platform you posted it on owns the copyright. So, even though you created it, you don’t have control over what happens to it.

(The fifty-six photos of your cats are probably safe. But if they show up down the line in an ad for new cat food, you know who to blame.)

What this means for content creators

Although it’s rare to see a social media platform outright stealing content and using it for their own gain, it does happen — just in more subtle ways. They bookend your videos with ads for revenue. They sell your data to the highest bidder. They take most of the profits and give you a tiny slice.

In the current system, content creators are at the mercy of these platforms. They can do whatever they want with your content, and there’s not much you can do about it. If you don’t like it, you can always leave — but then where will you go? The next platform might do the same thing.

This is where decentralized social media comes in. With a decentralized platform, content creators have more control over their creations. They can choose to share them, sell them, or keep them private. They also have a say in how the platform is run and can be rewarded for their contributions.

This could mean a lot more money for content creators. In a centralized social media platform like Facebook, the creator gets around $0.50 per 1000 views. With a decentralized one, they could potentially make a lot more.

Could decentralized platforms make content creation liveable?

Decentralized social media is an exciting concept, but as Luke pointed out to me, it’s nowhere near developed enough yet to be a viable solution. It’s still in its early stages and has a lot of growing to do. These things should never be crowned a hero until we’ve seen results.

But that doesn’t mean the concept itself can’t succeed. In fact, I believe that platforms built on decentralized blockchain have the potential to save our content creators. Here’s another great excerpt from the whitepaper, which simply describes the state of content creation:

Today, social media is even more centralized than the financial industry was prior to the creation of Bitcoin. A handful of private companies effectively control public discourse, and earn monopoly profits off of content that they don’t even create.

Meanwhile, the creators who actually produce this content are underpaid, under-engaged, and under-monetized thanks to an outdated ads-driven business model.

In addition to all of this, the ads-driven business model also forces social media companies to keep a walled garden around content created on their platforms, preventing external developers from innovating or building apps on top of it, and giving users and creators no choice but to continue using apps that solely they control.

Imagine if this style of social media was overturned for something more fair and profitable for creators? My imagination is running wild with the possibilities this could open up for content creators like myself.

How we could benefit from decentralized social media

The potential outcomes of decentralized platforms are twofold:

1. They could create a more level playing field for content creators, giving them a better way to monetize their content and engage with their audience. This would be done through the use of tokens that allow for micro-transactions between creators and consumers.

2. These platforms could also lead to the development of decentralized social media platforms that are able to compete with the likes of Facebook and Twitter. Users would have more control over their data, and content would be less centralized.

It might sound a little punk rock to some people, but believe me, this isn’t a matter of ‘f*ck the man’ — it’s a matter of giving creators a better way to actually make a living. Right now, it’s just not happening.

Herbert Lui, author of Creative Doingwrote an excellent comparison of average YouTube creator incomes and the US minimum wage salary. He found that 96.5 percent of YouTubers were likely not making a livable income from their channel.

Meanwhile, YouTube and other social media platforms make billions from ad revenue and subscription fees. There’s the problem we’re trying to solve. Hopefully, decentralized initiatives can begin to change that.

Are there any drawbacks?

Unfortunately, creators won’t earn much at all from DeSo and similar tech in their early days. Viewership and engagement will be required to drive up the prices of tokens, and it could take a while for the system to stabilize.

There are also options to tokenize your audience via a variety of different mechanisms like NFT’s but early success requires a previously existing audience.

In addition, there’s always the potential for scams or misuse on decentralized platforms. There have already been scandals around stolen money and unmet promises with certain projects.

However like all new innovations, there will always be people that try and take advantage (like the early days of the internet, pre .com crash), but do your due diligence and build ethically and responsibly and, I believe that these risks are worth taking in order to create a more fair and equitable online landscape, and my interview with Luke has only reinforced this belief.

Where do we go from here?

I’m not writing to tell anyone to boycott YouTube. I love YouTube, and I use it to reach a large audience with my content. It’s a valuable tool, and I’m grateful for it.

But if you’re a creator, it’s important to be aware of the ways in which you’re giving up control of your content. It’s also crucial to keep your thumb on the pulse of new technologies that could liberate your work and help you to monetize it in a more sustainable way.

We need to be proactive about our content, and find ways to own it — both online and off. Decentralized social media is an emerging solution, and with it, there is the hope that creators will one day be on more equal footing with the ‘big guys’. I’m excited to see where it goes.

If you’re interested in hearing more from Luke Lintz, there’s so much of his story and so many snippets of wisdom that I didn’t cover here. Go check him out on the Success Story Podcast (the full episode can be found here.)

Are you a content creator? How have you dealt with the challenges of content ownership? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Thanks for reading!