A beloved DJ and even more successful editor, Matt Medved has led the cultural vanguard for decades. He entered the NFT space to elevate culture, much like he did at Billboard and SPIN in his pre-web3 life. Now he's looking to turn his traditional media schooling upside down, as he tells Leo Nasskau his plan to reinvent it with NFTs. Lea Rose Emery writes the story.
“You're actually connecting with your community. Their needs and their desires are going to matter more than some advertiser,” Matt Medved explains.
He envisions a world where nft now, the media platform that he has built into one of the most influential voices in NFTs, and where he serves as CEO and Editor-in-Chief, will no longer belong to him or his cofounders. Instead, he envisions a world where the core decisions are made not by its executives, but by its readers.
That ambition begins on March 23rd, with the launch of nft now’s Now Pass — 2,750 NFTs offering exclusive access to and authority within nft now’s ecosystem. Fuelled by years of learning in traditional media and a ferocious appetite for discovering new artists, it is an ambition that Matt is well placed to deliver.
A former editor at SPIN, where he was editor-in-chief, and Billboard, where he created Billboard Dance, Matt’s career has been shaped by legacy media outlets. But he has been shaped by its limitations as much as its opportunities. The Now Pass page states defiantly: Traditional media isn’t just problematic, it’s broken.
That perspective has grown from an affinity with blockchain which began all the way back in 2013. A music fanatic and a DJ at heart, he consistently felt closer to the technological frontier than his colleagues. “I always joke that DJs and producers are on the cutting edge of technology, because we're all nerds, right?” he laughs. “I was very used to living digitally. I was creating music digitally. I was mixing music digitally. I was sharing it with my friends digitally. So the idea of digital payments and digital exchange of value was very natural to me.”
By summer 2021 many of his music industry friends were avidly following NBA Top Shot, including nft now cofounder and COO Sam Hysell. When Matt told Hysell and their other cofounder, Alejandro Navia, that he had already been running nft now social media accounts for a while, the three decided to focus their efforts on a new space — one with culture and community at its core.
“The way that I'm built, I'm a curator, I'm not a reporter,” Matt says. “And so for me, it's always been about what's next, and how do we provide a platform to uplift artistry?”
He found his energy matched throughout the web3 community. There is palpable zeal in his voice as he talks about the early days of Clubhouse – “you just felt this energy, this excitement” – and it is a sensation that becomes more pronounced as he shifts into discussing digital artists. Creators who had been so long taken for granted, who were told they were replaceable — until everything changed.
“All of a sudden with NFTs, (artists) found themselves in a position where they were not only making money that they never thought they would have access to, but more critically, they were doing so by following their own creative vision rather than being beholden to client work.”
That emphasis on authenticity permeates every layer of Matt’s work. He takes great pride that nft now was cultivating “genuine relationships with the artists and the builders who were driving the culture forward before all the noise came.” That presence, simply sticking around, is “critical”, Matt explains, “because people remember who was there before the noise.”
But it also meant that when the noise did come, and nft now was approached to do marketing for NFT projects that were trying to exploit that noise, they passed — no matter how painful it was.
“We turned down high seven figures in revenue,” Matt says. “Which is hard as a startup, particularly a media startup. But your trust and your authenticity are everything in the space.” It’s a sentiment that is echoed in nft now’s mission statement: We are on a mission to redefine how creators and their communities share in the value they create.
Uplifting creatives usually means uncovering those artists and give them their first platform. Matt was one of the first to draw attention to artists like Kygo, the Norwegian DJ, and Fewocious, one of web3’s leading artists, a talent that he puts down in large part to his “gut feeling” — and seeing an artist who owns their distinct style, who isn’t trying to imitate anyone else.
“When I look across the NFT space in general, I tend to weigh four factors. There's artistry, history, community, and then utility. They're all buzzwords, but they're also really important pillars.” Matt is effusive about, for example, the unforgettable style of Fewocious, but puts even more emphasis on his personality and how he formed a community around his creativity. “It’s the fact that he's just like the sweetest human on earth, has this amazing charismatic energy, is super genuine, has an amazingly interesting story to tell, and has overcome some really terrible things — and is continuing to use his platform to uplift others,” Matt says.
At the same time, he recognises the power that belongs to the curators who often are the first to bring an artist into the centre of the cultural discourse. nft now has amassed enormous influence within the web3 ecosystem, but that is influence which Matt has never intended to hold for himself. “We never wanted to be the new gatekeepers,” he reflects.
“I'm a big believer that web2 media is broken.”
— Matt Medved, cofounder and CEO, nft now
With the Now Pass, NFT holders will be able to put forward their favourite artists directly and vote for which gets the spotlight, decentralising the curation process far beyond a monthly internal meeting. “The Now Pass is your key,” Matt explains, “It's going to enable a greater sense of participation and also democratise the content curation and creation process.”
Opening up the nft now platform to thousands of different perspectives is just a hint at the vision that Matt has to rebuild the traditional media model from the root up. “I'm a big believer that web2 media is broken,” he explains. “It's a broken business model that it no longer serves us. I saw firsthand how the advent of programmatic advertising really misaligned incentives and led to this very concerning climate that we're in right now.”
The concerns are well-worn ones, of journalistic integrity, of quality, and of privacy. In Matt's mind, it all stems from a single source: all clicks are equal. As a result, media outlets tend towards content that generates the most clicks targeted to the audiences most likely to click it. It’s a race to the bottom that leaves other forms of journalism, like investigations, deeper insight, or content for specific or minority niches, falling by the wayside.
“As it became more homogenous,” Matt explains, “the quality of coverage started to decline.” What happens next, he adds, is the proliferation of ads and cookies that seek to monetise those clicks better than the next site, which just has exactly the same news.
“For me, it's always been about what's next, and how do we provide a platform to uplift artistry?”
— Matt Medved, cofounder and CEO, nft now
“The last thing we want nft now to be is just a traditional web2 media company that covers NFTs in web3,” he says. “We always wanted to build a better way. We wanted to pioneer a community-centric media model.” The early indicators of that have always been there. nft now has never played host to programmatic ads, nor pixels or cookies. Sponsored content, sure, but only the type of content that readers would enjoy reading anyway.
That kind of approach to advertising has been rapidly refined ever since Substack revitalised the blogging landscape, adding a new dimension of niche creators to the media sector completely distinct from the impact of web3. And it’s true that the flow of mainstream and traditional media outlets towards subscription models represents a solution to ‘all clicks are equal’ media without resorting to the blockchain, but Matt is determined to leverage web3 to create a media outlet that is far more paradigm-shifting.
“We can reimagine how a publisher can create and share value.”
— Matt Medved, cofounder and CEO, nft now
The latest evolution is the Now Pass, which will become an access pass to the entire Now network. Embedded within the change is a distinction that Matt is keenly aware of: between audience and community. Whilst web2 platforms chase audiences above all else, the Now Pass is an imperative step toward a community-focused space. Their clicks, from the community and nft now’s most enthusiastic readers, will matter most, and their clicks will influence the kind of content that they read.
Through the Now Pass, Matt says that nft now will reward participation, with users and readers being able to earn points in exchange for engaging with nft now content, sharing it, and contributing to it. “Whether you're a writer, a photographer, or anything, we can reimagine how a publisher can create and share value.” And with that, Matt sees the opportunity to grow both loyalty and a deeper, more authentic connection.
The contribution element is a fascinating one, and Matt is most excited about creating opportunities for the community to become co-creators in the stories that nft now tells in the future. He points to Next Up, one of the outlet's most popular content series. The series has always been community-driven, having emerged from asking audiences what they were doing well and what they could do better. The community answered, saying that whilst they were covering established artists well, “up-and-coming artists need love too.”
nft now listened, creating a series to promote emerging artists. Some of today’s most influential artists, like Ana Maria Caballero, Violetta Zironi, and Diana Sinclair are amongst the Next Up alums. With the Now Pass, that kind of community-led curation will become possible and frictionless at a greater scale.
The Now Pass is intentionally starting small, part to maintain a tight community, part to ensure that they were able to serve that community before they expand. The three-phase mint will begin on March 23rd, with early details and FAQs available on a launch page that states boldly: A New Media Model is Coming.
“You may have a subscription to a web2 media publication and get some exclusive things, but do you have a direct line to them?” Matt asks. “Do you know their team? Do you know other people who are also subscribers? Are they bringing people together? Are they actually rewarding you, for continuing to be involved, or are they taking their subscription and delivering you the same content?”
Matt intends to do media different to how it's ever been done before. It’s a shift he knows won’t happen overnight, but ultimately, it has the potential to be a seismic one — one driven by a foundational, deceptively simple, ambition: “Make good on the original promise of media, which is to bring people together, and to empower different voices to have to say.”
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