Why Not Blockchain for News?

For the first time since color film, Kodak might be onto something.

Provider of mobile technology since ’88.  1888.

Pundits have already savaged The Great Yellow Father‘s entry into blockchain with KodakCoin.  After all, Bitcoin and cyrptocurrency hype continues to soar despite cautions from pretty good sources.

However, before consigning KodakCoin to the scrap heap, consider what Kodak and its partner WENN digital media created the product to do.  They intend to take advantage of blockchain’s distributed ledger to track the usage of photographs.  If you’ve never waded into the mire of photography digital rights, consider yourself lucky.  Fair, compensated use of photographs bedevils photographers and commercial entities who use photographs alike.

Also consider the larger opportunity: fake news.

Photo manipulation (e.g. Photoshop) has forced us to question the reality of a photograph since the days of Matthew Brady.  Now the ability to create a realistic photograph from nothing but algorithms has started to emerge.  A distributed ledger could verify that a picture of, say, Elvis shaking hands with President Nixon, really happened.

Why stop at photos?  Couldn’t we use a blockchain-driven technology to allow consumers to see who actually created a news article or video?  Sure, we can assume that a story appearing on the Wall Street Journal’s website really came from a WSJ reporter.  However, when we see a dubious news story in our Facebook feed, couldn’t something like KodakCoin let us know where it really came from?

I can’t wait to see how Kodak–wait for it–develops this idea.

Mobile Marketing Trick from the 20th Century

Poor Kodak.  They invented the digital camera and yet they exist today as little more than a fond memory.  Let me add insult to this injury by positing that they developed a pretty smart mobile marketing trick, way back in 1920. It worked then; I suggest that some app makers try it now:

photo_spot

Alas, there’s an app for that now

Even into the 1980s, film and developing cost quite a bit of money.  Practically everyone owned cameras but they tended to use them sparingly.  So Kodak put these Picture Spot signs in national parks and, most notably, Disney theme parks to remind people to use their cameras.

Let’s put this in 2015 marketing terms.  Most of Kodak’s target consumers had mobile devices (on multiple platforms [i.e. cameras] but mostly running the same software [i.e. film]), so they needed to focus on increasing actual usage.  Thus they placed these ads at key usage locations.

Many of today’s app makers could benefit from the Picture Spot approach.  Obviously, the Instagrams of the app world might benefit from reminding users to post pictures in scenic places.  But couldn’t a travel app posts signs in airports reminding users to check the apps for flight changes?  Couldn’t a recipe app place reminders in supermarkets to see what they could do with, say, a bunch of leeks?

With the focus on mobile increasing even among real-world brands, physical media have begun to fall out of frame (yes, puns intended).  A savvy app publisher taking this approach might see more of what Paul Simon called “the greens of summer.”