New Publishing Tech
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Q&A: Goblin — monetizing content using readers’ computing power

Founded in Brooklyn, New York earlier this year, Goblin is an early-stage startup aiming to disrupt content distribution and monetization for publishers. Positioning itself as offering an ‘alternative to ads or paywalls’, WNIP caught up with its founder, Tarik Ansari, to find out more…

Can you give us some background about your company?

We only launched Goblin earlier this August, and whilst it doesn’t compete with ad revenues yet, it offers a compelling alternative to denying access to ad-block users, both by generating revenues and up-valuing subscription-only content. It harnesses cutting edge technical approaches that make use of cryptography and blockchain.

What business problem is your company addressing?

Goblin addresses a core problem: monetizing content for users with ad blockers who don’t want or cannot pay for a subscription, without devaluing, but rather up-valuing other offerings.

We are a content delivery network (CDN) that distributes a publisher’s content, but users cannot ad-block this content if they want to read it, and crucially these users won’t incur a publisher any CDN usage for the content portion.

In a nutshell, publishers get paid for their content with their visitors’ computing power.

What is your core product addressing this problem?

It’s fairly straightforward on the surface: Goblin asks your readers’ browser to solve computations and for every correct answer it receives, it streams back the next piece of content. Verifying that the computation is correct requires fewer resources than doing it in the first place, so your readers are in effect transferring value.

It’s essentially a form of crypto-mining – nothing wrong with that so long as it’s done ethically of course. This just a starting method though, we will be adding a compute marketplace where people will be able to buy CPU or GPU time for a specific profile of computations just as if it was a Cloud service, which is what I mean by “general computation”, this is expected to significantly increase revenues for both publishers and us.

The video below shows the tech better than any words can:

Can you give some examples of publishers successfully using your solution?

We only launched Goblin a few weeks ago, so it’s very early days. Salon.com undertook a groundbreaking experiment with CoinHive last year, which is an eon in the crypto world; but Goblin is a huge step forward – by distributing your content we prevent blocking or unethical use, and we are moving to general computation, not just transactions processing.

Pricing?

Publishers get paid 70% of the revenues generated by their readers.

What are other people doing in the space and why?

This space is moving fast with many major publications experimenting with paywalls, as well as browser vendors and authorities fighting for users’ privacy. While ad networks have benefitted in the past couple of years from major advances in machine learning and wider tracking nets, users are valuing their privacy more and more. There is nobody I am aware of who has taken our approach, so we are still the first compute-for-content distribution network. I think that’s disruptive and good timing.

How do you view the future?

At our end, we have a pretty wide-ranging but realistic roadmap, we are already working on adding new features and increasing revenues per user per minute, and will soon be working on video streaming, live streaming, etc. In short, numerous new features are planned to further support both publishers revenues and users’ privacy.

As for the bigger picture, I think the Internet really needs a native way to transfer value, a native currency if you will, that is directly supported by an extension, or browser. Credit cards don’t cut it, because you need to be able to process very small transactions at a very high rate if you want to charge people for just what they read — which I think is the best approach. The HTTP 1.1 RFC from 1999 actually included a 402 Payment Required response code reserved for future use, and some work is actually being done towards that now.*

Thank you.

* HTTP-Payments

Download WNIP’s comprehensive new report—50 Ways to Make Media Pay—an essential read for publishers looking at the multiple revenue opportunities available, whether it’s to reach new audiences or double down on existing super-users. The report is free and can be downloaded here.

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