Audience Engagement Digital Innovation Top Stories
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Can DAOs narrow the gap between publishers and their audiences?

If you don’t subscribe to Brian Morrissey’s newsletter, can we recommend you do? Morrissey is the President/EIC at Digiday Media and his Substack newsletter (The Rebooting) picks out trends months before his Digiday colleagues have even got a sniff of them.

Fast forward to summer 2021 and Morrissey has correctly identified DAOs as something publishers should keep an eye on. What’s a DAO? Decentralized autonomous organizations are an entity with no central leadership where decisions get made from the bottom-up, governed by a community with a passionate interest in the subject matter. Importantly, they are organized around a specific set of rules enforced on a blockchain – Coin Telegraph describes them as ‘internet-native organizations collectively owned and managed by their members’.

What’s this got to do with publishing? Decrypt, the blockchain and crypto website founded in 2018 with backing from ConsenSys, the NY-based Ethereum infrastructure company, is using a DAO to give its audience a voice in the content the media brand produces (the crypto world, in general, has been experimenting with DAOs as a way to involve their communities in the decision-making process but not media brands).

In our latest experiment, Decrypt is looking to reward our NFT holders by giving them a bigger say in the educational content our editorial team produces next. 

Matt Hussey, Co-founder, Decrypt

Decrypt used a platform called Snapshot, a voting tool used by many crypto projects to poll their user bases. Users simply connect their wallet to Snapshot’s website and it allows a vote to be cast on any open proposals on the site:

Where Snapshot scores highly is that it allows projects to seek out their most dedicated members who hold the chosen cryptocurrency and asks them to make decisions. By ensuring it only involves committed members, voters tend to have the best interests of the project at heart.

Decrypt’s Discord channel was then used to invite readers to participate in the Snapshot poll, giving a selection of potential articles to choose from. Here’s a grab from Decrypt’s own website:

The campaign ran for fourteen days and 10% of Decrypt’s NFT holders (earned by reading and sharing articles) voted in the poll, a percentage which according to Hussey mostly matched expectations. You can read Decrypt’s first DAO-selected article here and Decrypt says it will be running further experiments to ‘bring Web3 technologies to our millions of readers’.

It’s still early days but, as Morrissey writes, DAOs ‘hold the promise of changing the dynamic between owners, creators and audiences’. What muddies the water slightly is that the precise legal status of DAOs is still being thrashed out although DOAs aren’t alone in that regard – much of the blockchain space is a grey area with the SEC’s action against Ripple Labs a prime example of how Government legislature is struggling to come to grips with blockchain tech. That said, on July 1, 2021, Wyoming became the first state to recognize DAOs as a legal entity, so events are moving fast.

Watch this space.

(Editor’s note: Matt Hussey has left Decrypt and now works for blockchain infrastructure specialist NEAR Protocol)