The Mutually-Beneficial Future of Reader-Incentivized Media

Decrypt’s Reader Token is a brilliant evolution that the news industry would do well to embrace

Decrypt’s Reader Token is a brilliant evolution that the news industry would do well to embrace

Photo by Mike Kenneally on Unsplash

Last month, I wrote an article about Brave’s Basic Attention Token and the possibilities its model holds for big media outlets like the New York Times and Washington Post. Today these companies use annoying paywalls to encourage readers to subscribe. They broadcast headlines to news aggregators, but when you click, you can’t read the article until you subscribe.

The reason behind the paywalls makes sense. Writers and their employers need to be paid, and, generally, the internet of yore provides two ways for generating revenue: ads and subscriptions. You either monetize your traffic, so advertisers are willing to pay you or collect money from users directly in place of the ads.

There’s a problem with both of those models, though. In both cases, the reader/customer/consumer is the essential resource, and they’re completely cut out of the revenue stream. Rather than valuing and rewarding their choice and attention, media companies focus solely on profit. Traditional media is struggling because there’s so much choice, and people will often gravitate toward high-quality free options rather than pay or put up with ads.

This is where the Basic Attention Token, or BAT, is such a novel idea. Essentially, advertisers pay Brave, and Brave passes a portion of the proceeds to its users, who opt-in as willing participants in the Brave Rewards program. They’re happy to view ads because it benefits them. Instead of installing ad-blockers, Brave’s users are cranking their “ads per hour” setting to the max!

A similar concept has been implemented by the cryptocurrency-focused online magazine Decrypt. Two weeks ago, they unveiled the Decrypt Reader Token.


It’s similar in concept to BAT. Users are rewarded with DCPT for reading, sharing, and reacting to articles in the Decrypt app. Users are limited to earning just 20 tokens per day. The tokens have no monetary value, and they can’t be withdrawn. I’m not sure Decrypt knows exactly what the tokens will be used for, but they have a rewards store where DCPT can be exchanged for limited-edition NFTs and presumably things like swag in the future.

The concept is brilliant for many reasons.

First and foremost, it’s a huge incentive for readers. I can earn up to 3 tokens for every article I read. I can earn 2 more by sharing the article and another by reacting to it.

Source: https://decrypt.co/61733/decrypt-launches-reader-rewards-token-dcpt

I can only earn 20 tokens per day, too, which is the perfect segue into the second benefit: it makes older articles more valuable. In addition to checking in on the latest headlines, I’m more likely to browse through older articles searching for interesting content that will earn me more tokens.

Reacting to an article earns 1 DCPT, so guess what I do to every article I read? These reactions provide valuable feedback to Decrypt, which will help them write more content that their readers like in the future.

The fourth benefit belongs to advertisers. Filecoin is sponsoring “season 1” of the reader token. I see the Filecoin logo several times a day as I’m in & out of the app. That’s great exposure for Filecoin!


I absolutely love what Decrypt has done, and I think this represents the future of media revenue. Treat users and readers as people, and reward them for their time. It can come in many ways. You can reward them with actual currency, like Brave’s BAT. Alternatively, allow them to earn a custom token, like Decrypt’s Reader Token, which can later be redeemed for swag that turns loyal readers into walking billboards for your brand.

It’s a literal win-win because you — the company — are earning revenue from advertisers at the same time you’re growing your reader base and rewarding users for their time and loyalty. More loyal readers mean more advertising dollars, leading to more/better rewards, so the cycle goes.

And consider the alternative. You keep showing ads or charging a subscription fee with no benefit to your users. How will you compete when an incentivized challenger rises? Why would you pick the browser that doesn’t pay you? Why would you read news from the source that charges a subscription instead of offering you rewards?

The established players with traditional models have an edge now, but the competition is closing the gap, and if the big boys of today can’t evolve, they’ll be left behind.


This story was originally published on This Crypto Life on April 5, 2021.

I’ve Read My Last Free Article for the Month

Photo by Roman Kraft on Unsplash

Could big media profit from paying its readers?

You know the moment I’m talking about. The one where you read that irresistibly juicy headline and have no choice but to click. But when you do, you get the message.

You have no free articles left this month.

Great. Well, I guess my world will have to stay right-side-up for now.

I get it, though. News providers like the New York Times and Washington Post deserve to get paid for their product, and the paywall solves that. To what end, though?

Some people will avoid those sources. I’m one of them. I’m very choosy about which headlines I click because I know I’ve only got so many clicks. I ask myself, Do I really want to spend a free article on this topic?

And yea, I could subscribe. It’s just a couple of bucks, right? I don’t want all those subscriptions, though. I only care about a few articles from each of these sites per month, and other outlets cover the stories themselves.

The relationship between news providers and readers is symbiotic. These sites cannot exist without revenue, and readers are revenue, whether directly through subscription fees or indirectly through advertising. Given the interdependency, why can’t we find an honest, mutually-beneficial solution?

I believe one already exists in the form of a cryptocurrency: the Basic Attention Token (BAT).


Meet Brave

Brave is a browser that focuses on privacy. It has nice features like built-in ad blockers and protection against tracking and data collection. Given that ad prevention is one of its key selling points, it feels somewhat ironic that another feature it offers is Brave Rewards, which lets you opt to receive more ads.

Two things are really cool about Brave Rewards. First, it’s entirely optional. If you don’t want extra ads, no problem — don’t enable ’em. But, if you do turn them on, you get a cut of the ad revenue.

This makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it? Companies buy ads so consumers will see them. Consumers don’t really have an incentive to view ads, though, and will do their best to ignore, block, or avoid them.

Ads that people pay attention to are more valuable — look at the Super Bowl. So, why not take a small percentage of that ad revenue and pay it to people who are eager and willing to participate?

That’s Brave Rewards in a nutshell. You earn BAT by viewing ads. The ads are pretty subtle, too. Just a small OS notification that you can dismiss if not interested. You can make several tokens a month using the browser, and the tokens are currently worth about $0.50 each. So, a couple of bucks.


It’s a win-win-win

So, here’s a novel idea: apply the same opt-in, profit-sharing strategy to news providers.

Think about it. A large provider could give its users two account types. There could be a free plan where readers earn BAT by reading articles that contain paid advertisements. The reader has an incentive to view the ads because it makes them money. The amount earned would be proportional to the amount paid by advertisers, and advertisers would be willing to spend a lot because of the huge audience exposure.

Not everybody likes ads, though, so there could also continue to be a paid plan that removes them. And what if this could be delivered in BAT — the same BAT earned using the Brave Browser?

It feels like the perfect win-win for these media giants. If I could earn BAT by reading articles at the NY Times or Washington Post, they’d quickly become my most-visited go-to sources instead of the paywall landmines that I try to avoid today.

Traffic would be way up. Ad revenue would be way up. Subscriptions would be way up. It could catapult them to the forefront of relevancy and influence.

And it all starts with the simple idea of paying people for their attention instead of treating them as a revenue stream.


This article was originally published in ILLUMINATE on February 17, 2021.