Time is on a mission to legitimize publishers’ roles in the crypto revolution and is making sure its balance sheet is proof of that.
Last week, Time started accepting Bitcoin (and 31 other types of cryptocurrencies) from paid subscribers through a partnership with crypto.com. The nearly 100-year-old legacy magazine also started letting sponsors pay in Bitcoin for ad campaigns, with crypto asset manager Grayscale signing the first deal two weeks ago. Both the terms of the partnership with crypto.com and the sponsorship deal were not disclosed.
Current subscribers will not be asked to switch to the crypto payment options, according to Maya Draisin, svp of progress marketing. Instead, this method allows her team to introduce the Time brand to native crypto users and give them accessible payment options. She hopes it gives current subscribers that are “crypto curious,” an entry point to see crypto usage in a real-world application.
Critics of the strategy could point to Bitcoin falling by more than $10,000 in value about a week’s time, and what that could mean for six-figure ad campaigns. But Time president Keith Grossman said it’s is a risk he’s willing to take, albeit not much of a risk because he considers Bitcoin more as a “store of value than as a currency.”
Time was purchased by billionaire Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff and his spouse Lynne Benioff in 2018 and is a privately owned company, which Grossman said affords his team “the luxury of looking at how we want to think about our books.”
“Store of value” is a similar tactic as to why people invest in gold, according to Francesco Marconi, the CEO of Applied XL and former R&D and strategy leads of The Wall Street Journal and the Associated Press. “Bitcoin specifically is an edge against inflation. And it’s a way for your assets to potentially go up in value,” he said.
“It’s an additive business line for us that doesn’t come at the expense of anything else. And [we can] model its risk a little bit differently than we do with some of our more traditional businesses,” Grossman said. “Assuming the risk allows us to afford different models for what a media company can be.”
And despite volatility, Bitcoin on average has always been on an upward trajectory said Kurt Kumar, vp of marketing at crypto payments company RocketFuel Blockchain.
“As companies adopt Bitcoin and the technology becomes more user friendly, the value is going to go up” and it will become a greater investment, said Bharat Krish, chief technology officer at Time.
Time’s Bitcoin investment is comparable to it holding a foreign currency on its books or investing in gold, said Peter Jensen, CEO of RocketFuel Blockchain added. It’s also similar to when auto manufacturer Tesla bought $1.5 billion worth of Bitcoin in February this year.
In a way, crypto could be a breath of fresh air for an industry constantly pressured to change. Crypto is not just limited to investment opportunities, but it can also be used as a “technology to facilitate a change in an old fashioned industry,” like Uber and Lyft taking over the taxi industry, Jensen said.
Time is also investing in crypto by growing its technology team under chief technology officer Bharat Krish. Since joining the company a year ago in May, the team has more than doubled to 40 people, many of whom do not come from traditional media backgrounds, but from companies like Uber, Google and Amazon.
Last month, Time broke into the NFT market by launching a collection of three non-fungible tokens (NFTs, which you can learn more about here) of digital magazine covers that were auctioned off to the highest bidder. The top-selling NFT ended up going for nearly $250,000. But “our move in the crypto space is not rooted solely in NFTs,” said Grossman.
For example, existing assets like Time’s online cover store, where it sells copies and prints of its covers, can be transformed into an NFT shop operated more like an art gallery. On the other end of the spectrum, Grossman said that there is an appeal in having lower-priced, token NFTs that allow access to exclusive virtual events that are very community-driven for niche groups.
“This is the first time that we’re seeing real transformative technology that in our mind can change the way Time interacts with the community that it has within its larger audience of 100 million monthly users,” said Grossman.
Krish said his team is working on building that infrastructure for implementing these NFT use cases right now that are less focused on the big-ticket NFTs that sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars and are more focused on identifying communities and worthwhile offings for which these audiences would be willing to pay a little extra and done at scale.
Once that infrastructure is in place, the plan is to create a tech stack similar to The Washington Post’s self-service ad platform Zeus, which Time would license out for other publishers to use NFTs, tokens and crypto in their own membership offerings.
“A lot of the backend infrastructure of the media industry is not really designed for what a true community engagement or subscription or membership offerings can be,” said Grossman. “All we’re trying to do at the end of the day is is ensure that this brand is thriving for the next 100 years.”