All the world’s a screen…
…on which to compete and entertain.
Two of our core beliefs are:
- User-generated social content is the next frontier in art and culture
- Contests are a powerful organizing principle
Let’s take these one by one.
User-generated social content is the next frontier in art and culture.
Estimates vary, but average US adults use their smartphones (excluding for work purposes) 3-6 hours a day. Much of that’s on messaging or social media apps where viral videos and masterful memes win over our hearts and prompt us to action…whether endorsing and sharing the content ourselves or sparking political movements, sponsoring gorillas or waging war on the financial system, dumping ice buckets on our heads or busting out our fiddles.
So why not think of this as art — important to our cultural heritage and worth collecting? Sure it’s not snobby or editorialized upon by cocktail-swilling, scarf-donning elites, but isn’t that a plus? Newsfeeds today are more important than piazzas ever were, and Never Gonna Give You Up (though the first five seconds are now a silent Sony Music card displaying copyright info, in a brazen attempt to kill the Rick Roll) may be just as worthy of study as Donatello’s Gattamelata.
The rise of NFTs is starting to validate these ideas. Looking beyond the costly sales of “fine-art” NFTs (Beeple, Banksy, etc.), even historically viral or important content is getting collected (Jack Dorsey’s first tweet, Charlie bit my finger, nyan cat, and even the Numa Numa dance).
This trend has a long way to run. As minting and transferring NFTs gets cheaper and fractionalization of NFTs (i.e. creating tradeable tokens corresponding to partial ownership/shares of an underlying NFT) takes off, the acknowledgement and distribution of culture in a personalized form will blow up. Imagine a world where your proudest FB post, most liked TikTok video, or likeness could be apportioned and shared with your friends and followers. Where as an artist, you can truly be collected by millions and reward your supporters. Where as a user, your account becomes its own gallery boasting ownership of today’s best work.
We’re at the precipice of that.
Contests are a powerful organizing principle
First, contests are phenomenally entertaining, both for participants and viewers. This underlies the success of sports as a genre. Competition brings out the best in us — call it animal psychology or call it Econ 101.
Next, they’re a great way for creators to go “intentionally” viral. It’s hard for a bodybuilding guru reliably to go viral on conventional social media, but by winning a contest (say, Mr. Olympia) s/he could do the trick. So why not upgrade this concept to the digital world by creating digital contests? And do so in a way that creates financial stakeholders and encourages promotion in the process?
Simple contests also level content creation’s playing field. They weaken the influence of opaque algorithms driving feeds. By democratizing participation, they promote a content meritocracy.
Finally, they can transform the role and nature of influencers: through sponsoring or proposing contests, influencers can actively spur creation. Juicy J’s twerking competition and Chamath’s SC Emerging Managers competition only scratch the surface. Reality TV as a genre is going to flip upside down: content will be crowdsourced, fixed costs will dissipate, access will be multiplied, and rewards will flow to creators and supporters — not studios.
That’s why contests are the bedrock of Riite.