Can Crypto-Mining Save Journalism?

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Journalism is in a state of crisis as it struggles to adapt to the new digital age with The Guardian reporting losses of some $60 million, reducing them to beg for donations.

The troubles of the fourth estate are the troubles of everyone. You can’t have a well functioning democracy if the populace is not informed, but collecting information, checking facts, getting opinions, combining it all into an easily readable article takes time, and time of course is money.

Someone, therefore, has to pay for it, but who? The traditional model is a combination of advertising and subscription. Some have successfully imported that to the web, while others struggle to do so.

Can crypto mining be an additional answer? Coinhive has been recently getting attention following reports hackers injected its code on unsuspecting websites and cloud service providers.

But some websites have voluntarily used it, including The Pirate Bay, with some suggesting it can replace advertising by offering income through crypto-mining. The project says:

“Coinhive offers a JavaScript miner for the Monero Blockchain that you can embed in your website. Your users run the miner directly in their Browser and mine XMR for you in turn for an ad-free experience, in-game currency or whatever incentives you can come up with.”

They chose Monero specifically because its algorithm is designed to work primarily on CPU mining, rather than GPU as for ETH or ASICS for BTC.

Apparently, even Cristiano Ronaldo’s official website used the mining code, at least for a few days until it was publicized on twitter.

But does it actually work? Well, someone tried it. Maxence Cornet, a mobile and web developer, says in a public post:

“I tried it on a website with approx 1k visits a day, with a 0:55 seconds session duration average last month. The objective was to replace the non-intrusive ads I’m currently displaying.”

Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your views, the results were abysmal, with Cornet stating:

“I made 0.00947 XMR in 60 hours, a whopping $0.89, that’s $0.36 a day. For this exact website, it’s 4 to 5 times less than what it makes with non-intrusive ads (banner + text only).”

The reason appears to be the inherent variance in mining. A user’s CPU on Carnet’s website lasts for just one minute, which might hardly be a sufficient time period for mining. Coinhive says:

“Where users have to keep mining for longer durations is far more feasible. With just 10–20 active miners on your site, you can expect a monthly revenue of about 0.3 XMR (~$26).”

It may therefore work better on video sites, with Showtime apparently giving it a try, but $26 a month is hardly enough to cover servers.

Even if we scale that to 100 or 1,000, the journalist will struggle to feed his pet, let alone himself. It therefore is an additional source at best, but it might come at some considerable cost.

One of them potentially being the website crashing, or even the computer, under the heavy CPU usage, something which might mean visitors start dreading your website.

Not somewhere you want to be at all. To the contrary, you want them to love the experience. Something which Coinhive might cheapen considerably.

So we don’t think it’s an answer to any degree. Nor even as an additional source. Leaving the old traditional model of a mixture of subscription and advertising as the only choice, at least for now.

 

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