The media landscape has seen massive evolution in the past few years. The traditional industry, television, print, billboard (out-of-home) and radio conglomerates have since been disrupted by digital media like Google, Facebook, and Spotify. One of the major reasons is that digital media has been able to disrupt the traditional space is access. In Southeast Asia alone, over $2 billion was spent on digital advertising in 2017.

Media buyers can easily access digital inventory 24-7, 365 days a year directly. However in order to purchase traditional assets, buyers need to work with middlemen such as media buying agencies. Even more so, as developing countries improve their digital infrastructure, new media markets emerge. Over the last year, Southeast Asia has seen internet penetration grow 58%, social media penetration grow 55%, and mobile connectivity grow 141%.

With these new developments, there is a trend towards democratising and decentralising media. Previously media was owned and controlled by a few major corporations, such as Disney (owner of ABC, CBS, ESPN, and Walt Disney). Now more companies are able to get access to marketing or making money hosting ads. Even more, there is better transparency and tracking for ad performance and costs.

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What could blockchain mean for traditional media?

Blockchain functions as a distributed ledger and platform for conducting smart contracts. These two fundamental technologies allow for new markets to become decentralised and allow for more transparency for long-duration transactions. In the traditional media industry, this most notably means getting rid of the prominent middlemen that charge large mark-ups. This also offers better tracking for ad performance.

There are a number of major types of traditional media and different strategies for tying in or replacing different players. Decentralised solutions establishing a purely digital media exchange, real-time bidding, or omnichannel product could all in theory happen, but the biggest question will be execution and gaining market adoption.

Different blockchains have been launching technologies, such as Plasma (Ethereum) and Lightning Network (Bitcoin), to boost transaction capacities and speed. These improvements on blockchain will help foster forward a blockchain ecosystem with viable usability. In particular, high transaction volume industries with limited transparency will be ripe for disruption.

How innovative companies are approaching the problem

One startup, ADBIT, is a blockchain technology launching its initial token offering in August 2018 and aiming to launch its product in October 2018. They offer a trustless automated media exchange, where traditional media owners and advertisers can communicate directly and much of the workflow is replaced with computer automation.

Their solution involves four core products. First, they have developed a media exchange to facilitate transparent exchange. Next, they built a feature called Media Match, which helps solve issues with account reconciliation. Third, they offer Media Monitoring, which offers real-time digital analytics for traditional media, such as TV and radio. Finally, they are acquiring a platform called Ciinch, in order to offer immediate workflow management functionality.

For proof of concept, it should be noted that IBM has supported the use of blockchain and ad buying with its blockchain services for Salon Media’s ad inventory. On the digital side, Unilever has also been using IBM’s services for digital media buying. While we have yet to see a major player tackle the traditional media buying space, the market opportunity is ripe for companies such as ADBIT.

Trends surrounding personal data and security

Within the blockchain world, there have also been trends of developing solutions to help people own and control their data. This would mean that media companies or advertisers have to compensate users for information. Additionally, any organisations that hold information about you, such as your doctor or music streaming service, would have to comply with your wish for managing the data. One company, adChain has developed a registry to help eliminate fraudulent media and add more transparency to the industry.

Also read: Blockchain startup Audience Bay aims to eliminate ad fraud and bring transparency into adtech industry

In order to see mass adoption and impact in the industry, these projects will need to start building and implementing the technology, users will need to start to encrypting their data, and companies will need to begin diverting advertising dollars. These are three major milestones that are near being completed, so until then “owning your personal data” is not likely to be blockchain’s answer for media and ads, but could be a supplement at some point.

Currently, the media market is incredibly centralised. A few major media owners and tech companies control the major deal flow, but technology is improving the situation. With the emergence of blockchain and its ability to offer value through decentralization, it seems likely that blockchain will disrupt the media sector.

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