Confusion has always been good for those working in the content business. The best writers, reporters and editors thrive in situations where they can help audiences navigate and understand complex and chaotic topics and situations.
The current explosion of interest in “web3” is a prime example. Its combination of complexity, promise, money, technology, mystery and outright grift is throwing off the type of opportunities that talented journalists and editorial staffers crave. It’s an area that media companies and publishers have seized on quickly as a result, but it also presents a goldmine of opportunity for brands getting into the publishing business.
Writing about and covering web3 and its various expressions and promises – whether from the point of view of a savant, critic, worshipper, or all of the above – should be on the radar for most brands getting into publishing, for a few key reasons:
Complexity. About 13% of the U.S. public knows what web3 is or even that it “exists,” per a survey in February. Web3 is broadly an attempt to rebrand previous iterations, referred to as “crypto.” And “crypto” itself connotes complexity – partly one reason it badly needed a rebrand.
Because web3 technology itself largely refers to the backend “plumbing” of the Internet few people are poised to understand it. There is also an in-group, a community with its own way of talking and speaking that is hard to break into. And like many new technologies, it’s inherently complicated, which lends itself well to authoritative content that explains, elucidates and does so in a clear and attainable way.
Confusion. Complexity leads to confusion. In the case of anything to do with web3, in the words of Dan Olson, some of this confusion is deliberately created by people to “create the illusion they are the only people who understand it.” Some of this is gatekeeping, some is just the natural rhythms of a movement mostly in its early adopter stage. But confusion, like complexity, both are opportunities for exposition. (Rex Woodbury, principal at Index Ventures has a good Substack that covered earlier this year how exactly web3 will become accessible to the everyday person, using metaphors that “abstract away complexity.”)
Polarization in the narrative. You’re either “for” web3 or “against it.” (Both viewpoints seem to get equal attention.) Some people seem to actually hate anything to do with crypto in a deeply personal way; others love it to a point that they are inured to criticism it because it is just more proof of people who don’t “get it.” Some of this is painful adolescence, but another issue is that this infighting may actually be bad for the growth of the technology. But in this context, developing content with nuance and authority can be a differentiator.
Scams. Like with any new movement, grifters and suckers abound. It’s one big reason why so many people are turned off by web3. Another is that it’s increasingly hard to tell the scams from the real applications. It means a true opportunity for brands in a variety of spaces to be the places that tell the stories of those true and potential applications – from the point of view of people who know.
Coverage may be falling short. Web3 coverage can range from the hagiographic to the critical – or worse. Matt Huang of VC firm Paradigm, which raised a big crypto fund recently, pointed out that modern marketing often occurs through Twitter, and memes. (The company was recently hiring someone to work on memes for them.) By extension, narrative control of web3 and its applications and expressions can be extremely powerful for business interests, whether it’s for a brand investing in crypto or a tech firm building something in web3. By controlling the narrative, or perhaps less dramatically, at least playing a part in shaping it by offering useful, valuable and engaging information around it, brands can stand to benefit. Narrative control or shaping when it comes to any topic can have payoff in terms of direct money – someone chooses to support or buy from the company because its content is convincing enough that they trust it and what they’re selling. But there are also less tangible benefits to this – brands can insert themselves into a major conversation, and they can stand to gain relevance and authority in a subject that matters.
An abundance of stories to tell. For all the reasons above, web3 has no shortage of stories. For brands that have a business interest in this space, web3 has potential applications (even if they don’t all come to fruition) in nearly every industry, from media to sports to entertainment to finance. Use cases may still be far and few between, but for brands, there is an opportunity to be both critical and cheerleader. And there will be a shakeout that leads to real possibilities. But because it’s a complicated and nuanced topic, brands may be in the right space to actually offer expertise and deep expertise.