Strange things are afoot. The creator economy collided with the crypto movement, setting off a mushroom cloud of cosmic dust called the ownership economy. Or, if you’re one of the cool kids, web3.
My curiosity about this space has been heating up, and last week I decided to dig in. So I gathered some of the smartest web3 experts I know – Jarrod Dicker, Zoe Scaman, and Patrick Rivera – and we chopped it up on Twitter Spaces. Thanks to their insights, I now grok the basics of web3. But I still feel like a stranger wandering into an underground party that’s already raging at full tilt.
I’ve written before about the importance of having a beginner’s mind. I’ve learned the hard way about the dangers of resting on past success and taking knowledge for granted. Getting stuck in a fixed worldview leaves you with blind spots shading over new possibilities.
Over 15 years of digital media boom and bust cycles, my peripheral vision has a few dark corners. During the last twelve months, I’ve contemplated new paths. I felt a hunger to reinvent myself. My inner voice told me it was time to venture outside of the media world.
But in the last few months, my eyes have opened to a parallel media universe that’s exciting again.
First came the newsletter revival: a simplification of delivery format and business model that removes the excesses and pitfalls of the scale era.
Then the creator economy: a re-concentration of power and attention in the individual, along with the tools to cultivate and monetize communities.
And now, the ownership economy: the blockchain-enabled infrastructure to assign and share ownership rights and future economic upside, to the benefit of creators and fans alike.
Now, all three are merging into a supernova of web3 possibility. I’m not quite sure where it’s going. But the genie is out of the bottle, and it's not going back.
If you're a creator or media operator, step one is to wrap your head around the space. The next step is to figure out your entry point. I asked Patrick, and here's what he said:
Once you look past the superficial headlines about record-setting NFT sales, you’ll find a wealth of exciting media-oriented web3 projects.
With thanks to Zoe, Jarrod, Patrick and Wong Joon Ian for guiding me down the path, here are a handful that I’m currently excited about:
- Mirror: Mirror has cemented itself as the marquee publishing platform for web3. They’ve even gamified the process of joining the platform. Here, Jarrod shares his thoughts on Mirror, and explains their weekly $WRITE RACE:
- Seedclub: A social token incubator led by Jess Sloss, they recently announced their second cohort. The class includes a few media startups, an NBA Topshot analytics project, and a coffee shop. Yep, that's right.
- $GENERALIST: Mario Gabriele raised 20 ETH via a token sale on Mirror to fund his coverage of Coinbase’s IPO, with accompanying art from Jack Butcher. They then auctioned the resulting products as NFTs, to the benefit of the creators and token holders. 🤯
- Untitled Frontier: The brainchild of Simon de la Rouviere, Untitled Frontier calls itself a “shared story universe.” A collective of writers will contribute narratives around a common world. Fans following along can support the work by buying collectible NFTs. Sounds wild and experimental. Could it spawn the next MCU? Hey, crazier thinga have happened.
- PTM Token - Indie band Portugal. The Man created a community token using the Rally.io platform. Token holders get access to exclusive content, merch, and direct access to the band. It’s the fan club model, tokenized. I can see up and coming artists using this model to give early supporters the opportunity to literally invest in their success.
- Rally: A platform that enables creators to launch tokens. Besides PTM, their roster includes Twitch streamers, art collectives, and cosplayers. Founder Kevin Chou previously built mobile gaming behemoth Kabam (which started as sports social gaming startup Watercooler, where he and I originally crossed paths.)
- Kyle Chayka’s sketch for a NFT-based media company: Just a concept. For now. But this sketch presents a compelling case for what a digital publication can look like in a web3 world.
- 1729.com: A newsletter that pays you to make newsletters. Sounds like a Ponzi scheme? But maybe it’s not. From the galaxy brain of Balaji Srinivasan.
- FriendsWithBenefits: A tokenized community bringing together creators and technologists. Despite a recent hack which forced migration to a new token, they have a waiting list stretching over 3,000 people long. The community organizes around thematic seasons to encourage collective effort.
- MCX: Besides the ubiquitous NBA Topshot, Mark Cuban and the Dallas Mavericks have taken the lead when it comes to combining sports and web3. They can thank Zoe, who leads the strategy for the skunkworks MCX studio. She’s led them down the rabbit hole into a mashup of sports, pop culture, fandom, and crypto, resulting in drops like Cuban-minted NFTs. Here’s Zoe explaining why normies shouldn’t write off web3 as a fad:
Back in 2017, the first crypto boom felt like an unstoppable wave. You’d often hear that the smartest people were spending their time working on blockchain. Then the wave receded back into the ocean. The waters calmed, and the tourists picked up and moved on. Some declared crypto dead. But while few were paying attention, the hardcore crypto converts kept plugging away. And web3 is the result.
One of the most common criticisms of crypto has been that it’s a technology in search of utility. The speculation inspired by Bitcoin’s incredible price growth only strengthened that narrative. But now with web3 knocking on the mainstream door, actual use cases have arrived. They look and feel strange.
But you can’t build a bridge to the future without pushing the envelope of weirdness. Some of these wild swings will miss. But with all the experimentation, enthusiasm, and energy driving the movement, some will stick. So embrace the weirdness. It's not going anywhere.
You know it’s gonna get stranger, so let’s get on with the show.