NFTs?

NFTs (Non-fungible tokens) are the newest rage in blockchain development. These tokens are issued by the creators of digital assets and then registered on the Ethereum blockchain. The smart contracts associated with the tokens can award ownership rights to the asset with the rights to royalty payments for the marketing or sale of the asset. NFTs seem particularly suited to collectors’ items and can also be applied to physical assets. The sale of the tokens prepays the creator for the value created through his creation. Preselling NFTs for songs could deliver a revenue flow to musicians before the music became a commercial hit. Think of having a digital right of ownership to Happy Birthday or Yesterday or The Mona Lisa. The problem, of course, is that predicting the future value of a creative piece of art today is almost impossible. Remember, Van Gogh couldn’t sell any of his paintings!

This makes NFTs a very speculative asset play.

Click below to view the idea of an NFT art gallery:

The Gallery NFT

Time to Exit the FB Metaverse

Facebook is planning to rebrand…

…while Facebook has been heavily promoting the idea of the metaverse in recent weeks, it’s still not a concept that’s widely understood. The term was coined originally by sci-fi novelist Neal Stephenson to describe a virtual world people escape to from a dystopian, real world. Now it’s being adopted by one of the world’s largest and most controversial companies — and it’ll have to explain why its own virtual world is worth diving into.

Project Liberty

Frank McCourt Wants to Build a New Model for Social Media

WSJ

By Emily Bobrow Oct. 8, 2021 12:28 pm ET

It bothers Frank McCourt, the billionaire real estate mogul and former Los Angeles Dodgers owner, that his data—his contacts and search history, his shopping preferences and driving habits—is being harvested and used in ways he can’t control. “Big tech knows more about me than my wife, and I didn’t give them that permission,” he says over Zoom from his home in Wellington, Fla., where he lives with his wife Monica and their two young children.

The fact that a few powerful internet players are “hoarding and exploiting” the personal details of users is not only “inherently unfair,” Mr. McCourt argues, but also socially corrosive. He blames the rise in extremist views in the U.S. and around the world on social-media companies that prioritize “audience engagement” over the welfare of customers.

McCourt has pledged $250 million to Project Liberty, an initiative to reclaim the internet as a force for good.

In response, Mr. McCourt, 68, a self-styled “civic entrepreneur,” has pledged $250 million to create and advance Project Liberty, a grandly named initiative to reclaim the internet as a force for good. The plan includes $75 million to establish an interdisciplinary McCourt Institute to research and develop an ethical framework for new technology, in partnership with Georgetown University, his alma mater, and Sciences Po of Paris. Mr. McCourt has also promised $25 million to help develop a “Decentralized Social Networking Protocol” or DSNP, a new open-source, blockchain-enabled protocol for managing data on the internet.

It’s a new kind of infrastructure project for Mr. McCourt, who hails from a long line “of builders, of problem-solvers,” he says. His great-grandfather, an Irish immigrant, created a Boston road-building company. His grandfather, a part-owner of the Braves—the baseball team that played in Boston before moving to Atlanta—got into highway construction just as automobiles were becoming popular. His father took on a wider variety of big infrastructure projects, including expanding Boston’s Logan International Airport.

Mr. McCourt launched his own first business at 12, collecting garbage from neighbors near his family’s summer home in Deerfield, N.H., and entered the family business at 16. His family, in touting the value of hard work, would quote a Gaelic saying that translates loosely as “Where there’s muck, there’s brass.”

Mr. McCourt followed in his father’s footsteps at Georgetown, where he got a degree in economics in 1975 and met his first wife, Jamie, with whom he had four sons. But in business, he had a greater taste for risk and sought a different path, developing real estate instead of infrastructure. He helped convert Boston’s Union Wharf into a bustling mixed-use area in the late 1970s, then bought 24 acres on the waterfront from the defunct Penn Central Transportation, which soon generated millions in annual income as parking lots.

This was the property Mr. McCourt sold to help buy the Los Angeles Dodgers from Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp (the parent company of The Wall Street Journal) in 2004, in a highly leveraged deal valued at around $430 million. Mr. McCourt’s ownership of the Dodgers proved controversial, particularly when his messy, costly divorce from Jamie became public in 2009. To prevent the team from being seized by Major League Baseball, which accused him of “looting” team assets to fund his lavish lifestyle, Mr. McCourt declared the Dodgers bankrupt in 2011. He then sold the team in 2012 to a consortium led by Magic Johnson for a record $2.15 billion.

“When you go through something that’s humiliating, it changes you,” Mr. McCourt says of his time in Los Angeles. He admits, with hindsight, that he “could’ve done a better job” as a steward of the franchise. But the experience helped clarify his priorities. In 2013 he donated $100 million to establish the McCourt School of Public Policy at Georgetown, and then gave another $100 million earlier this year to help cover financial aid and scholarships. In 2018 he gave $45 million to help build The Shed, an arts center in Manhattan.

The Dodgers sale also enabled Project Liberty. Mr. McCourt doesn’t run a tech company and doesn’t use social media himself, but he is troubled by what he calls “a polluted ecosystem of information where you can’t distinguish between fact or fiction, information or disinformation.” He points to recent revelations in The Wall Street Journal that Facebook executives knew the company’s algorithms increase “misinformation, toxicity and violent content” on the site, but did nothing to rein in these problems for fear of alienating users.

He still has his mother’s voice in his head asking, ‘Yeah, but what are you going to do about it?’

Mr. McCourt decided to enter the field, he says, because growing up as one of seven siblings in his Irish Catholic family, he learned it was never enough to simply articulate a problem. He still has his mother’s voice in his head asking, “Yeah, but what are you going to do about it?”

With Project Liberty, his goal is to spur the creation of new social networks in which users, not platforms, have control over their own data. He notes that the official protocols used to send and receive information online—known as Web 2.0—were designed without accounting for how digital monopolies like Facebook and Google might use data and algorithms to sow discord, suppress innovation and compromise privacy. These developments, he says, have transformed the internet “from something that was designed to create value for society to something that creates value from it.”

Because technology moves so swiftly, Mr. McCourt says the solution to its ills is not more regulation, but innovation. Other developers share this view. Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s CEO, is in the early stages of creating an “open decentralized standard for social media” called Bluesky. Some smaller social-media companies, such as Steemit, Mastodon and Peepeth, already use blockchain or alternative technologies to challenge the likes of Facebook and Twitter.

That these companies are not yet household names does not concern Mr. McCourt. Nor does the fact that blockchain technology tends to be slower and more complicated for developers than the conventional web. He suggests the appeal of his protocol will soon be plain: “If I said to you, ‘You can have everything you have, but you will also own and control your data, you will own and control your privacy, you will be dealing with actual people and not machines, and if you engage in ad-tech you will be credited for your data,’ would you use it?”

“The guiding principle in Silicon Valley was ‘move fast and break things,’ which they achieved,” Mr. McCourt says. “Now we need to move fast and fix things so that we can restore trust, strengthen our democracy and make our economy much more fair.”

Copyright ©2021 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8



Own Your Data

This platform turns data into cryptocurrency

This platform turns data into cryptocurrency

An ownership economy concept is a system where all individuals hold a financial stake or value from participation in an ecosystem.

“Big Data is broken. Users are not being compensated for an asset they create. Data is now the world’s largest digital asset, and Cirus puts control of it back into the hands of the user. Turning data into cryptocurrency, Cirus unlocks data as an asset for the user, opening the doors into Web 3.0 and unleashing its long term potential as a new bankable asset,” says the Cirus team.

Cirus Foundation plans to build an ownership-led economy, giving individuals control over their data and how it is used, enabling any person with a Cirus device in their home to transact with cryptocurrencies and decentralized assets.

Plague and the Meaning of Life

The coronavirus pandemic has taken away so much in the blink of an eye: lives, jobs, income, wealth, vacations, travel, live entertainment, eating out, socializing, family gatherings, birthday parties, graduations, sports, libraries, universities, among so many things we never knew we would (not) miss.

But the pandemic has also given us a moment to reflect; to reflect on life’s true meaning and value.

Plagues, like war, strip us down and lay us bare, the reason why they are constantly explored through our arts and literature.

So, as we #stayathome, quarantined away from the frantic life of just a few months ago, we have been given this unique opportunity of time to consider the important things in life. Not yesterday, not tomorrow. Today.

You can be sure binge-watching Netflix and Showtime is not one of them. Meaningless passive entertainment is a time killer, so why take the time this crisis is giving us and squander it?

Will 2020 be like the proverbial hole in the resumé of our lives?

No. Idle time, a thing so rare these days, will lead us back to our hearts and souls because the alternative is maddening. The constant barrage of the Information Age has robbed us of being alone with ourselves, to discover what makes us tick. It’s not just TikTok.

Instead, our creative spirits sing the language of our souls as we reach out with our hearts to communicate and share that song. Heart and soul. People are playing music, singing, cooking, baking, drawing, painting, writing, planting gardens – all dancing to the rhythm of life, no longer marching to the drumbeat of time and money. Technology, that two-edged sword, helps us make the connections that fill our need for social engagement. But one can only stare at a Zoom party screen for so long. We must create meaning to share meaning. It is that love of the creator in all of us.

And this, thanks to a global pandemic, is actually happening. And not a moment too soon.

Create—Share—Connect

Why Spotify is the Living Dead

Below I include a recent article from Barron’s Magazine, presenting the financial challenges to Spotify, the dominant music streaming service.  Here’s why I believe it’s dead:

Spotify [is] a “pure play on a loss-leader category.”

Streaming music has been priced as a loss leader, in other words the costs of streaming music exceed what platforms receive from subscribers in revenue. This is not atypical for networking platforms as the platforms hope to monetize the data these networks create through their users. Of course, a network does not really become valuable until it is of dominant size and able to maintain continued user engagement. Facebook is the one we are most familiar with. And Facebook did not become profitable until it had been in operation for 6 years and experienced phenomenal user growth. Also, FB has an ad revenue model (more on this later).

The problem with Spotify is that its major product line loses money, a lot of money. Streaming unlimited music costs a lot more than $10/month per subscriber. But raising the price merely loses subscribers, and customer acquisition costs (CAC) on the margin often increase over time. So, the desperate strategy is to find a way to generate revenue from the data sharing network.

But Spotify faces some serious competition: Apple, Amazon, and Google. All three of these tech titans can afford to lose money on streaming for a long time, much longer than Spotify can stay solvent or keep the support of its investors. Spotify is a dead man walking. Its subscriber base will be auctioned off before it depreciates to zero. Or not.

For example, how does Spotify compete with this?

Facebook may be next

I expect the revenue squeeze will also hit Facebook’s main advertising model. Digital advertising is dominated by Google and Facebook. Google monetizes search routines it gathers every time you invoke its search algorithms. Facebook monetizes social sharing and likes. Each then sell access to this data to third-party advertisers. Now, search is a more robust indicator of interest than likes, so Google’s ad reach and keyword auctions offer greater value than FB “likes.” FB tries to increase its value through social network dynamics, but there is so much noise there that there’s a real question how much that is really worth in terms of advertising conversions.

But both platforms need to look at the big shadow hovering just over their shoulders and bearing down on their ad models. Amazon knows what people buy on its platform, which reveals a far more robust indicator for what people will buy again. Access to Amazon’s data will be worth that much more than FB and even Google. I expect FB has the weakest attention model and thus Amazon and Google will continue to eat into its ad revenues. I’m sure FB is working overtime trying to figure out how to pivot and leverage its massive user base. Libra Coin is a clear indicator of that. FB is hoping to use crypto tokenization to monetize peer-to-peer finance and banking. Unfortunately it faces some serious regulatory opponents in the central banks and the commercial payments industry. But I suppose FB has much cash to burn trying to find its next lily pad.

The real problem with the scramble for data real estate is that there are only so many hours in a day. On top of that, users and consumers are becoming cognizant of the value of their personal data and will be less inclined to give it away for free. This blows up most of the “mobile app” bubbles vying for attention in the digital economy. The future, if one is to believe in technological progress, is a far more decentralized digital universe where users reap much more value from the data they create and share, and successful platforms will need to deliver much more value than a free app for their users.

The question for us all is who will eat whom on the way to this future? (If we believe Elizabeth Warren, she will be eating them all. Politics is always a wild card.)

Spotify Stock Has Had a Miserable 6 Months. Wall Street’s Optimists Are Wrong.

By Avi Salzman

Barron’s October 5, 2019

A miserable few months have made Spotify’s stock as dull as elevator music. Now, some analysts think the stock is beaten down enough that a rally is coming, and Wall Street is ready to groove on the remix.

Spotify Technology (SPOT) has fallen 17% since Barron’s wrote a skeptical cover article on the company (“Spotify Stock Is Risky Because the Music Industry Isn’t Changing Fast Enough,” April 19). Short interest on the stock, which was below 3% for much of the year, is now above 5%.

Yet two formerly bearish analysts have recently shifted to a more neutral stance, on the theory that the bad news is already in the stock’s price.

Spotify is the global leader in streaming music, and it passed 100 million paying users this year. Still, doubts have grown on Wall Street about the company’s ability to sustain subscriber growth.

In August, Spotify started giving new premium users three free months of service, up from one month, which “has supported fears of negative subscriber trends,” writes Credit Suisse analyst Brian Russo, one of the analysts who has become incrementally more positive about the shares. The company has launched other offers, too, including six free months of Spotify for people who buy an Xbox Game Pass.

Investors will have to wait until Oct. 28, when Spotify reports third-quarter earnings, to find out whether the generous offers are cutting into its margins. For now, the stock still seems stretched. Its market cap is $21 billion, more than the $19.1 billion that the music industry took in worldwide in 2018—and most of that money goes to labels and artists.

Spotify, meanwhile, is expected to lose $1.92 a share this year; in April, the loss had been projected to be $1.48. Kevin Rippey, an Evercore ISI analyst, calls Spotify a “pure play on a loss-leader category.”

Spotify is looking at new revenue opportunities. The company has branched out into podcasting, with plans to spend as much as $500 million this year on acquisitions in the space. But there is no obvious payoff from those purchases; the podcast ad market in the U.S. is still below $1 billion. Spotify didn’t respond to requests to hear the company’s case from top executives.

Spotify leads rivals like Amazon.com (AMZN) and Apple (AAPL) among young customers, but it will probably need to find older fans in developed markets to hit Wall Street targets, Russo argues. That could be tough. Amazon’s smart speakers have helped it sell music packages to older customers and will make it difficult for Spotify to expand in that market, Russo says.

And Spotify’s rivals are increasing their offerings. Google-owned YouTube Music is promoting personalized playlists to help users find new music, an area that has been one of Spotify’s biggest strengths. Amazon has released a high-quality music service that costs $12.99 for Prime users—a small premium to Spotify’s $9.99—offering listeners CD-quality sound, or better. Unlike Spotify, those companies don’t depend on music to make money.

Because of the competition, Russo expects Spotify to grow disproportionately in emerging markets, “where disposable income is lower and monetization, both in terms of subscription and advertising, is more challenging.”

Spotify stock may well rise when the company reports third-quarter numbers, given the bearish setup in the market. But for it to become an attractive longer-term investment, it needs a clearer path to profitability.