The term NFT has already become a divisive one. There are all sorts of reasons to doubt, to critique, and potentially write them off as one of the weirdest and most expensive fads in history. I’m entirely open to the possibility that that might yet happen!
But there’s another possibility that they might live up to the potential that many think they have. That they could overcome some, or all, of the hefty hurdles that are heaped in the way of that. So, I wanted to write up why I got interested in the first place, and why we’re experimenting with at least some of the possibilities.
We’re interested in NFTs, first and foremost, because they might… might… allow creators to gain more control over how their art is shared and funds their future work.
And could… could… allow those same creators to offer much more to their own communities, building loyal trusting fans around their art, and giving them more than their art alone.
Let’s take a quick look at how that could work, and then I’ll get into why it’s still not quite there.
Creating Unique, Collectible Content
First, at a basic level, they’re a way to create genuinely unique and collectible digital content on the internet. That hasn’t really existed before.
Right now, you release an episode and it can be copied everywhere and anywhere. Even if you sell it behind a paywall, to your loyal audience, it can get out. Piracy was, and is, a problem for any content creator.
NFTs are unique, though, and represent something your audience can really own. That means it has value, and you, as an artist, a creator, can benefit from that value if you grow a genuinely loyal community around the good work that you do.
Content with Utility
But, that’s just the beginning really. Because they also have ‘utility’. That means that any NFT can carry coded-in functionality that makes them a tool for the owner, or a key to access other tools and resources. An NFT can be a membership card for a community, for a content catalog, or a course. It can be an access pass for a live event, an online game or a sports tournament. It can be an ID which allows the owner to own a part of an organisation, or a cooperative or a trust, and allow them to vote on what that org does, or how it works.
Because of that utility we, as content creators, can do so much to offer our listeners, our readers, our viewers… our fans… more, generate more trust and loyalty, and help our word spread even more widely.
Finally, it’s creative! Generative art doesn’t depend on the blockchain, but they go together like toast and jam. The blockchain makes generative art so much more compelling, through the ownership and utility that results. Generative audio has so much potential as a creative way to create really cool stuff around your podcast, and this is really what got me most excited. You’ll see what we’ve put together as a really basic, simple first example, but I’m planning to publish so many more ideas on how it could be used in future. The stories, the resources, the interviews that you can create in this way. It’s just so exciting.
“Should I get Into them Right Now?”
Bringing it back down to earth… I’ll be honest, this is all still a very big “if”.
There are some huge issues around NFTs in their current form.
Their environment impact, security, accessibility, copyright and more. I’ll talk about the environment element in particular, below.
But then, it’s early. Soooo early. Right now, it’s Orville and Wilbur testing out the first few models of their bed with wings.
Truthfully, I don’t think the average podcaster should get into this world right now.
The questions are too big, and the benefits too small, at this moment. I mean, would you get into the Wright brothers’ first aeroplane and launch it off a cliff…? It could fly… Likely it won’t!
But, our readers are asking about this, thinking about it, preparing.
And our mission is to help you guys to do everything and anything you want to related to your podcast.
So, we got interested, we started researching, creating and writing, so that we can help when the time’s right. That’s what this is all about. I think there’s a chance that NFTs can be an amazing way to grow a community, to offer them so much and to earn from your content as a result.
If the blockchain community can figure out how to solve the existing issues, (and I think many are working on it) then it could get there. And we want to be there to help you take part in that, when it does.
Enter the Podverse! A newsletter & discussion space for NFT-curious podcasters.
Together we’ll explore how creative audio could be combined with blockchain tech to help podcasters earn an income and grow their audience.
What About the Environmental Impact?
Let’s get into the biggest elephant in the room: the environmental impact.
Ethereum, the original and biggest smart contract chain, is a huge energy consumer.
Its background technology, running on a ‘proof of work’ principle, is pretty much designed to gobble up energy. That’s the investment that ‘miners’ make in exchange for the cryptocurrency they earn for running the blockchain.
Right now, it’s not in any way sustainable, and I wouldn’t recommend anyone use it. In fact, quite the opposite.
The people behind ETH claim that they’ll move to a different model – proof of stake – during 2022, which is far more efficient. But many are sceptical that’ll happen. If it does, though, it could make a big difference.
The positive side is that there are other Blockchains, such as Solana and Tezos, which already run on an alternative approach, known as Proof of Stake.
Proof of Stake doesn’t depend on computers doing ‘work’ and quaffing electricity by the kilowatt to run the network. Instead, mining happens by committing some of your currency to the network, to help it run. This is known as staking. You can’t use that currency as long as it’s staked, but you’ll earn interest on that stake. This uses a tiny, tiny fraction of the energy that Proof of work requires, and brings Crypto and NFTs down into the realm of any other use of the internet.
Something that slightly blew my mind when I started looking into this, but which is stupidly obvious in retrospect: every time you do a search on Google, it uses up energy. 1080 joules of energy to be (according to Google… 🤔) exact.
Of course it does! Probably just me, I’m a simple man, but it just never entered my head.
I think about my own power usage – computer, lights, heat – and I do my best to reduce that. But there’s also the actions I force on the internet. Searching on Google, posting a tweet, scrolling Instagram. Every time you do anything on the internet, it uses energy. That website’s servers have to spin just a tiny bit harder to deliver you the content you asked for.
So, this helps us put proof of stake vs proof of work in context, related to the other things we do every day, referencing Solana’s external research report.
Yes, it was commissioned by Solana themselves, even though it was external, so there’s reason to be sceptical, here, but I’m going to go deeper and find as many independent sources as I can on this in future to really inform what we do or recommend. If you know of any good, impartial numbers, please drop us a line!
This, in the meantime, gives us a comparison:
- 1 Google search: 1080J
- 1 Solana Transaction: 1837J (1.7 google searches)
- 1 LED bulb running for an hour: 36,000J (33 Google searches)
- 1 hour of running a fridge 810,000J (750 google searches)
- 1 ETH transaction: 692,820,000J (641,500 Google searches)
That is bonkers. It’s clear why ETH needs to change, or stop altogether.
But at least it puts in context proof of stake transactions. Right now, they’re comparable to one of the most basic actions on the internet: a couple of searches.
No doubt Solana’s energy use will change as the network grows and adapts. ETH is currently around 10x the size of Solana by market cap, though, so they’re not a million miles away, already.
Comparing to Existing Podcast Earning Methods
Currently, podcasters work to earn from their shows using tools like Patreon, Paypal, Memberful and many more.
I don’t have the numbers for these (send them in, if you do!), but it’s easy to imagine that signing up to something on Patreon, or Paypal, or Memberful could use as much energy as a Google search. Multiple pages, images, and background tools (including interacting with Stripe, Mastercard, VISA, etc) are all involved, after all.
It would be great to get figures on that in future, so we get a real comparison of Solana (or other more sustainable blockchain) NFTs vs existing monetisation methods.
What about IP on NFTs? Do I Own it Outright?
Possibly! Possibly not.
This is another of the troublesome areas in NFTs. There’s a whole story around Intellectual Property, which has been pretty controversial. It’s something you need to look into, whether you’re creating or buying one.
Every NFT should have a built-in IP agreement. This tells you what you can do with that NFT, other than simply sell it to someone else.
Some NFTs allow you to use the asset in any way you like. You make money from that IP by including it or using it elsewhere.
Imagine buying some rare NFTs – artworks, videos, music – and exhibiting them in a physical space. You could make an event of it, and sell tickets!
Or, you might create a cartoon that includes your NFT character and license it to a TV station. If the NFTs are famous, like the Bored Apes, or the Crypto punks, it’s like having a celebrity appear in your cartoon. That always makes it an easier sell!
There’s a band, right now, using Bored Apes NFTs as the band members, just like The Gorillaz did two decades ago. The hype around the Bored Apes has gained a tonne of media attention for the band, and the music they’re creating.
So, these things are happening.
But, crucially, others NFTs are much more restrictive in their IP… You might be able to sell the NFT, but you can’t use it to create anything else.
That’s all part of the flexibility of the medium though. Many of the best examples are making their NFTs entirely open to the world, so everyone can enjoy the results, even if they can’t own one. These IP restrictions are built in, so it’s clear the everyone, and it’s up to the buyer to check this when they buy.
Should you Get in Now?
So, clearly, there’s still uncertainty here. And again, it’s not just the environmental factors. There are also concerns around IP, copyright, security and simply how crazy-complex it still is to buy and hold cryptocurrency.
Those are many of the reasons I don’t necessarily recommend that podcasters get heavily into NFTs right now. But, there are people in the Crypto world working on the problems.
Both Tezos and Solana, to take just two examples, seem to be working sustainability and energy use heavily into their roadmap. Something that potentially can’t be said for many of the existing services, social networks and websites that we use every day, without thinking.
So, if The Podcast Host team experiment more in this space, beyond our first test, it’ll be with one of the Blockchains that show they’re making this a priority, and we’ll be careful to watch whether they stick to those claims. As always, we’ll do our utmost to then pass that on to you, so you can make your own decision.
Enter the Podverse! A newsletter & discussion space for NFT-curious podcasters.
Together we’ll explore how creative audio could be combined with blockchain tech to help podcasters earn money and grow their audience.
Why Did We Run our First Experiment on Solana?
I’ve explained much of this above, but here’s a summary directly related to Solana.
We chose Solana because it’s one of the most popular networks which run on the energy efficient proof of stake method.
Looking at the numbers, one transaction on Solana uses the same energy as about 1.7 Google searches. That means it’s in the same realm of energy use as the activities we already do, such as searching, and likely also selling memberships, or taking donations via paypal. So, if podcasters move to NFTs instead of their existing methods, energy use could stay around the same.
Just to clarify, there are a lot of ifs and buts in here. The Solana team have publicly committed to sustainability as they grow, and the report above was run by an independent climate consultant. But that report was commissioned by Solana, so there’s reason to be at least a little sceptical, there. Solana’s energy use is also likely to change as the network grows and adapts, no matter what the team commit to. And holding them to that commitment is another thing entirely.
As a consequence, I can’t wholeheartedly recommend the average podcaster moves to NFTs at this stage. But, as I mentioned in the ‘Why we’re interested’ section above, we wanted to run a small, non-profit experiment to see how it works, with the intent of helping inform you, now and in the future.
There are always early adopters, many of which are already asking us about this. We wanted to be equipped to advise, either way. So, we’ll keep up with developments, try to find more research, and share it when we have it.
Could NFTs be used for good?
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