Unpacking the Potential of Web3 Publishing
Mirror’s Patrick Rivera on how tokens can unlock new publishing models for creators and communities
Web3 is fundamentally transforming how creators publish written content on the internet. Instead of a simple exchange of written work for subscription dollars, value is now being collectively created by writers and their tokenized communities.
Mirror happens to be the de facto home for web3 publishing. If you've ever launched or thought about launching a web3 project—whether that’s a DAO, a token-based product, or an NFT project—you know that the launch post has to be published on Mirror.
On this episode, we’re joined by Patrick Rivera, who has been a part of Mirror right from the get go. Patrick is a Product Engineer at Mirror and has been studying the convergence of crypto and creators for a long time. But what makes Patrick really stand out is that he is a builder. His insights on how web3 can transform publishing are based on his own practical experience: building valuable products for creators and communities on the ground.
We hope you enjoy this conversation as much as we did!
Joey: Hi everyone. I'm Joey DeBruin and I'm joined here by Sari Azout. This is “Tokens, But How?” a show where we dive into the messy details of building token based products. If you care about the ownership economy but have lots of questions, join us. This show is made possible by Every, a writer's collective focus on business, and Seed Club, a DAO that builds and invests in communities.
And today we are very lucky to be joined by Patrick Rivera. He's an engineer at Mirror, the Web3 publishing platform that basically everyone in Web3 uses. And Patrick is also one of the clearest communicators out there on Web3 and how to build actual useful products. I sort of have the feeling that if the world was full of Patricks we'd get about a thousand times as much done and have much better vibes along the way. So, Patrick, thank you for joining us.
Patrick: That was the best intro I've ever gotten. I mean, I’ll record that and send it to my parents, they’ll love it.
Joey: Sweet. Maybe we can start with the very high levels. Can you give us, like, as simply as you can possibly put it…what is the transformational potential for Web3 publishing? And maybe along the way you can tell us a little bit about, you know, what is Mirror?
Patrick: Yeah. I like to look at consumer products as a bundle of different services or different features. The clearest difference is around monetization. And so for Web3 publishing, it allows a few different business models. So whether that be monetizing through NFTs…like turning your essay into an NFT and selling the ability to own that and potentially transfer it. And so that's one new business model. There's also interesting things that we haven't necessarily explored, but things that other people have discussed around staking or token gated content, and a lot of stuff that’s a bit more complex, but at least for now we see that NFTs, since a lot of people have been talking about them and understand them, that's probably the clearest use case in the near term, on the monetization side. So that's one…And then there's other components of consumer products around distribution. And so historically in Web2 apps you have this feed…it's usually curated by yourself, depending on who you follow or unfollow or block. But then you basically have this graph of people that you're following. And then the corporation…they decide how the algorithm is tuned, what gets prioritized, what gets deprioritized. And so…just kind of this intermediary between you, your intention of who you're following, and the actual content…and we think that in Web3, there's new models for distribution and discovery. It's still super early, we’re still trying to figure out how this actually looks in practice. Something that Mirror did early on was something called ‘the right race.’ And it was a form of curating and onboarding new members to Mirror. And so the way that worked was basically it gave people that were already members of Mirror certain voting power. And they use that voting power to vote in the next group of members. And so I can see that for all sorts of types of content, whether it's for musicians, whether it's for essays, whether it's for songs, whether it's for videos. And of course there's a lot of implementation details that need to get figured out, but at least in that form it’s more of a peer to peer reputation system.
And I think in practice it gets tough once you have tons of user generated content at scale, you can't necessarily have a group of people curating it. But I think a lot of people talk about Wikipedia and how that was used to curate information. Of course, it's a bit different, but I think there's something there in terms of peer to peer signaling and curation of content. And I know that’s something that Sari’s been working a lot on. So I think those are the two main areas: monetization and distribution discovery. The last thing I'll say is that a lot of people focus on the data portability and identity being portable as well. And I think those are super important, but at least in the near term, most consumers and creators…what they care about is really distribution and monetization, not as much “I have this Ethereum address as my identity that's portable, or this data is signed by my private key and it's successful.” Those aren't necessarily things that they're thinking about. It's more so around the monetization distribution.
Joey: Yeah. Super interesting. I feel like there's so many parts of Mirror and what you've done that we kind of need to lay it out and unpack it. And this is a great one to start on. So, you know, just to kind of rewind for everyone. So if I'm writing on Mirror, I create an article, I have the option to kind of mint that article as an NFT, and then people can sort of collect that NFT and I can then unlock other experiences for them down the line on other social applications. Kind of these benefits that Patrick was just talking about. I think a year ago, Patrick, you wrote about Web3 native newsletter businesses. I think that gave the sense almost that these are competing with existing paid newsletters. So in an existing paid newsletter newsletter, you know, you have some amount of content that's free. You have some other content that is paid and the people who really love you, you know, are willing to pay to get all of it. Right? So they're willing to pay for the extra stuff. I think what you're describing with NFTs feels different, right? Because it's not an access model of the content itself. So there's kind of like something subsequent…it's like everyone who had access to all the content…and then I create something else down the line. So do you feel like this is even the same audience or is this unlocking like a whole different kind of monetization? Because in some ways, like some creators probably just want to, you know, write the content and have that be the business model. And then maybe there's other people that don't want that business model and want some other social business model. Like, do you think these things are in competition or is it really about unlocking like a whole different kind of writer?
Patrick: Yeah, I think that's one of the core questions and at least in the near term, I think it’ll be unlocking a different type of writer. On the one hand, there's the people using Substack for their newsletter businesses and they're making thousands of dollars or tens of thousands of dollars a month. And it'd be really hard to get them to use a different product. And also with those products, they're supporting credit cards. There’s this whole infrastructure that is optimized for a very specific type of reader, specific type of writer. And that's great. And yeah, I’m really inspired by what they've done. And yeah, I do think that Mirror is quite different in the sense that…I like the way you put it where it’s just more of a social business model, where now you buy these NFTs as a way to signal how much you either appreciate the writing or you appreciate the writer and you want to be known as a super fan. And I think one interesting thing that is going to be done in the next few months is around how they carry these soulbound NFTs, these soulbound tokens, where when you buy a certain number of NFTs from someone that could give you some sort of like badge or some sort of like tiered status or tiered rewards…maybe that gets you access to an exclusive channel.
And it's basically kind of like productizing these Discord roles…like maybe in a Discord channel, you’d have different tiers of members…of the core contributors or the very active fans. Then there’s more of the passive fans that are not as actively engaged…I think you can create various social business models like tiered NFTs or something like that for people that are fans of a certain writer. And I think those types of writers that are building that type of community are going to look a bit different. And I think many times they're not the ones that currently have a very successful newsletter business, but instead maybe they're a part-time writer where their main job is as a DAO operator or as an investor, as a researcher, or as somebody else that's actively engaging in the ecosystem. And they're just writing in order to build a community, to build a following…have a group of people that they're engaging with…they’re teaching information to their learning from as well. So I think that's more so I think that these types of writers are going to look a lot more like community leaders, community managers, as opposed to someone who's just broadcasting to an audience.
Joey: I'll put you on the spot a little bit. Yeah, that totally makes sense. I guess if I was thinking through this, the business model of just like Substack alone is kind of nice because it's very simple, right? It's like, “I'm a writer…all I have to do is write…some of that content is paid. Some of it's free. I can make money so that I'm good.” Then there's this other kind of business model where I'm able to give special access or certain experiences to certain people. And that's kind of like this NFT model. How do you think about the sort of addressable market for each of those kinds of revenue streams? Because I guess the question would be like: Is this new enabled revenue stream also going to be big enough for it to be a big thing? I guess on the one hand it does require you to be both a writer and a community builder. So how big is the overlap of that Venn diagram? How do you think about that?
Patrick: Yeah. In terms of the market size for it: I do think that it's still the early days and there's two components to the market size. There's the number of people in the market and then there's also how much they're spending. Comparing it to video games and kind of like whales in video games where there's like free to play games specifically on mobile, where it's free to download and you play this game. It's a very social experience. Your friends are there. And then maybe there's a very small cohort of say like 5% of the users that are driving the vast majority of the revenue. And so I think that's like one potential model, but I also think that there could potentially be others where the Ethereum ecosystem is moving to layer twos, which are making transaction fees lower. I think I could see some interesting models around subscriptions and things like that for lower transaction fees, for lower transaction NFTs and subscription models. But yeah, the reality is there are many fewer people with crypto wallets than credit cards. But I think it is a bet on creating this new behavior and comparing it to the way that a lot of these free to play mobile games have been created and monetized over time. And focusing on this core segment with people that are willing to pay for patronage for early support for superfan status, et cetera. And then in terms of writers becoming community builders…I think that's one model and yeah, that's totally fair. Many people just prefer writing and maybe they just prefer working their full-time job and just want to be a consumer. And so I do think that that won't necessarily be the dominant model, but that is one that we're seeing early on. And I think those people are the ones that are going to be kind of driving the ecosystem just because they are very passionate about building those communities and creating content for them and actively experimenting with the community. And I feel like I've seen a lot of really interesting models, especially in the music NFT space where the musicians look very different in that space then they do, say, signed to a traditional record label that is publishing on SoundCloud or on Spotify…and now they're doing drops on different sites and they're on Twitter. They're doing Twitter spaces Every time they're doing a drop they're talking to the community. I feel like it's going to look less like managing a Discord server and ideally we can build products and features that make it feel more like hanging out on Twitter or talking on a Twitter space.
Sari: Patrick. When you think about the people that have bought writing and NFTs thus far on Mirror, what do you think are the primary drivers there? I recall Jesse Walden, back in the day when Mirror was getting started, coined the term ‘patronage plus’ to describe patronage where there is a potential option for upside. And so I'm curious, do people invest with or buy these NFTs believing that there is a potential promise to earn a financial ROI on it. It seems like that's harder because there's no real marketplace or interfaces built around that. So I'm curious if you had to break down the primary motivations of the people buying writing NFTs, what do you think those are?
Patrick: There’s a few. So one of them would be just general patronage or support where it's like, “Hey, I've been reading this person's writing for a very long time. It's impacted me. It's helped me in my business or my daily life. And I just want to support them and just show a token of my appreciation.” That's one. The second one is around speculation. And frankly, we're actually seeing less of that, which I'm excited about because we're on a layer two…we're on optimism…And so the average price is quite low and many writers…they're minting these writing NFTs with pretty high supply…around like 500,000…And so there’s not necessarily a secondary market around them. And so that's good. There are still people that are trying to buy up a large supply of them thinking that they'll be able to sell them on a secondary market, but at least now I don't see that as a primary driver of why people are buying them. And I think another big reason why people are buying them is around identity and curation. And so we built a feature where whenever you purchase a writing nFt it displays on your profile and you can show a list of all the different writing NFTs you've purchased. And it has a little preview of them with the cover image and we see that eventually becoming something like a digital bookshelf, where it's like all of the writing that has impacted you, the writers that you look up to that inspire you. And in the future we can build tools to make it easier for you to make them into collections and say, “okay, these are my favorite essays on tokens” or “here are my favorite podcasts…my favorite essays on this other specific topic…” And I think that'd be an interesting way, not only for people to signal their identity and their interests, but also can be the monetization channel for curators, where: Hey, you collect these essays and then people could subscribe to you as opposed to subscribing to a writer so they can get up-to-date access and an up-to-date feed of all the content that someone is curating.
Joey: Patrick, you recently launched…on Optimism, which is an L2 chain…like lower price NFTs. And it's super nice…this experience you're describing where basically you can go and you can kind of collect these writing NFTs. And there, you know…at least the ones that I collected are…I don't know, they were $5 or, you know, maybe $10 or $20. And so, you're able to collect a bunch of them…just like, oh, “I think this article is really cool. It helped me out.” It's almost like a tip or has like the Patreon kind of feel to it. So that was super nice. I'm curious, how do you think about the price of a writing NFT? Because I guess when you were talking earlier about the whales in a game. And I think, you know, A16Z recently put out this article which we were just saying like, yeah…the transaction volume, or like the number of people participating in NFT spaces….it's pretty low. But from a revenue standpoint, it's really high. And so it's not like every creator needs to go out and be a writer plus community builder. But the ones that can do that will actually be able to really make a good living. That to me was just that you have these higher priced collection items that facilitate this connection between you and the quote unquote whales in your community. But as the price goes down, then you have more signal and you can use that signal to build more social products like you're describing…like these digital bookshelves…probably less useful if only the 1% of people can actually afford to have a digital bookshelf. Right? So like, how do you think about nudging people towards setting the right price for these writing NFTs?
Patrick: Yeah. That’s a fantastic question. And that's exactly right where there's kind of two ends of the spectrum: On one of the spectrum there's like the one-on-one…more like art NFTs where it's super exclusive. They usually are sold to a reserve auction…to people that are bidding up the price and now they're selling for thousands of dollars worth of ETH. And so that's kind of one end of the spectrum. Then the other end of the spectrum is these more lower price NFTs, which is a lot of the entities that have been mentored on Marisol. They're going that route or the other five, $10…And so there's two ends of the spectrum and kind of the trade-off of making it just the one-on-one and MTS, is it now?
Yeah, like you said, not many people have this digital bookshelf of essays that they're curating. And so at least for now we've decided to focus more on the lower price end of the spectrum, just because we want more of that accessibility…we want more people engaged in that…going back to the video game analogy…The reason why people make the games free to play is that so a lot of people are there. They're playing. So you have tough competitors that you're competing against. You have leaderboards that are filled up and you have this vibrant ecosystem. And I think starting there where you just create this vibrant ecosystem and then over time you layer in like other tiers.
So you'd layer in like other games within games within the game for other people that are willing to pay more. That's kinda what we're thinking about it, where in the early stages, it's really around like bootstrapping the ecosystem, getting as many people as involved as possible, creating these social features and then over time layering in these other channels for people to potentially purchase more significant items or kind like show their patronage in other ways, or earn their patronage and reputation in other ways.
Sari: Yeah, it seems like in order for all of this to work there just have to be more spaces to sort of flex ownership…or your bookshelf as you described it. It sounds like a lot of the early use cases that took off for NFTs were primarily visual because it's very easy to flex ownership of a PFP as your profile picture.
Is it right to say that Mirror is heading in the direction of building out a lot of the social tools that allow you to display the authors and the writing that you're collecting. Yeah. I'm curious if you would agree with that.
Patrick: Definitely. That’s a core piece of it. And with the writing NFT launch we also launched like profile pages. That's like one discovery surface for both displaying the NFTs that you're holding, but also, so people can discover new NFTs. Then we also have a leaderboard on mirror.xyz/leaderboard, which has the 10 best entries…the 10 entries that have raised the most Eth. And so, yeah…thinking through like, “what are those other discovery surfaces,” and even potentially allowing people to create their own customizable pages and imbed different NFTs that they've collected. That'll be super interesting. Like, on Substack, for example, they have a discovery page and they have these little tabs for all the different types of writing they have: say it’s for politics, it's for crypto, it's for business, it's for technology, it's for…all sorts of different topics. And I could imagine something very similar but just a Web3 focus where yeah, there's like one for NFTs, there's one for research, there’s one for all layer ones, there's one for tokens or tokenomics. There's one for governance. And so, yeah, I think that creating these new discovery services where people can basically see what people they're interested in are collecting, and find new pathways of both displaying your collection, but also discovering new writing as well.
Joey: I think about some key learnings that I would have from just being inspired by the Mirror team. Part of it, you know, is about being really thoughtful about where you need to really own the experience, because the products just aren’t built there yet.
And so in some sense it feels like long-term if people are creating these one-of-one art NFTs that enable these super amazing experiences for the whales…you're relying on a lot of products and ways to flex, et cetera…and that maybe don't exist yet. Whereas I think focusing on what you're doing now…so like a little bit lighter forms of connection between a writer and an audience…and thinking about building the social products around that…like you said…maybe at some point this gets adopted into a much wider interoperable ecosystem, but right now it's an area of the experience that you really need to make sure works super well. Maybe I can segue that into one of the big questions that I wanted to ask you for other people who want to get inspired. Because one of the things that I found most interesting is that if you are working in Web3…so if you are launching a project, if you are starting a DAO, if you are building a product…doesn't matter…there is this feeling that you need to create whatever content you're creating on Mirror. So you need to do your launch post on Mirror. Certainly if you're doing a crowdfund, you know, you'd need to have it on Mirror. And I think this is actually not really a feature decision. I don't even think it's a discovery decision. It's really like a vibe decision. This is the place to be if you want to ‘be Web3,’ and I'm just curious: first of all, do you agree with that? And second of all, how do you think that happened? How can more people really capture the community zeitgeist to be kind of in this core sort of technology stack that everyone thinks about.
Patrick: It's definitely something that we've wanted to do. We wanted to make Mirror the home for Web3 writing. And we've had a few different fairly large projects come to us and tell us that they want to migrate to Mirror because they want to do things more of the Web3 way. We've heard people say that it feels cringe to post on other platforms. And of course, other tools out there…they've been around for a while and they have great feature sets. But yeah, if we're building in Web3, we're trying to build this new decentralized user owned internet…yeah, using those types of platforms and supporting them along the journey…learning from them…seeing how they're building their products…what features they're building. And I think it's important to be using the tools and be supporting them. And so it was great to see that support. And probably one way that we were able to facilitate that was constraining the network early on. And that was through the right race mechanism that we had, where every week 10 new members were voted in and were able to use Mirror the product.
And a lot of people said that it was a growth hack…doing that to generate hype and yeah…it was like…Well, I feel like the reality was that we were still super early. We wanted to onboard people. We wanted to make sure that anyone that used the product had an amazing experience and we didn't want to open it up too quickly.
And then kind of a side effect of that was that the types of people that were using the product very early on…they were fairly well-known within the community and it kind of became this status symbol to have a Mirror sub-domain and to be publishing on Mirror. And that's kind of like where it started out. Those were the roots. And kind of from there…once you had that solid foundation and you kind of let that emerge over time and just continue compounding over time…Mirror becomes the place to either talk about funding announcements or new product features or to do a crowdfund. Counterintuitively it's like starting off and like intentionally constraining the network and allowing yourself to provide a great experience and kind of curating the initial people using the product…or at least letting the community curate them, because we weren't necessarily curating them as the core team.
And yeah, I think that was, that was like a really core thing that we did from the beginning that I think helped.
Sari: Patrick, you've had a front row seat into seeing a ton of DAOs and crowdfunds and projects launch on Mirror over the past year. I'm curious, from your perspective, where do you think crypto has found product market fit and based on that experience, what kinds of projects and communities would you bet on growing hugely over the next year?
Patrick: Yeah, I think that's a great question. The way I like to view crypto is: there's the infrastructure layer, which are like the blockchain consensus protocols, and there's smart contract protocols, and then there's a ton of apps built on top…I think there's a few different classes of apps that have product market fit. I think the one obvious one is around cryptocurrencies. And so the big one of course is Bitcoin. I don't know exactly what the market cap is, but it’s probably in the hundreds of billions. And so I think it's fair to say that that's got a product market fit. Frankly, the cryptocurrencies are just speculation on different assets. And so there’s this whole class of DeFi apps that's gotten to product market fi… for better or worse. Then I also think that under the covers there's actually a lot of really interesting DeFi apps around lending, around swapping, around other types of derivative products.
I think there's significant volume on a lot of these products and even like the user experience around taking out a loan on compound…I don't even know how I would do that. Like in traditional financial services you kind of just go to this website, you deposit a certain amount of Eth, and then with that you basically get a credit line where you can withdraw, or you can borrow a certain amount Eth, and you can use that to purchase things. And all of that can happen in as little as like five minutes…and that's pretty mind blowing. That's a pretty great product. And yeah…right now the user experience isn't great. But I think once you're on ramped and you understand the system…that's a pretty incredible use case. And so I think those are the big ones.
And then also around capital formation…people have been raising funds. They've been using those funds to build up a treasury and then also using the tokens that were distributed to get a discord. I think there’s one around capital formation for communities. And then I don't think there's that much product feel with actually distributing the capital yet. Just cause, you know, there's that many guardrails or there's not that much tooling in place and people are still figuring things out. But yeah, I think having this global financial system that's internet native is something that's super compelling. And in the next wave, a lot of interesting products we built around say gaming, around music, around other creative tooling like writing, also around social products. I think that that's the next frontier…but today I think really the main ones are around cryptocurrencies, around DFI protocols, around financial services, around capital formation, and then kind of this next wave of social apps and gaming creator tools, etc…
Joey: Lots in there to unpack. Maybe we can start with DAOs and tokenized communities. You mentioned that as one of the use cases. And something that you advised me on is to be wary of building products for all communities, because they are all so different. You've probably had a front row seat to more communities than almost anyone. Maybe if you can be more specific, like: what are the kinds of problems that you think communities are facing now when they are coming to Mirror to launch their crowdfund. Like if you weren't building Mirror, and you were trying to build another product to help more communities actually come to life and do great things, do you have any sense of what that would be?
Patrick: Yeah, I'd say there's different classes of problems with a lot Web3 communities. There's more coordination problems. Like org structure. Like what is this DAO supposed to be doing? What is this community supposed to be doing? Who's the core team? How invested are they? How good are they at leadership or strategy or management, et cetera. And so that’s the core issue when scaling and building sustainable communities…But then on the more like technical side… I’d say there's this entire process from start to finish for the community and getting it going. And first there's funding…there's different tools for crowdfunding. I think one big open area is around social experiences. Of course, a lot of people use Discord…and it's a great tool for many reasons, but then also not a great tool for other reasons. Information gets lost. It's kind of hard to configure and set things up. You kinda need to get somebody working part time to work on it. Also it's very spammy with notifications. And so I think there's tons of opportunities there for better social features and ways of allowing people in different DAOs to coordinate with one another on specific projects…like more project management tools, or if it's more forums and ways for people to communicate. Or tools like Backdrop for people that are trying to decide which communities do to even join in the first place. That's another big one. And so I think that whole social area is very interesting. And then there's also more back office functions and back office tools and things like payroll, things like taxes…or for expense management, treasury management…things like that. There's quite a few tools building in that space…Utopia Labs is one of them. I think that those are kind of the main broad areas around funding. There's more social features. There's top of funnel discovery, and there's also back office administrative type work.
Sari: Patrick, I want to go back to writing…and one of the biggest sort of opportunities that I always see that mirror can take a part in is this market for one-off writing? Right? So today you're either a writer or you're not, but there are a lot of people…and I would argue some of the people that are best equipped to actually write something interesting…research something interesting are operators, community builders, as you referenced…And so today you can presumably spend a lot of time writing something and then put it up on Mirror and hope that someone collects the NFT…and you don't have any visibility into how much you can make with that. There's also crowdfunding or pre-subscribing to writing. And so I'm curious, as you think about the sort of funnel or experience for somebody who perhaps has a following…is more of an operator…considers themselves less of a content creator. How much do you think of the pre-fund model versus a post writing model, if that makes sense?
Patrick: Yeah, that’s interesting. We saw a lot of that with crowd funds over the past year where people would create an entry and they would deploy a crowdfund and maybe they'd have a project…say they're trying to create an EP or some sort of music album, or people were trying to raise money for a film. There's lots of different types of projects that people were raising for. And a lot of them did really well, but a lot of the later ones weren't able to meet their goals for different reasons…maybe just that they didn't have distribution or people didn't know them. Cause that's really the tough part where unless you had done something in the past or you kind of built this audience previously, it's very hard to get distribution for these things. And I think that for many people the simplest thing is to just have a product already, because then you kind of run the risk of, okay, I raised all this money…but then I promised that I'm going to do this thing, but what happens if I don't? And then of course you kind of have that social capital at stake where if you don't do something then people might cancel you on Twitter or say bad things about you. And that's not great, but yeah…think it is possible, and we will see that in the future. And I'm actually very interested in seeing writer collectives. I think that's one case where it would work where it's like there's a group of five writers. “This is kind of our plan…this is our roadmap.” Maybe we raise to like 100k worth of ETH and it gets paid out to us over time after hitting certain milestones, so I think more complex structures will probably be more likely how they’ll work, but they're definitely more complex to implement. For now the simple approach of “Hey, somebody already wrote something”. Because I think the main thing for a lot of people…like main reason why they're not writing is not necessarily because they don't have the funds to do it. It's more so that they don't have the distribution or they don't feel comfortable sharing their ideas. And I think solving for those other problems in the near term probably makes sense.
Sari: Yeah, distribution seems like the biggest unanswered question in Web3, because the monetization angle of it is clear, but it seems like distribution is still happening in Web2 platforms. And I'm curious: where can Web3 have a distribution advantage…or do you think the real sort of killer use case for Web3 is going to be on the monetization side, not on distribution.
Yeah. Monetization…it kind of helps with distribution in the sense that most Web3 projects are getting distribution through Twitter, through Discord, through Telegram. And the monetization does kind of bootstrap the distribution where it's like, “oh, there's this new NFT collection. And we have people that have bought in early and they want it to go up.” And so those are kind of coupled in that sense…because the community is able to monetize they become the distribution for you. And I think we've mostly seen that in more speculative assets, like NFTs or tokens, and haven't seen it as much in more social products and…yeah, I think that social products…it remains to be seen how financialized they will be. And at least for me personally, I think the overt financialization isn't super exciting. Instead, I'm really interested in more means of reputation and identity and staking and models like that…where say you have 10 limited NFTs and you get a new supply of them every month. And so each month you have 10 NFTEs to give out to your favorite writers or your favorite content creators.
I think that's a really interesting model for distribution. And then maybe on your page now instead of following thousands of people now you only follow 10 new people each month…And so that really means something…And then people get distribution from the larger accounts. I think that there needs to be a lot of thinking there. But I think something like that, where distribution…both through speculation and through people wanting to share because of that. But then also what I'm more interested in is getting distribution through reputation and people that have a good reputation. They're kind of co-signing other people as well and building better systems and products for that.
Joey: Yeah, it feels like a lot of what we're talking about is like…once you have some distribution, then I think crypto gives you all these ways to do really interesting things with that. So you can, you know, do your crowdfund, you can launch your NFTs to your biggest fans and you do all sorts of cool stuff. But I think so far it maybe hasn't really helped people build that initial distribution. To me that feels like a major unlock. Cause as you're describing it, you can launch a crowdfund…but it's kind of like a high friction thing to do because if all you have is like a dream and you don't have a team or anything…like what if you don't end up doing anything successful, then you have collected this money from people and you kind of just like….I don't know…you feel like a fraud in a way, but there isn't like a way to let people participate in that sort of feeling of ownership up to the point where you do something that's higher friction like a crowdfund. So I'm really interested in how you all will end up stringing these experiences together. So the first experience might be: I write an article saying like, “Hey, I'm thinking about this.” And a thousand people collect my NFT for a dollar. So it's like a little tiny little tip, you know? Down the line I want to do something a bit more high friction. Maybe I want to actually raise some money and I can limit it to only the people that have collected my NFTs in the past. So I'm very interested in how you kind of string those experiences together. I'm curious if you've been inspired by any projects that have found really interesting ways to build momentum up to the point where they have enough distribution to actually quote unquote participate in some of the systems that we're talking about.
Patrick: It's tough to convince people to give you money when you don't have much reputation or there's not much you can point to…even if you're fantastic and you do great work, it's just hard to convince people. And yeah, I feel like one really good example that I like is Daniel Allan who is a musician. Before he did a mirror crowdfund, he spent six months just getting involved in communities and supporting others, hopping on calls, engaging with collectors and doing smaller drops and understanding the community and stuff. And it wasn't until then that he had like a core community, core group of fans that then he went and did the crowdfund and it ended up selling out. I think it was over a hundred thousand dollars worth of ETH in 24 hours. And so of course that's a tough process taking six months, using a variety of tools and tons of time. How would you productize that? How would you build a reputation within the system where you're posting entries and people are collecting them and you can see the progress over time. And then based off of that…that kind of unlocks other features and you're able to build your community and so, yeah. It's unfortunate. I haven't seen too many products that have been able to automate that process or build features around that process.
But yeah, that's the thinking…how do you take that six month process and fragment it into a set of tools and kind of build that and make it in a way that it’s integrated, takes faster. And you’re able to get distribution and it can help others get distribution and kind of build this feedback loop.
Sari: Yeah. Distribution is definitely a big one. I guess the other big one for me is recurring revenue. Recurring revenue in Web2 has been a big aspiration for a lot of creators. Do you think that there will be a sort of Web3 native recurring revenue model for publishing specifically? Is that something you're actively thinking about in the context of Mirror?
Patrick: It's not something that we're actively thinking about. We've definitely discussed it and have chatted about it and we think that at least for now…I mean, you could probably represent subscriptions as an NFT. And so that could be interesting, but at least for now we want to keep the product fairly focused, fairly simple. Like, “Hey, there's this one mechanism” and try and explore the bounds of that and how that could work before layering in other mechanisms.
But yeah, I definitely think that there's tons of merits to recurring subscriptions…I think there's tons of opportunities to build products that focus on more recurring subscription style products and figuring out ways to tokenize that. Yeah. Really excited to explore more of that.
Joey: Yeah. This is maybe a tough question, but you've talked about some of the things that Mirror needs to do in order to explore the bounds of that focused direction that you have. Right? So focusing not on recurring revenue, but this other kind of NFT collection. Building out the social features that you need to make that happen. Do you feel like you're dependent on anything that you can't build in order to be successful? Like what are the biggest challenges that are holding Mirror back from wider adoption that you feel like are more out of your control?
Patrick: Yeah, until recently one of the big ones was transaction fees and then…having moved to optimism…we're still in early days of experimenting and deploying protocols there, but that's the huge unlock in terms of allowing creators to price their writing at lower price points and making NFTs more accessible to people. That was really a big one. The other big one is just around just general onboarding and understanding crypto wallets and understanding what is an NFT? What is the utility? What do I get for it? My writing now has a price point on it, but what does that mean? If less people than I expected collected, what does that mean? That can be demotivating. And so we’re thinking a lot about how do we build products to kind of alleviate some of those concerns and be more supportive and not make it scary. And really educating creators, hopping on a call with them, walking them through it, answering questions, writing really good documentation, being there to support, putting in a great automated support system and understanding where people are facing issues and trying to get those resolved as quickly as possible. And again, I don't think there's necessarily a simple solution. It's more like: focus on the core group of people that are using the product today and grow with the ecosystem as we solve these problems together.
Sari: Patrick, where do you think we are in the adoption cycle?
Patrick: Yeah, I would say that, of course, there's different ways of looking at it. There's the financial numbers and asset prices, but I've been in crypto for over two years now, and I've never been more excited. I think for me the key indicators are the actual people building in the space and the underlying infrastructure and product. Mostly the people, and then also there's funds and investments going in, which allows people to take risks and hire teams and do things to scale products. And so I think across all those dimensions, whether it's like developers, the products and infrastructure…then also investment…I think that there's a pretty solid foundation. And I'm always really energized talking to people, learning about different projects, learning how people are thinking about things. Of course there's still a lot to be done. And I think that this next cycle…this next wave, there's gonna be a lot of things done around social and creator tooling, gaming, et cetera. And I think at that point, a lot of people are going to realize that ideally we can solve a lot of these problems around onboarding…around high transaction fees…around user experience complexity. And I feel like those are relatively easy problems to solve. And if you spend enough time thinking about them, being resilient and building things I think that there's going to be some awesome things built. And I just look back two and a half years ago when I first started and told friends and I was working at a DeFi company. They were like, “what the heck is DeFi, that sounds crazy, crypto is a scam.” And some people still think that, but looking back and seeing now how Uniswap has processed over a trillion dollars worth of volume. And there's lending protocols that have billions of dollars worth of assets locked up and just seeing the growth…and not only in like the actual metrics but also just people talking about it and understanding it…institutions being interested in it.
And so, yeah, for me, I definitely have seen tons of growth…I’m fairly optimistic about the smart people that are in the space and being able to solve problems if they just have enough time and resources to do it.
Joey: One thing that I've been thinking recently…I had a conversation with someone where as we're recording this…it's the bear market as everyone likes to say. Right? And I guess part of that is that there's just a lot less speculative energy. And it almost feels like two ways to deal with that, if you're out there building right now. One is like, you really need to almost blend the financial aspect more into the background and that's maybe why focusing on really social products where you have these really light experiences might be useful. And another way also is to maybe even just build for a really small group of people that already are fully bought in to Web3…they already understand wallets…they already kind of participate in that ecosystem and really think about creating these magical experiences that are a bit more complicated. I dunno if there's a right answer, honestly. I think both are good for their own reasons, but they do feel sort of in contrast to each other, right? So the more you focus on not really over-complicating things, then you can't do some more complex things. And I wonder: how do you think about that in Mirror? Like, do you see Mirror as like a first experience that people have in crypto…like people feel the magic of crypto there first…or as like a tool that people can use once they are down the rabbit hole to some degree.
Patrick: Definitely more the former where it's ideally a first onboarding experience for people. We want to feel like more traditional products…and of course it's different connecting a wallet and having that downloaded…but assuming you're able to get that done, then once you do that, a lot of things feel and look very similar where, okay: you have a dashboard, you have a text editor that supports all sorts of media types, images, videos, et cetera. And so it looks and feels very similar and hey…you don't necessarily need to be a Web3 expert…then when you publish, then you see “Oh, there's this NFT thing. What is that?” Ideally we can give an education that makes it less scary…that makes it more interesting and exciting. And I think that we've done a good job of that and are constantly trying to get better at that. One cool thing with these new writing NFTs is that now the creator doesn't have to have any ETH in their wallet because in order to deploy the NFT, it's just a signature. And so as you guys said, as long as you have a crypto wallet downloaded, then you can go to Mirror, publish an entry and start earning your first Eth. And so we definitely optimize that experience for people that are just getting started in crypto and don't necessarily need to be experts. But the reality is that a lot of people that are excited about using these products, most of them are already Web3 native. But ideally we can grow with the ecosystem as more of the non Web3 natives are using these products and getting interested and exploring. Ideally we’d have Mirror be a place that is inviting and feels familiar.
Sari: Patrick, you mentioned for the non-Web3 native creators…Initially some benefits resonate more than others. You mentioned data portability perhaps is not as relevant, not as relatable. I'm curious…in your conversations with so many creators you’ve probably had over the past year or so of launching Mirror…what do you think is the ah-ha moment for creators that don't know what an NFT is, have never interacted with Web3. What do you think is the moment where they're like, “oh, I get it. This can solve a real problem for me.” What is sort of the key narrative ah-ha moment there.
Patrick: Yeah. So over the last few weeks we've seen a few people where their a-ha moment has been when they see people collecting their essay for the first time and seeing that, “oh, wow. I just raised a hundred dollars or $50 and compare that to other blogging products or social media tools where maybe I get followers or likes or subscribers. And for most of these tools, there's no monetization built into it. It's just like, “okay, that's cool.” Somebody signaled their interest in my writing or they signal that they want to follow me. But the main difference here is, okay…Not only does someone signal interest, but then they are willing to give me some sort of value and pay for it. And that feels really good. With the new writing NFTs, the person doesn’t even need any ETH to get started. They really just need to have a creative spark, and then go and put that down and publish it and share it with their community. And the magic moment is seeing people not only just follow, but it's actually like a value transfer. And so trying to get as many people to experience that as possible is really the goal.
Sari: Wonderful. I can attest to that. I remember when I got my first NFT collected on Mirror and it was certainly a wonderful experience.
Patrick: Awesome. I feel like it's just different weight…where it's like…there's a certain weight to say some famous person that you look up to follows you on Twitter versus someone you've never met before. Also there's different weights when someone pays $10 to buy this NFT. And it's someone that you really respect and have looked up to. Yeah, I think that’s just kind of this new feeling and this new way of interacting on the internet. It's really a magic moment for a lot of people.
Joey: Well, Patrick, I think we can leave it there, but anything else that you want to share before we kind of wrap this up? Anything you're really excited about or that you're working on at the moment?
Patrick: Yeah, I would say the main thing that we've been focused on lately at Mirror is writing NFTs…and for anyone that has either been in Web3 for a while or it's just getting started, feel free to go to the website, Mirror.xyz. Connect your wallet. Write up an entry…something you've written before or something you've wanted to share. And then kind of go through that experience of minting your first NFT, sharing it with your community, your audience, and then seeing what it feels like. And even collecting from others. We have a leader board at mirror.xyz/leaderboard. And again, that's the main way to learn…just engaging with these products, seeing how they work, learning about things that may not seem familiar. Yeah, just learning by using.
Sari: Thank you so much, Patrick. You've done so much to educate people in the space and it's always wonderful talking to you.
Patrick: I really appreciate that. Thanks for having me on.
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