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Papyrus and web3: building better tools for the future of the creator economy

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Colin Armstrong

At Papyrus, we’ve been building tools to support creators since our inception.

We’ve built a platform that lets creators write content, create paid newsletters, and build a community. We’ve helped thousands of writers connect with tens of thousands of readers since we’ve launched.

Over the years, advances in technology have unlocked new methods of producing and monetizing digital content - from crowdfunding companies like Patreon to digital subscription services like Spotify, there’s been a consistent stream of disruptive technology that enables new forms of monetization and growth for creators.

Today, we at Papyrus believe that web3 and NFTs will continue the trend of disruption, fundamentally changing how creators can provide utility, foster relationships, and build wealth alongside their audience.

We’re at the start of a broad shift from the creator economy to the ownership economy - creators will no longer simply produce content and hand it off to a platform to monetize as they see fit; instead, the creator and their audience will have ownership and stake in these creations, as well as ownership in the user-run platforms where these creations exist.

We believe Papyrus will help play a key role in empowering both creators and their readers during this transition.

How will web3 help writers & content creators?

Historically, creators have gone through one or more of the following steps when producing content:

  • Funding: Creator self-funds their creation by working other jobs, or (very rarely) getting an advance from a publishing company.

  • Content creation: Creator produces something of value - a long-form article, a piece of investigative journalism, a comic book, an interview.

  • Monetization: Creator tries to get paid for their creation - either by selling it directly, placing ads on their website, paid subscriptions, or relying on donations.

  • Growth: Creator relies on traditional methods for growth (tweeting about it, posting on Reddit, …)

Web3 introduces mechanics that are fundamentally changing how this process works. Digital scarcity via NFTs, utility via social tokens, community ownership via DAOs, and economic growth incentives via royalties are just a handful of example of the technological shift.

Let’s explore how web3 could influence these steps, and where we believe the future of content creation lies.

Funding

Creator’s have historically self-funded their creations. They work a 9-5 job, then come home and work on their true passions. Unless the creator has a large amount of savings or outside funding, it’s challenging for them to take the plunge and work on content creation full-time. (In rare circumstances, funds or publishing companies do provide up-front financing to the creator, but this is an exception and not the norm).

In addition, certain types of long-form pieces of content - like a comic book - can require many expenses, including artists, editors, graphic designers, and marketers, further limiting the number of creators that go all-in.

We want to change this by providing two different methods of receiving funding (even before content is produced): crowdfunding via social tokens, and equitably distributing funding via a DAO.

Social tokens

Creators can mint and sell social tokens, which provide utility (such as access to their token-gated content, similar to a paid subscription), in addition to other special features (including royal incentives).

For example, a new creator on Papyrus could choose to mint 3 different tiers of tokens…

Access tokenPatron tokenSuper-fan tokenQuantity∞100/1005/5Cost (ETH)0.050.52Royalty incentives-0.1%1%Other benefitsN/A - just access to all token-gated postsAccess to token-gated DiscordSigned, limited-edition physical merch

Due to the fixed number of Patron and Super-fan tokens (and the possibility of return on investment), there’s incentive for supporters & speculators alike to buy these tokens early on, before content is even produced.

Community owned & operated DAO

A percentage of all transaction profits on the platform could be directed to a community-owned treasury. All Papyrus token-holders could then periodically vote on which creators should receive funding. The more tokens you own, the more ownership you have, and thus the more say you’ll get over the direction of the platform.

This is in contrast to monolithic companies themselves deciding who to fund, which has historically encountered controversy and has favored large creators that already had a massive audience, leading to unequal wealth distribution: the top 10 creators on Substack are earning more than $20m per year, but the vast majority of other creators are earning magnitudes less. DAOs could change this by more equitably distributing funding based on community ownership & governance.

Content Creation & Monetization

Existing forms of monetization have problems - ads incentivize clickbait rather than high-quality content, and require large amounts of traffic. Paid subscriptions are challenging to grow without pre-existing audiences - the vast majority of subscribers come from tweets, and if you don’t have a large Twitter following you’re at a disadvantage.

We want to supplement paid subscriptions with two new forms of monetization - token-gated content and selling published content as NFTs (which introduces an aspect of digital scarcity).

NFTs minted from written content

The signed, first-edition copy of The Hobbit sold for over $200,000. I could go to the library and borrow a copy of The Hobbit for free - and it has the exact same story - so why is so much value placed on this one copy?

The answer is scarcity and status - there’s only one copy of the first-edition of The Hobbit, there will only ever be one, and it will only ever be owned by one person (or entity). Sure, I could photocopy every page of that first-edition, but I still wouldn’t own the first edition. Collectors and super-fans place very high value on scarce things they’re passionate about, or that can give them some kind of status.

NFTs introduce digital scarcity. When creators produce content, they can mint a fixed number of NFTs from this content. This can be sold to super-fans, providing a new stream of revenue to the content creator.

These NFTs can also be traded on third-party open marketplaces, with royalties continuously given back to the original creator, meaning this revenue stream is recurring and in addition to their token sales or paid subscriptions. This type of open-market trading also opens up a new type of audience that was previously inaccessible to the creator - speculators.

Token-gated content

Creators will have the option of token-gating their posts, similar to how a creator paywalls their post today. Readers can purchase tokens that grant access to these posts.

Note that these tokens work beyond Papyrus since they’re based on Ethereum. You can use any other web3 platform, today or in the future, to continue providing new features and functionality to these token-holders. For example - you could create a token-gated Discord that’s only accessible to your token holders, fostering an even closer community with the most loyal of your audience.

Growth

We believe that a creator’s audience should profit by helping the creator grow. In other words - wealth should be built with the creator and their audience hand-in-hand, rather than just the creator alone.

We do so by providing economic incentives for the reader to grow the creator.

Incentivized growth

Since tokens can provide royalties, and a larger audience means larger royalties, token-holders are economically incentivized to help grow the creator. They have ownership and a financial stake in the success of the creator!

What’s next for Papyrus?

Everything described above is just a small glimpse into where we believe the future is heading, and we couldn’t be more excited to help pave the way. So, over the next few months, we’ll be adding a layer of functionality on top of Papyrus that allows creators to connect their wallets and opt-in to crypto functionality.

The eventual goal is to decentralize as much as possible, but we’re starting with an approach that allows us to move quickly while enabling early adopters to take advantage of crypto features on Papyrus.

Interested in getting in touch?

If any of this sounds interesting to you, we’d love to hear from you - regardless if you’re an engineer looking to join our team, or a content creator looking to onboard. You can find us at hello@papyrus.so, on Twitter, or on our Discord (no token needed to access 😉).

#web3
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