It seems that most of us are regulars for certain streams or video channels on Youtube and Twitch. But in the shadow of those media ”Goliaths” grows a bunch of ”Davids” who may try to force some free space into the market. With the help of blockchain technology, those teams are producing a new type of media platform, and right now we have the honor to talk face to face with one of them. We’d like to introduce you to Renee Wang – Founder and CEO of CastBox, and her new project – ContentBox!
Hi, Renee. It’s nice to meet you and your team. Could you tell us a little more about your background? What was it like to work for the companies with the big names behind them, and why have you decided to move on by yourself? What initially attracted you to the blockchain? I know we have bombarded you with questions right off the bat, so please feel free to introduce yourself, and your team, however you see fit. Also, who is this cute “Boss” guy?
Unlike some of your typical startup founders, I didn’t grow up tinkering with gadgets or programming at an early age. In fact, I majored in psychology for my undergraduate degree at Peking University. I only started coding as a hobby in college to help my friends, who were computer science majors, with their projects. But I was quickly drawn to this field.
I went on to start my career as a frontend engineer at Umeng, which is now owned by Alibaba. I eventually made my way to Google as an account manager. It was an interesting experience because I came from an engineering background, but my role at Google was to help developers monetize their apps. The combination of these experiences led me to start Castbox, which became an award-winning podcast app thanks to my amazing team.
When blockchain technology first started making waves in the industry, the underlying technology intrigued the engineer in me. At first, I was only learning about it to feed my curiosity. But the more I learned, the more I realized that this technology would one day have a huge impact on the world and the way we live. Once I understood the technology, I started thinking about how I could use it to improve Castbox, but I quickly realized that there’s a much bigger opportunity to solve the challenges within the greater digital content industry.
Oh, and the cute “Boss” guy is our CDO, the Chief Dog Officer. He’s our mascot:)
How would you describe ContentBox as a product? We’ve heard about CastBox, your podcast platform, and it’s easy to see that it has reached a considerable degree of popularity. Do these two platforms interconnect somehow? What are your future plans for expansion?
ContentBox is a blockchain platform that aims to decentralize the digital content industry with a shared content pool, a shared user pool, and a unified payout system. The core functionalities of ContentBox will include BOX Payout (a borderless and secure payment transaction network), BOX Passport (a cross-platform identity and attribution gateway), and BOX Unpack, a turn-key content management solution for publishers.
This project was a natural extension of Castbox because of our expertise and involvement with the creator ecosystem. Being at the very center of the podcasting community, we saw how difficult it is for the average creator to monetize their work. Most of the sponsorship revenue is controlled by a few major podcast studios and ad networks, leaving independent podcasters with little earning potential. Not only that, but the content industry lacks transparency and there are still several inefficiencies that have yet to be addressed, which results in layers upon layers of middlemen who siphon off a large chunk of the revenue before it even reaches the creator.
With ContentBox, we’re starting with the podcast industry because it’s a space we understand and are vested in. In the near future, our goal is to take this well beyond the podcast industry to help decentralize the entire digital content ecosystem, from streaming video and audio to digital publishing to photos and beyond.
We’ve been talking about ContentBox for a while now already, but it seems like we’ve skimmed over an important point: exactly what is digital content? Of course, we can go on Wikipedia and find the definition or read an expert’s analysis, but we’d like to hear from the actual “orchestrator” of the process. So, what characteristics does dealing with digital content have? How is it different from the other types of business from a creator’s perspective, as well as from a content curator’s perspective?
For the purposes of ContentBox, we define digital content as any form of content that gets delivered through the public Internet and consumed through digital devices, such as smartphones, desktops, laptops, tablets, TVs, etc. This could be on-demand video, live streaming broadcasts, photos, news media, and of course, podcasts (along with many others).
The digital content industry doesn’t have as many barriers to entry as traditional content, like what you’d experience in traditional broadcast media networks and major film studios, but it’s getting harder for people to freely create, distribute, and monetize content. There was a time when anyone could create content, share it openly online, and gain meaningful traction, but major players today, like YouTube, have become the gatekeepers of the industry. They tighten monetization policies and take more control over what content gets seen. To make matters worse, content ownership has become a big challenge, with copyright infringements on the rise and content being held captive by platforms. Creators should be able to own their content and have the freedom to take their work and their fans with them wherever they choose to go.
As a content curator ourselves, we’ve always aimed to use the most advanced machine-learning and AI technology to provide highly personalized podcast recommendations based on the user’s actual interests and listening behavior. However, we’re starting to see more and more content platforms pushing content based on its revenue potential; a tactic that is detrimental to both users and creators. This is one of the major challenges we’re trying to solve with the blockchain because content performance should be dictated by the actual viewers, not major platforms.
The global attention to blockchain solutions seems to cover a great variety of industries, and that attention doesn’t come without reason. What problems do the conventional services have and why can’t they be solved easily? It’s also worth mentioning that digital content markets have now pretty much become monopolized. Do you thing that this situation will change in the future?
The digital content monopoly is a major reason why the industry is so broken right now. These digital content platforms once helped redefine what it meant to be a “creator” and it democratized content creation. But as their influence grew, they started tightening their policies and becoming more restrictive. They’ve become centralized behemoths that are now starting to wall off their communities. A perfect example is YouTube’s recent announcement that they plan to start paying contracts and bonuses to creators for keeping content exclusively on the platform. It might make sense from a business perspective, but it’s yet another example of how major platforms are catering to a very small subset of top creators while attempting to hold on to viewers.
Independent creators are left to fend for themselves, so we’re starting to see a shift going away from these major platforms. Many of them are turning to new content platforms in hopes of a fresh start or to third-party donation platforms, like Patreon. The issue with both of these options is that the user experience suffers as audiences are forced to jump between platforms, and these solutions are still decentralized so they’re prone to many of the challenges that plague the incumbents. Luckily, the blockchain offers a practical solution to these real-world problems.
The blockchain and podcasts do not seem to pair well at first glance. What do blockchain solutions bring to the table in regards to digital content platforms? There are also teams taking efforts in creating a blockchain-based solution that resembles yours as well. Because of this, we want to ask you about what makes your project unique. Not exactly from a competitive perspective, but in the way that highlights how it enriches the audio industry and adds something new.
For starters, no one else is focusing on the podcast space, perhaps because it still represents only small chunk of the greater digital content industry, but we see this as an opportunity. The nascent podcast industry is quickly growing, but it’s still in its early stages, so the space is very fluid. It’s much easier to introduce blockchain technology and the concept of a token-based economy to an industry that hasn’t yet matured. We also have a bit of a head start since we’re deploying ContentBox to 18 million users globally through Castbox. Most blockchain projects are all theory and no users.
Looks like our questions have been all over the place, but for now let’s get a bit technical. As a seasoned IT specialist, what can you say about the backend part of a digital media platform? How much traffic does it have to be able to withstand? Why have you decided to make a 3-component architecture for your chain ( BOX Payout, BOX Passport, BOX Unpack)? How would the “Easy integration with existing applications” be achieved? Could you describe how the Proof of Network Effect works? Do you plan to cooperate with other blockchain projects?
Due to millions of active users on our media platform, we expect thousands of requests to hit our backend every second, requiring it to be extremely scalable and reliable. We designed the architecture from the problems we aim to solve: Payout is for low-fee micropayments; Passport is for cross-application uniform identification; and Unpack is for the ease of integration and development.
Easy integration is through a combination of 1) encapsulated high-level SDK and APIs for developers, shielding low-level blockchain complexities from them, and 2) BOX Unpack solutions are for non-developers, with minimal coding required for deployment.
The Proof of Network Effect is a variant of Proof of Stake, where a user’s stake is also dependent on his or her contribution to the network, besides his or her token holdings. We do have plans to cooperate with other blockchain projects. Horizontally, we will keep track of other public blockchains and learn from their latest technical breakthroughs. Vertically, we will actively engage and attract other digital media applications to leverage our platform.
Well, we’re already close to the end so it’s time for us to stop machine gunning you with questions and give you some space to share a bit from your experience. What implications do you see for ContentBox, and when do you expect them to happen? How do you think digital content may change in the future? Does it depend on the needs of the masses or is it a pure vision of an artist that creates the model?
At the end of the day, ContentBox is only a tool (or in this case, an infrastructure) that facilitates transactions and relationships between the stakeholders in the content industry, including creators, audiences, publishers, and advertisers. We’re not trying to completely rebuild the content ecosystem, because a lot of it still works. We simply want to make it more transparent, efficient, and fair for everyone involved.
The true purpose of decentralization is democratization. This not only means empowering creators, but also giving fans a voice and direct access to their favorite creators. In many ways, the future of digital content is dictated by the masses. As their desires and needs change, creators will have to adapt to their audiences. ContentBox exists to make it easier and more sustainable for creators to continue delivering exceptional content to their fans.
Looks like our time is coming to an end. We would like to ask you to share some of your opinions here in case there was a topic that we didn’t cover. It would also be nice if you could leave some links below for our readers to learn more about your project. It was such a pleasure to talk with you.
The final thoughts I’d like to share are related to the blockchain and crypto community at large, because the success of ContentBox relies on more than just the digital content industry. The blockchain industry is at an interesting crossroads right now. While some are worried about the recent dips, I actually think it will be beneficial for the industry to bottom out and stabilize. The volatility in this space has attracted tons of speculators that aren’t necessarily in this to leverage the underlying blockchain technology. As the hype cools down, we’ll see more “crypto tourists” leave the space, leaving only the best projects that are trying to solve real problems. This is when we’ll start seeing the true potential of blockchain technology, not only in digital content but across all industries.
Anyone interested in learning more about ContentBox can find us here:
Official Website: https://contentbox.one/