Recent scandals entangling the likes of Cambridge Analytica and Facebook have highlighted the abuse and exploitation of personal data.
The reasons of how and why this is permitted on such massive scale are beyond the scope of this review but suffice to say the only ones who benefit are those in control of the data.
At one end of the line we have the content creators, authors, artists and publishers who are poorly rewarded by receiving not only the minimum income for their work but also artificial and contrived marketing information regarding their target audience.
On the other end, we have the consumer who has some limited access to the content and products they desire but are often swamped and misled by spam advertising and messaging constrained only by the agenda of the controlling entity.
That controlling authority sits in the middle, between the creators and consumers, dictating how the data is interpreted, used and monetised.
MEDIA Protocol disagree with this model.
At the heart of MEDIA Protocol is a simple concept – remove the middleman from the equation.
They are of the opinion that both the creator and end user are best served by interacting directly without any intermediary extracting information or wealth from the transaction.
In order to achieve this streamlining, MEDIA Protocol propose to create an ecosystem that is mutually beneficial for the provider of the content and the consumer.
The process will allow the creator to reward users for interacting with their product.
This may involve buying the product outright or, just as easily, be related to liking, sharing or commenting about the item. Answering a survey or posting a question could also be rewarded.
The creator will have full control of how much is given and specify what criteria needs to met to trigger the reward.
Once the consumer is in receipt of a reward they can choose how to utilise it. They may wish to use it to pay for a paid article on another creator’s website for example, tip artists and authors they like or trade it for other assets such as Bitcoin.
White-Paper and Roadmap
MEDIA Protocol have issued a White-paper and a separate Business-paper. The former is classed as the project’s technical paper while the latter focuses more on the business proposition and the state of the digital content and advertising market.
Splitting the content into two publications aids potential investors when researching the project. Besides a slight, and understandable, duplication of including the team’s basic details in both papers, the idea is cleanly arranged and well delivered.
It is worth noting, though, that there are a couple of features that are noticeable by their absence.
One significant omission is a roadmap. Although the past and present milestones are provided within the context of the documents, no time-stamped goals are outlined for the future development of the project.
The other is a marketing plan for the product roll-out. This is striking because media marketing is central to this particular project and the team patently excel in this specialised area of business. The paper contains plenty of in-depth analysis of the the subject, includes case studies and even infers elements which could be utilised but avoids committing to any particular course of action for MEDIA Protocol themselves. Without question they have all the tools and know how so it could be this is a deliberate choice for commercial reasons.
Whatever the reason, it serves little purpose to dwell on this at this early stage as the project itself appears to be in its embryonic stages. A roadmap and detailed marketing plan should be expected later.
The platform runs on top of the Ethereum blockchain and is designed to be user-friendly, particularly for content creators who will require little to no technical knowledge to add to a commerce site.
In formulating the platform, as well as making the adoption easy for publishers, the team followed several key criteria including:
● Enable dApp creators to provide a slick, frictionless user experience to consumers;
● Maximise existing crypto infrastructure (such as ERC20) and the benefits it provides, such as tried-and-tested algorithms and existing wallet software;
● Ensuring leverage of existing web standards where useful and possible;
● Provide mechanisms to foster an ecosystem around the protocol (e.g., affiliate fees for dApp creators);
● Protect against fraud and bad actors.
Judging from the early feedback from the MVP (see below) satisfactory ticks can be penciled in for this essentials list.
While the benefits to end users and creators maybe self explanatory it is worth spending a moment to look at the monetisation of the web page URLs on the platform.
Both traditional publishers (the Financial Times, ICO Examiner, etc) or brands/promoters who are creating content for marketing purposes can produce any media type (i.e.: long or short articles, video, audio or images) and can use their URL with MEDIA Protocol.
Any URL can be registered against an Ethereum account and form part of a transaction between content publishers, promoters, distributors and consumers.
The creators can then promote their content using the protocol, as well as receive paywall payments and/or tips from users. The URL publishers can also assign any chosen amount from their current balance of MEDIA Protocol tokens to promote the URL itself.
These MEDIA Protocol tokens are used to reward consumers that interact with the URL (and to pay fees to any affiliate distributors) through apps that interface with the smart contract.
This granular structure of trackable interactions with verified consumers provide more trusted metrics for the publishers than is currently available.
One final point is that anyone can register a URL using MEDIA Protocol to promote and incentivise content consumption. This allows brands to promote content they have not created and do not directly control.
The rewards offered by content promoters work the same way as the ones offered by the actual URL publishers but it will only be a one-way economy and content promoters will not be able to receive tips from consumers, nor set up any paywall activity.
As well as rewarding consumers directly for interacting with content, content promoters may also reward the actual creators or publishers based on the number of interactions with their content. So, for example, a blogger who discusses a certain product could be directly incentivised by the product manufacturer.
In addition, MEDIA Protocol will also provide a mechanism for popular UGC sites that do not allow authors to customise meta tags, such as YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, Medium, etc, where the author could embed the address somewhere only they have access to (such as a YouTube video description).
Minimal Viable Product (MVP)
CryptoCatnip is the first dApp to incorporate MEDIA Protocol and it demonstrates a model of content distribution. It may be just a simple news aggregator that brings together recent crypto-created content but it serves to showcase the advantages of the protocol for publishers and consumers.
The dApp incentivises content interactions and tracks them through the blockchain, to personalise and recommend content feeds for the user.
Over a 1,000 installs are showing on the Google Play store with a satisfaction rating of 3.7 out of 5.
The advertised features include:
- Navigate and personalise content feeds with like/dislike swipe gestures.
- Be rewarded with MEDIA Tokens for interacting with content (e.g., read, like or share an article).
- Encourage preferred content creators by donating earned MEDIA tokens.
- MEDIA Token is a cryptocurrency token and will be exchangeable for fiat currencies in the future.
- CryptoCatnip is completely free and has no in-app purchases.
A free download of CryptoCatnip is available for Android at Google Play and IOS devices at the App Store or can be found at www.getcryptocatnip.com/
A solid team has been assembled to bring MEDIA Protocol’s vision to life.
Included in many of their imbedded LinkedIn profiles is an employment history with London-based Codec.AI, the internet analysis company acting as the start-up incubator for the Media Protocol project.
As such, it is reasonable to assume they have already achieved a certain level of co-operation, inter-dependency and teamwork.
Within the group they appear to have the right balance of media and advertising industry knowledge and technical know-how to position the company correctly within the market and roll-out the necessary platform.
CEO, James Tabor, has over ten years of advertising and commercial rights experience, specialising in data analysis startups. With these projects he focused on implementing technology to process the huge amount of data used to communicate with consumers, and in turn change the way that media and advertising works.
Heading up the technical side in the position of CTO is Mark White who has previously been involved with top tier companies such as Camelot and lastminute.com as well as being a lead architect with Expedia.
The Blockchain specialist on the team is Josef Sevcik who, prior to designing and implementing the protocol and content distribution system for DECENT, was a Solution Architect at Ericsson.
The listed advisers are recognisable personalties and have relevant experience in the marketing and media sector or in the crypto-space including successful initial coin offerings of their own. They will be working on the project in addition to the support provided by official partners and investors, namely Wachsman, AmaZix, Kenetic Capital and TLDR.
As mentioned above, future marketing is currently a grey area but the team have been very active in their pre-ICO networking activities.
Participating in global exhibitions has played a preliminary role in establishing their market presence. These events have varied in size but have included the World Economic Forum in Davos in February as well as ‘the big 3’ this month in New York – Consensus, Ethereal and Token Summit.
By putting their name and product out there at these events, they have raised awareness among the cryptocurrency community and wider financial institutions. At this early stage their Telegram group has around 11,500 members.
As the project is currently in private pre-sale, no ICO tokenomics have been officially announced. It is expected that further details will be released after the company has concluded the current round of exhibitions where they would naturally be looking to entice large corporate investors.
In a recent interview on Youtube video, the CEO intimated that only 13.2% of tokens would be available in the public crowdsale and for which MEDIA Protocol would be looking to raise a softcap 0f $3 million and a hardcap of $15 million. These figures do not appear too enticing at first glance and further clarification would obviously be needed before any investment decision was made.
Even without the recent disclosures of social media data abuse it would have been hard to disagree with MEDIA Protocol’s interpretation that no middlemen are needed in the transfer of data, content and reward.
As the depth and reach of those scandals become wider known, the need to change the present system will become self-evident to even the most die-hard Facebook fan.
The question remains though, who will be the driver of that change? MEDIA Protocol have a clear vision of what is needed and appear to have positioned themselves in a unique position where there are no direct competitors to them taking on that mantle. While the likes of POET and even STEEM may have some overlap on the content side, it is perhaps the Brave platform and their BAT token who are the nearest in terms of the overall aims, but even here there are significant differences of approach.
With a minimum viable product already available, workable platform, quality team and advisers, MEDIA Protocol certainly merits further consideration.
How far that consideration goes for potential investors though will ultimately depend on the company nailing down a coherent roadmap and probably most important of all, establishing the ICO tokenomics at the earliest opportunity.