Those from a certain generation will know the backstory to the title.
‘From the rock market to the stock market’ was the ad slogan of a famous television commercial, with a pinstriped executive dancing on his desk, that was used when Richard Branson took Virgin Group PLC public in 1986.
Over 30 years later, that slogan is incredibly relevant to The Future Shapers. This thought piece will trace the line from Rockonomics and David Bowie to The Future Shaper innovation platform, our vision for a pay-per-read model, and our Crowdfunding raise with Crowdcube at which are asking for your help.
It will also lift the lid on the disruptive capabilities of Blockchain and Smart Contract technologies and why we believe that a world in which single thought piece sales will become commonplace in digital news journalism.
Practicing what we preach
In the past I have written about our founding principle being ‘Next Generation Organisations deserve Next Generation guidance’ and our community of Future Shapers sole aim of helping businesses and other organisations to shape and create innovation-led futures. We also believe in practicing what we preach and are boldly re-imagining the digital provision of thought leadership and essentially digital news journalism around innovation; how it is produced and delivered, how it is funded and most importantly, how it can serve macro, global and diverse communities, not advertisers.
We believe the current news media model is broken because the reliance on advertising has caused media outlets to chase clicks, rather than create value for media and thought leadership consumers. The result? Fewer stories of importance are told or heard. Less and less independent cutting edge thought leadership is created. The Future Shapers and our innovative platform intend to change this.
The growing, unmet demand for high-quality, trustworthy and value adding thought leadership in innovation has manifested in a significant business opportunity. Having already provided 2-years of innovation thought leadership that has reached tens of thousands of readers we have a fantastic plan for revenue growth and will be one of the first media companies in the Innovation Thought Leadership domain to seize this rare moment to reinvent an industry.
We have been free to air model to establish a readership base and as we always intended we are now looking to introduce a payment component for the thought leadership as we believe that people are comfortable paying for insightful, value adding, consumable thought leadership in the same way people stream and pay for songs from artists.
We don’t think a subscription-based model is the way to go and consider it analogous to gym membership or going into the likes of Starbucks and being asked to pay for your coffee as an annual subscription.
The genesis of what we are going to do, and the 50% of our funding request, comes from my time when I was Innovation Director at CGI. I spent for a good few years advising clients on the impacts of emerging technologies. During this period the Bitcoin Blockchain and all its variants Ethereum, Ripple, Stellar came to life.
This array of offerings whilst essentially financial have a much wider applicability in other sectors as was shown in the Beyond Blockchain report I worked on with the Government Office for Science.
In 2015, before The Future Shapers was born I wrote a piece for CGI entitled Beyond the hype : Delivering on the Blockchain’s Potential. It is still relevant today, here’s an extract.
Disruptive journey ahead of us.
I also related to the idea that the disruption of the Blockchain is more likely to come from a solution for dishwasher warranties rather than an attempt to overthrow governments. The real strength of its disruption is the ability to offer a vehicle to protect and reward the digital and creative industries. Whilst we started in the world of payments and financial services, the thought of applying a blockchain concept coupled with a Kobalt type offering really does have incredible potential to disrupt the Music and Media content ecosystems. Just the start of the art of the possible, the journey will be bumpy, take longer and be more costly but the genie is out of the bottle. All this and we were supposed to be beyond the hype.
Already, blockchain’s potential to disrupt content rights distribution is coming to fruition in the music business. Streaming services such as Spotify and Deezer require an additional layer of intermediaries to ensure that the artists’ rights management process is conducted properly. As a result, content creators need different contracts in each jurisdiction, often via multiple intermediaries, to project their copyright and to enable distribution of their content.
When you consider Spotify pays, on average, between $0.006 and $0.008 per stream, for 12 million plays on You Tube you get £65, and if you get on to the BBC’s six plays a week you earn £75. The only way to make money is to be able to sell out 2,000-seat or larger venues. Any tour, any gig, for any size of band has basic running costs – transport, crew, PA. So, unless you sell over 2,000 tickets you’re losing money.
Alan Krueger, the Princeton economist and co-author of the 2005 paper Rockonomics: The Economics of Popular Music, described this post-Napster music industry using what he called at the time “Bowie theory”. Back in the 80s and 90s, Krueger concluded, most artists made most of their money from music sales, using tours as promotional vehicles for their latest album. U2 sold 14 million copies of The Joshua Tree in its year of release, earning the band around $37 million (£28m) in the US. The original 111-date Joshua Tree tour grossed roughly the same, at $40 million.
Then post-Napster and the introduction of the Apple Music store, Pandora, Spotify and so on, the link between recorded and live revenues was severed, a trend spotted by David Bowie in 2002 when he told The New York Times, “Music itself is going to become like running water or electricity. Artists better be prepared for doing a lot of touring, because that’s really the only unique situation that’s going to be left.”
But putting content on a blockchain, and having the connectivity for peer-to-peer transactions – via a digital currency such as Bitcoin or a smart contract such as Ethereum – allows complete transparency and automation of execution, as well as direct payments to copyright holders. New startups such as Choon, Jaxx, and Voise propose using the blockchain to simplify digital-rights management by passing the usual intermediaries. This enables micro-payments from fans buying music directly from the artist themselves and essentially reconnect value to music and the artist.
Returning Knowledge Back to Knowledge
Around the world, news media companies are proving that subscriptions and memberships can replace advertising revenues. Just as the internet revolutionized the way people pay for music and television, audiences are increasingly willing to pay for high-quality journalism content. With 3.4 billion internet users worldwide and 12 percent annual growth in smartphone users, we can imagine a world in which global news media subscriptions reach Spotify (50 million) and Netflix (95 million) levels.
According to Ofcom in 2017, Britons spend 49 percent of their media time consuming digital products, with television, radio and print making up the rest. Readers are already paying hundreds of millions of dollars a year for digital news subscriptions, an amount that will triple in 10 years. Growth will be driven by millennials and senior executive technologists, our core audience. We have identified a target audience of early adopters — influential and engaged executives and agents of change who are deeply passionate about innovation and are increasingly able and willing to pay for quality trustworthy thought leadership.
Become a Founding Member of The Future Shapers
We are now looking to take our platform to the next level. Our goal; to build the largest innovation thought leadership reader base and be considered as the go-to-place for innovation insight. As such, we’re extending our digital platform to enable the re-correlation of knowledge to value. We plan to develop an Ethereum smart contract to enable and support our pay as you read model. We passionately believe that single article sales are the future of online media and we are asking for your help and contributions to assist us in bring it to life.
We’re asking you, our technologists and agents of change, to fund this new model of innovation thought leadership. Not to donate so a few more blogs can be written about a hot topic or two, but rather to invest in a long-term solution to the provision of well researched, consumable, value-adding thought leadership.
Just as we believe that great thought leadership is now needed like never before, we believe that media that exists to serve our community of readers via a value-adding product should be worth paying for. So, help us build the next generation of media platforms by becoming a Founding Member of The Future Shapers.
By investing, you will enable us to reach an audience of tens of thousands through our continued media partnerships and grow our community of paying members, all eager to engage in constructive discussion about ideas and innovation-led solutions that matter.
By investing, you’ll enable us to build the most innovative technology solution that can start to ‘return value back to knowledge’ and enable you to launch, lead and be part of Next Generation Organisations.
We also hope that as we grow, others will too. We want our success to inspire the arrival of diverse new media organizations across the world; progress long overdue after years of industry contraction.
Ours is a disruptive domain that needs the collaboration of many strong voices combined with well-researched, value-adding thought leadership in order to help shape the future for all of us. The vanguards of any industry are the ones that aren’t passengers but ones that create and shape the future. So, invest in The Future Shapers, be part of the future, own part of the future.