In 10 or 20 years, the future of the inter­net will look vast­ly dif­fer­ent then it does right now. As blockchain begins to receive wider adop­tion among both con­sumers and com­pa­nies, Richard Hen­dricks’ dream of a tru­ly decen­tral­ized inter­net may some­day become real­i­ty.

When I first got into the field of e-com­merce near­ly 20 years ago, there was a lot of uncer­tain­ty about how viable online shop­ping would real­ly become. Does this not remind you of the state of blockchain today?

Since that time, I have facil­i­tat­ed the growth of an affil­i­ate mar­ket­ing com­pa­ny, as well as my cur­rent dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing com­pa­ny, to large-scale suc­cess. From my expe­ri­ence as the advi­sor to blockchain-based star­tups, I’ve real­ized the poten­tial of this tech­nol­o­gy to dis­rupt the mar­ket­place and offer inno­v­a­tive solu­tions.

Even in its cur­rent iter­a­tion, blockchain has cre­at­ed new oppor­tu­ni­ties for dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing firms, such as mar­ket­ing the launch of new ini­tial coin offer­ings (ICOs) and imple­ment­ing blockchain tech­nol­o­gy into exist­ing web­site archi­tec­tures. Even the schema com­mu­ni­ty has cre­at­ed markup for blockchain cer­tifi­cates.

In this arti­cle, I’d like to focus more on the impact that blockchain will have on the indus­try as a whole — from con­tent cre­ators all the way to adver­tis­ers. Despite the con­fu­sion sur­round­ing its tech­nol­o­gy, I believe that new blockchain appli­ca­tions will improve the most glar­ing prob­lems that exist in dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing today. But reach­ing that point may take years.

Eliminating The Middleman

As much as dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing has increased com­pe­ti­tion in the e-com­merce space, it has also con­cen­trat­ed traf­fic to a few select sites and adver­tis­ing net­works.

Under a blockchain-pow­ered net­work, arbi­trage would shift from an estab­lished mid­dle­man to users them­selves. Users would engage in smart con­tracts direct­ly with adver­tis­ers to receive tar­get­ed ads. In con­trast, tra­di­tion­al search engines decide what ads are most rel­e­vant for users and bom­bard them with pop-up and dis­play ads against their per­mis­sion.

To set up a smart con­tract, users would need to agree on how much per­son­al infor­ma­tion they are will­ing to share. The more they engage with a decen­tral­ized search engine, the stronger their buy­er per­sona would grow, if giv­en per­mis­sion to share by the user.

Under this mod­el, the need to adver­tise over Google’s Dis­play Net­work would become friv­o­lous. Instead, adver­tis­ers could bypass the inces­sant fees and arbi­trage agree­ments of net­works like Face­book and Google.

The­o­ret­i­cal­ly, this would allow adver­tis­ers to pay users direct­ly for access to their per­son­al info and approval to serve them ads. Some blockchain-based star­tups are even exper­i­ment­ing with the idea of reward­ing users who use the net­work with tokens that could be accept­ed at select retail­ers.

Increasing Transparency

Con­trary to what you might think, blockchain ledgers are actu­al­ly much more trans­par­ent than tra­di­tion­al ad and search engine net­works. All trans­ac­tions that occur over the ledger (whether it’s clicks or e-com­merce pur­chas­es) are avail­able for the pub­lic to view in the ledger and near­ly impos­si­ble to erase.

Think about how lit­tle data dig­i­tal mar­keters actu­al­ly have access to when it comes to clicks and engage­ment with an adver­tise­ment. I believe data attri­bu­tion mod­els are faulty, and Google’s eso­teric algo­rithms make track­ing links and PageR­ank on third-par­ty tools more or less just guess­es. With greater trans­paren­cy using the dig­i­tal ledger, mar­keters could receive more rel­e­vant user infor­ma­tion that would assist them in cam­paign man­age­ment.

Of course, this comes down to user con­sent throw­ing a huge wrench at adver­tis­ers that can’t always reach the cus­tomers they need.

Providing Better Data

Con­sid­er how dynam­ic organ­ic SERPs have become. Between account­ing for dif­fer­ent devices, local vs. nation­al search and fre­quent algo­rithm changes, it’s hard to track the tra­jec­to­ry of key­word changes, as well as what types of search­es your web pages are rank­ing for.

A blockchain-based track­er could be employed to track key­word posi­tions across all devices that agree to use the ser­vice. This tech­nol­o­gy could be lever­aged by every­one from adver­tis­ers to con­tent cre­ators and result in more accu­rate cam­paign data that would assist in test­ing.

Improving Cybersecurity

With this said, cyber­se­cu­ri­ty will still be a major prob­lem for every indus­try, big or small. One advan­tage that the blockchain net­work pro­vides is the idea of stor­ing your own per­son­al infor­ma­tion off the net­work. Aside from this, hack­ers would lit­er­al­ly have to hack all user devices on the net­work to make changes to the ledger or steal infor­ma­tion.

Improving Privacy

As stat­ed before, blockchain actu­al­ly helps to alle­vi­ate many of the pri­va­cy con­cerns that are cur­rent­ly being thrown at Face­book and oth­er adver­tis­ing plat­forms.

You may have heard peo­ple refer to blockchain as a “net­work of the peo­ple, by the peo­ple, and for the peo­ple.” Well, by elim­i­nat­ing big media com­pa­nies from act­ing as mid­dle­men, users would now have greater con­trol over what per­son­al data they want to release to adver­tis­ers and pub­lish­ers.

Even as the ledger ver­i­fies the iden­ti­ty of users and hosts trans­ac­tions, all per­son­al data that users don’t con­sent to share remains hid­den on the net­work. Being near­ly impos­si­ble to hack, blockchain can pro­tect user pri­va­cy.

Improving Trust

Final­ly, this all amounts to sig­nif­i­cant­ly improv­ing trust between users and brands. Accord­ing to the 2018 Edel­man Trust Barom­e­ter, brands wit­nessed a sig­nif­i­cant decline in con­sumer trust over the past year, and improv­ing that rela­tion­ship is dif­fi­cult when the indus­try is fraught with fraud and pri­va­cy con­cerns.

By increas­ing trans­paren­cy, improv­ing cyber­se­cu­ri­ty and elim­i­nat­ing the role of com­pa­nies like Google and Face­book, there are many rea­sons to believe that blockchain tech­nol­o­gy could improve the rela­tion­ship between brands and con­sumers.

The Verdict

Will blockchain elim­i­nate the gate­keep­ers of online media and adver­tis­ing? Its poten­tial is infi­nite and in tan­dem with oth­er tech­nolo­gies, and I believe it will rev­o­lu­tion­ize every­thing from cur­ren­cy exchanges to gov­er­nance itself. But don’t call it a sil­ver bul­let as of yet.