By Roger Santodomingo, @CodigoRoger 

This should be the best of times for anyone in the news or nonfiction media business.

For those news junkies like me who grew up in the pre-digital era, today’s state of information access reads like a cool Jules Verne novel: all the world’s content is accessible from our phones, our watches, our TVs, and soon our virtual reality goggles, personal robots, and wireless-AI gadgets that play videos or recommended articles according to our needs and environments.

There’s never been a more exciting time to tell stories and reach more people in more ways, through more channels, and on more platforms than ever before. Yet, incomes for all those involved in the news-making and content producing process have dropped precipitously in the last two decades (of course, with exceptions that confirm the rule)*.

When reading this, Panos Panay might think that I am copying his ideas. And he would be right because they are very similar to those that a couple of years ago lead to the creation of the Open Music Initiative (OMI). In my defense I have to say he was writing about music rights, what I am talking here is about journalism and non-entertainment media rights.

Of course, I could choose a different wording to expose my own ideas. I won’t for a reason. An additional message I wish to convey is that I want for the news industry what Panay is doing for music. He is director of the Berklee College of Music Institute for Creative Entrepreneurship, and his OMI is a well-orchestrated tentative to save the music industry. Working for the Inter American Development Bank I had the opportunity to become involved in the OMI, and witness his first big achievement: a consensus among the music industry fundamental actors —a feat considered impossible before since many of them are rivals–, to find common ground and leverage blockchain technologies for their cause.

A blockchain is a brilliant code that creates a powerful digital ledger. That is why it is said that the web we have known so far is the internet of information, while blockchain is the internet of value. The decentralized and so far invulnerable character of its records has allowed a boom of cryptocurrencies like bitcoin. But as we are just starting to see, blockchain is much more than cryptocurrencies.

Indeed, Panay’s article and especially the OMI are inspiring.  Music and news belong to creative industries terribly affected by the accelerated insurgence of the internet. Both the music and editorial industries reacted late with unequal results.  

BUT NOT ALL IS EQUAL

While some newspapers have experimented with innovations that are giving them positive results, most of the media have failed to adapt in a sustainable way to the new digital economy. As with the music industry, the infrastructure on which the news media has operated for the last century is not adequate to address the new ways in which information is being produced and consumed today—and even more so, tomorrow.

Of course, not all of our problems are equal. Since independent journalism is fundamental to warrant human rights and democracy, the stakes for the free society’s future are high. Add to the consequences of a bad adaptation to the digital economy, the fake-news phenomena, and you’ll get the current toxic environment for the media.  

Thanks to social media everybody is not merely a consumer but also a potential producer of editorial content. Despite the optimism for the so-called information democratization, the overwhelming volume of news and opinion sources has created a confusing environment where some of the old school incentives for sensationalism and bias are getting multiplied. Manipulation, conspiracy theories and a good proportion of sheer noise are thriving here, not necessarily journalism.

A law of technology is that it “is neither good nor bad; nor is it neutral”. Technology always has consequences. While technology by itself won’t destroy journalism, it won’t be enough to save it either. Neither the internet nor the blockchain will compensate for the lack of talent or diligence to do our job. What we can’t do is ignore technology, or dismiss it just because it seems too complex or just a transient fad. That is precisely why Internet took most of us by surprise.

There is no need for that to happen again. Actually, blockchain technologies potential represent an opportunity for the media industry to jointly modernize the framework on which journalist work and our business operate so that we can all reap the benefits of tomorrow.

We want to help to build the first collaborative consortium of journalists, content producers, and media organizations for the purpose of establishing a global infrastructure for media trust. The time is now and that is why we are creating partnerships with some of the more important technology corporations of the world and inviting all the news media, journalist and media producers to join what we are calling the PRESSPORT initiative.

We can leverage blockchain technology as a tool to empower legitimate and trustworthy content in order to fight back against “fake news” and regain control of our work and professional identities in a shifting media environment. True change can be achieved collectively, that is PRESSPORT.

* The Council of Europe published a report on December 4 2017t confirming the income drop for media and journalists is mirrored on both sides of the Atlantic. http://website-pace.net/documents/19871/3306947/20171204-StatusJournalistsInEurope-EN.pdf/80000471-7f19-49b5-8186-0ca1b185fa8f

Roger Santodomingo is an author and journalist with a wide and outstanding international experience. He is the CEO of CITIZENZ Tech and leads the PRESSPORT initiative. Follow him in twitter @CodigoRoger