Most people writing about web3 and the metaverse are focusing on the technology that will bring about the next iteration of the internet. Fewer commentators are analyzing the potential approach to marketing to customers that will build connections to the various communities that users will belong to and engage with in using web3.
One exciting prospect is how web3 allows communities to create content together and how those communities might grow for increased engagement. Since the advent of the internet, people have been able to communicate around shared interests without being bound by time or transactions – a message posted to Usenet, for example, can be answered at any time as opposed to a telephone call or other person-to-person communications that require both individuals to be connected at the same time. This has evolved into realms of continuous communication on platforms like Twitter or Reddit.
With web3, the ability to create content as a collaborative community allows the participants to get involved with the value creation of the content. While many of these will start as minimum viable communities as people begin using web3, many will likely grow based on the engagement and interest in the content. A community that forms around a specific project can lead to the creation of projects or even a company from a community-first perspective driven by community ownership – a major incentive for web3.
Content Remains King
Content has driven the value of media and entertainment companies as demonstrated by the explosion of content – both in substance and delivery methods – over the past decade. Disney is an excellent example of a company whose intangible value far exceeds its market cap, which is roughly $180 billion. While that number already demonstrates the huge value of the company’s assets and ranks the company just outside the top 50 most valuable global companies, Disney also carries the value of brand loyalty and passion for everything Disney. This high level of engagement has developed organically over decades – and in some cases generations – of community-building. No other media conglomerate has the level of community that Disney has been able to develop through the content and experiences associated with its brands.
Companies and brands in the web3 space have been attempting to develop similar community loyalty in a much shorter time. For example, owning a Bored Ape Yacht Club NFT is less about owning the unique Bored Ape artwork (particularly with the value recently dropping substantially with recent fluctuations in the cryptocurrency space) and more about how ownership of a Bored Ape NFT gives the owner access to an exclusive community with perks for its members, including both digital and real-life events. While many other NFT communities have followed suit, few have yet had the level of impact and engagement as Bored Ape. The secret ingredient that made Bored Ape Yacht Club stand out from all other NFTs has been the level of storytelling that helped build the community, leading to stronger engagement.
Yet many NFT communities are creating intriguing experimental web3 media companies that could potentially lead to the future media landscape. These include:
- Doodles, a community-driven collectibles NFT project, featuring musician Pharrell Williams as Chief Brand Officer and Billboard President Julian Holguin as CEO. This year’s SXSW featured a Doodles NFT Party to help build the project’s community.
- World of Women, which has partnered with Reese Witherspoon’s production company to turn NFTs into movies.
- Jenkins the Valet, a Bored Ape spinoff collaborative project that includes New York Times bestselling author Neil Strauss. The project has been written in a collective community process known as “The Writer’s Room,” with members able to view and follow the progress of the story before publication. It has recently spun off into a podcast series. The Bored Ape NFT that launched the community was only a starting point that utilized the underlying community to create its own community.
Tech writer Jason Levin drew a similar comparison between how rock band Grateful Dead built its remarkable community engagement in the pre-internet era to what NFT communities are doing today, including creating different levels of community. These examples demonstrate the ability to form a community experimentally to figure out how web3 will drive the future of entertainment, while also using social media like Twitter (“crypto Twitter”) and LinkedIn to engage in conversations about what’s coming next.
It’s no surprise that filmmakers are exploring the lucrative storytelling possibilities that NFTs and web3 can offer. After filmmaker Quentin Tarantino created a series of NFTs based on the screenplay of his classic 1994 film Pulp Fiction, Miramax, the studio that released the film, sued Tarantino. After settling the suit, Miramax and Tarantino teased future collaborations in the NFT space. The adult animated anthology Netflix series Love, Death & Robots, which launched in 2019, promoted its third season premiere in 2022 with an NFT scavenger hunt that helped increase engagement and awareness of the new season.
How web3 Content Creation Impacts Cinema
These initial moves signal that cinema will soon be moving even further into the NFT and web3 spaces, though it will likely continue to be in an experimental fashion. The major studios have already created several NFT promotions to promote blockbuster releases. Yet cinemas have not ventured into this type of community-building and engagement, mainly because cinemas have historically had very little involvement in creating content.
The potential of using cinema to drive metaverse experiences, such as giving audiences the ability to unlock a unique community experience in a theater, involves serving as a conduit for the content likely provided by studios and distributors. It is yet another example of how blockbusters might get even bigger and indie films will get more innovative, meaning that there is even less funding for mid-sized films. These opportunities would offer cinemas a better opportunity to communicate with and appreciate the audience and gauge the audience’s interests. A specific metaverse-friendly cinema could become a hub for NFT-obsessed audiences, helping to shape the future of entertainment.
With all this experimentation it's only a matter of time before major media companies discover the value of the metaverse and NFTs as they relate to advertising revenue, much like how internet cookies and identification mechanisms have impacted advertising. As commercial enterprises, both film studios and cinemas are driven by finding new ways to profit as technology evolves. Web3 is simply the next opportunity to explore.