The Day the Paywalls Died: How Steem’s Smart Media Token Saved My Family’s Newspaper

in #smt6 years ago (edited)

September 28, 2019 – Two years ago, when I got the call, my uncle sounded desperate. After graduating from UCLA with a marketing degree, I had gone to work for a consulting firm in Los Angeles. But I couldn’t save the Daily Ledger of Spokane, Washington, could I? It was one of the last family-owned newspapers and news websites in the United States. Like many others, it was dying.

Subscriptions were down for both the print and online editions, ad revenue on the website was falling, and there wasn’t a viable business model in sight. It seemed that our 80-year old family business was nearing its end. Like so many other independent news organizations, the Daily Ledger was finding it hard to survive in the 21st century.

Going to work for my uncle’s newspaper should have been a career-killing move. Family loyalty alone would not have taken me back to Spokane. And yet, I shocked myself by accepting his job offer and moving back home in a desperate effort to save a dying business.

Why did I do it? Because he mentioned “bitcoin” and opened the door to a grand experiment.


“You’re our last hope, Jeremy. We need your marketing magic for the Spokane Daily Ledger. Even use that Bitcoin if it helps.”

Two years earlier at Christmas dinner, I had bored my whole family with my passion for Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies. My advice to them was about as welcome as Grandma’s fruitcake (which is to say, family members were polite enough to pretend interest, but no one really wanted any). Apparently, my uncle had not forgotten my statement that day that “Cryptocurrencies could save newspapers”.

Fast forward a few months: I moved back to Spokane and was hired by my uncle as the Daily Ledger’s Director of Strategic Planning with instructions to do anything necessary to save the business. And I did stop the downward spiral in advertising, but only because we implemented a Smart Media Token (SMT).

We ruled out Bitcoin. It was too slow, too expensive, and bore all the hallmarks of a prototype that had not been improved upon as much as its successors. We also looked at Dash and other cryptocurrencies. We even considered doing an Ethereum-based ICO – way too expensive.

And then I learned about Steem’s Smart Media Tokens (SMTs). This proved to be the ideal solution, providing the best technology at a low cost, and with transactions that are instant and free. The Daily Ledger of Spokane became one of the first news organizations to integrate an SMT for our subscription-based news site.

The Steem SMT Saved Our Family Business. Here is How We Did It.

Month 1

With help from the team at Steemit, we launched the DAILY token about 18 months ago. Setting it up was “plug and play” simple and we found the process very user-friendly. Distribution, inflation, and an internal market: they let us tailor every option to suit our needs. But we wisely took our time to understand the implications of each choice before selecting the ones that work best for the DAILY token.

Month 2

After launch, we decided to focus first on our subscribers and advertisers. Each user who subscribed to the Daily Ledger’s online edition, ordered the print edition, or purchased an ad on either, received DAILY tokens as a loyalty reward. We had fun with it, holding some local events where we also gave DAILY tokens away on a radio show and increased the buzz.

Month 3

Once the internal market was set up, we announced that DAILY tokens would be accepted for subscriptions or ad placements. We also offered to buy back tokens through our internal market, but we valued them at a higher rate for the subscriptions and ad buys than for the market buybacks.

Most DAILY holders chose to use them for subscriptions or ad buys. Others held their tokens. Soon, a handful of DAILY holders (and investors from outside our region) realized they could use the internal market to bridge the gap between the low buybacks and the higher use value. An active market developed and they forced the price up to the rate we had set for the subscriptions and ads.

Month 4

The local buzz really grew. National news media covered our experiment. For the first time in 15 years, subscriptions and advertising stopped declining and began to increase.

We made a decision to implement Steemit-style voting for articles on our website, giving the rewards to article authors as a bonus, and taking only a modest percentage for the newspaper’s own administrative costs. We delegated DAILY tokens to each subscriber and advertiser, letting them choose the content that best deserved to be rewarded, and allowing each to earn also from curation rewards based upon their voting.


User engagement on the site increased tenfold. Each article had comments on it, which author was earning rewards as well. 30 days later, our top journalists had effectively doubled their salaries and everyone was earning more. Because we had set a non-author employee pool as the beneficiary for a small % on each article, employees from the ad department to the print room got into the fun and earned from the game as well.

Month 5

We received 176 job applications from journalists around the world. Never had so many people expressed a desire to work for our small newspaper and website in Spokane, Washington.

Month 6

We experimented with allowing non-subscriber accounts and eliminating subscriber paywalls for two large sections of article content. When the results were analyzed, it was clear that the journalists writing in these free areas earned more than those whose articles were protected by paywalls.

Month 7

The paywalls came down and subscriptions were eliminated. Under pressure from our employees, we opened up all areas of the news website for free access. When the local union chapter came to us with the employees’ demand to eliminate paywalls, we were ready with a counter-request to reduce the salaries paid in U.S. dollars for all journalists.

Amazingly, the union agreed to cut salaries in exchange for its employees having access to greater financial opportunities via upvotes on their content. We already had decided to bring down the paywalls, enabling free access and rewards potential for all content. Yet we still let the union “convince” us to eliminate paywalls in exchange for the salary cut.

Month 8

My uncle retired and they made me CEO of the family news business. A deli down the street and the barbershop on the ground floor of our building announced they will accept DAILY tokens for all transactions.

Month 9

We implemented a new “subscription” model in which subscribers would receive delegations of DAILY tokens in their accounts. Delegations became the new subscriptions. Until this point, previous subscribers and advertisers had been grandfathered in with accounts that contained some delegated DAILY tokens (and thus an opportunity to have more influence in voting and earn more curation rewards).

Now, everyone would have to pay for these subscriptions/delegations. And they did, because we priced them below the opportunity cost of the curation rewards these subscribers could earn by voting regularly or leasing their voting power to others. We still made good money, selling plenty of them at a low price.

Month 10

I was invited to be a keynote speaker at a huge cryptocurrency convention in Tokyo. Steemit was the main sponsor, which may have been a coincidence.


Month 11

All advertisers were moved to a subscription-based model also. Ad areas on the site were turned over to the marketplace where merchants could bid on each spot. They could use their accounts’ DAILY stake (delegated via subscriptions or filled by amounts they had purchased themselves) to make bids.

A few longtime local merchants grumbled and were not interested in participating, but they were more than balanced out by the interest from new advertisers from outside our region who wanted to reach our growing base of users.

Month 11

For the first time in decades, our company’s headquarters building had a 100% occupancy rate. A leading Silicon Valley venture capital firm leased the last vacant offices for the new Spokane-based location of its cryptocurrency accelerator hub.

Month 12

We convinced three other independent newspapers in other parts of the country to join our DAILY network. We essentially bought them out by giving them DAILY tokens or renting them large delegations of DAILY tokens with which to monetize their sites.

It wasn’t long before they asked us to host their content as well. They sold us any remaining assets and became subsidiaries of our company.


Month 13

Our news organization was named as one of Inc Magazine’s fastest growing companies in America. My mother cried when she saw me on the cover.

I was contacted by a large ring of porn websites, which wanted to monetize its content using DAILY tokens. Their deal would have added a ton of volume, easily doubling or tripling the value of the DAILY. But I turned them down, knowing my mother wouldn’t approve.

Month 14

A leading New York-based financial institution tried to pitch me on taking our family business public with an IPO/ICO. Why would we do that? I turned them down.

Month 15

We had to hire more journalists. Several of our longtime employees retired early and moved to warm tropical islands. The new journalists do not get salaries. They are thrilled to work for the chance of getting DAILY token-powered upvotes. In that sense, they aren’t employees anymore, but content creators we have invited to join our team brand.

The local union does not object to this. We already purchased them a new office on a warm tropical island. Electricity is a bit spotty there, but we haven’t heard from them in months.

Month 16

We bought the Washington Post, one of the world’s largest news organizations, from Jeff Bezos. He needed to raise money for his upcoming trip to Mars. We paid him in DAILY tokens. In my first online meeting with the Post’s employees, I told them that they might have experienced some changes under Jeff, but they hadn’t seen real innovation yet. Welcome to the blockchain, where money talks and good content creators get the rewards they deserve.

Month 17

UCLA invited me to give the commencement address this year for its Steem-Anderson School of Business. I accepted on the condition that they stop calling to ask me for donations. Don’t they have something I can upvote instead?

Month 18

I put my intern in charge and moved to a warm tropical island. The blockchain runs the majority of the business now, so there isn’t that much to do most days.

I saw a guy down here who had his laptop on the beach and was upclicking something, so I asked him about it. It turns out he was an early adopter of Steem even before they launched the Smart Media Tokens (SMTs). He had some strange screen name, like a farm animal, but I’ve forgotten what it was. Apparently, he still logs in every day to vote on new content he finds.


My uncle called and thanked me for saving our family business. He says I made him proud. I told him to thank the folks at Steem also. It was their Smart Media Token (SMT) that enabled us to kill the paywalls and monetize the content for our family business, turning it into the next big thing.

The story above is fictional (as the date of the article also suggests), but let's make it happen. All images from Pixabay or public domain sources.



What a spectacular post!

I think this goes a long way to put into perspective the amazing possibilities that the SMTs offer, and you described it in a wonderful manner.

Thank you for this!

Next step...figure out how it works.

id have to agree wish my content writing was so good!


It may be Fictional @jerrybanfield but it sure sounds DAMN GOOD to me.

Is there already any SMT implementation for a standalone forum like or ?
I really need such a SMT plugin for my forums...
Please let me know.
Many thanks.
Regards, Stefan.

I like this idea ..will be great for bloggers

Yes it will. My question though is will become redundant though if there is a mass adoption of SMT?

Hi @donkeypong
A very forward-looking article. Three months later I come over here and think it will not take until 2019.
I think we are experiencing such scenarios earlier. Time passes quickly, but developments in this area are faster.

Best wishes from Paraguay.

The evolution if crypto is fast, but the good development seems to take slightly longer. We will see. :)


We will see. :)

Sure - and i think we will see good times for cryptos and specialy STEEM and SDB.

$2.16 - 1 vote

Wow - thx so much for this incredible #upvote
I made this comment in my first days here on steemit and was at the beginning a little bit confused, whats going on here. Today i got the reward and was wondering about this high payment and jumped over here, to check out whats going on.


Wow, @donkeypong! I like your 2 year forecast into the future for the good SMT tokens would do for businesses, narrating in the past. I wrote an introductory post about it yesterday, to alert the Nigeria and Africa communities, while planning to find time, this weekend, to read the 50-paged SMT whitepaper. Thank you very much for the enlightenment.

Kind regards,

Was so confused reading through all of this. How could I of missed all this?!?!?

Got to the last line, ahhhhhhhh

Don't worry. The public release of tokens didn't come out until very recently. I'm thinking he was a trial run. But that's just me talking.

read the last line of his post

Or the first one when he writes the date (September 28, 2019)

Great read btw!

Lol missed that

I completely missed that 2019 date at the beginning and was totally confused. haha That last line cleared it though.

I just hope this actually becomes the future. It would be a meaningful one :)

This is really helpful on top of the info @ned has given - Really helps paint the picture of what this can be. I am sold, just need to work out how I can utilize SMT's!

I love this - especially from month 15 on!

This farm animal guy sounds like he knew what he was doing. I hope to meet him some day and shake his hand ;)

Thanks for this post. I think it puts it into a perspective I can wrap my head around.


Okay, I understand all of this perfectly, and I really didn't plan to reply at all.


I put my intern in charge and moved to a warm tropical island.

That made me crack up. Thanks for the smile!

This is all well and good, and it is revolutionary. That's the key word behind all of this too. It's a digital revolution. We are creating alternatives and walking away from current systems to improve the world.

How cool is that?

It's pretty damn cool. Thanks to you all. Thinking about what this all means brings a tear to my eye.

It's a true group effort to improve the world. Thanks.

Us Liberty Professionals are fighting the good fight. haha

You obviously have a business brain on your head @donkeypong - Im not sure if I followed how it worked completely so I will have to read it a few times.
I got the jist of it but I got lost a couple of times. I am an artist not a businessman but I have an interest is how crypto-currencly and blockchain technology can play a part in changing how businesses are run in the future. The story sounds like a great script for a film I might add.

Only the other day I was thinking how in fact the crypto world is only just beginning. Even though Bitcoin is rising and millions are flocking to it, I think a great deal of these new investors are just trying to make a quick buck.
IMO they are treating Bitcoin and other coins like stocks and shares without actually understanding what blockchain tech is really about. But in a sense that doest matter at this stage
I see your meaning here, what we need to happen is for something similar to your story to show the sceptics and the ordinary Joe or Jane in the street just how powerful the world will change, and for the benefit of everyone, once crypto currency becomes part of daily life.
My grandmother used to say; Be careful what yo wish for because it stands a good chance of coming true". Meaning if someone has a will they ill surely find a way.
Really enjoyed it.

That's all true, except for the part about me having a business brain.

donkeypong - Like arthuradamson, I too am an artist/writer, and I flowed right through the phenomenal success of the family business, stroking and swimming past every cryptocurrency concept that I don't yet understand. The story line was completely real in my own head, like watching Michael Douglas devour vulnerable companies in hostile takeovers on "Wall Street." Didn't have a clue how the concept worked but instinctively understood the heartbeat of the drama. You're really good, and you certainly have enough of a business brain to scam an artist!

Maybe I missed a calling as a scam artist. :) My intent was to open up possibilities so people start thinking about what they can achieve with these SMTs.

Well, you certainly caught this fish in your dragnet, and that is slightly miraculous because not only am I clueless about cryptocurrency, but I am also dragging myself out of Technophobia. Literally. Heart palpitations every time the computer acts in a bizarre manner and does some strange thing of its own volition. Your post about a revolutionary concept in the family business model is so convincing that I am finally beginning to focus on learning what I need to know. That means that your influence is powerful enough to change behavior. So be careful. The Deep State will now begin to study you. (Don't know how to make that little smiley thing)

Coin Marketplace

STEEM 0.27
TRX 0.11
JST 0.033
BTC 43664.50
ETH 2365.94
USDT 1.00
SBD 5.21