The Future of Photojournalism Looks A Bit Brighter with NFTs

The future of content creation for news media could be getting brighter for the creators and darker for the stock photo markets in which their work is sold.  And it’s all due to the growing prevalence of NFTs (non-fungible tokens). A new report states that the futures of photojournalism and NFTs could become inextricably linked.

That’s because NFT platforms threaten to cut out the stock sites serving as middlemen between creators and the news networks using their content. The days of photojournalists making pennies for their work could soon be over.

The Present State of Affairs

For a freelance content creator in the photojournalism space, the present state of selling your images or videos is not at all lucrative. If an image of yours is used by say CNN or NBC, the stock site in which your content was chosen pockets up to 85% of that sale. News agencies of that ilk are willing to pay up to $35,000 for video clips of a single event.

A stock platform or website, think Getty Images, Alamy, and Shutterstock, is a database that keeps various types of contributor-generated multimedia content.  There you can find everything from cartoon illustrations to videos of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

News agencies purchase the licensing rights to utilize multimedia content for areas they lack coverage. The stock sites act as a third party between the content creator and the agencies in which the content appears. According to a 2021 Shutterstock investor report, the content’s creator pockets a paltry $0.42 on average from each transaction.

The charge rates for Shutterstock, Getty, and Alamy are 60-85%, 75-80%, and 50-80%, respectively.

What The Future May Hold

Contrast those figures with what an NFT marketplace would charge, the difference is stark. OpenSea, the biggest NFT marketplace on the planet, takes only 2.5% from each sale. SuperRare,’s primary sales fees are up to 15%. The infrastructure for connecting media content creators to media outlets does not yet exist in an NFT marketplace. Yet is the operative word.

NFTs are limited to JPEG trading, tied to a loose concept of community. Digital non-fungible tokens offer enterprises the potential to build products that could alter the dynamics of their respective industries. Due to the combination of digital rights and market speculation, NFTs could serve photojournalists particularly well, according to the report.

Minimizing the third party’s role would increase the autonomy and earning potential of the creator. An NFT marketplace category for photojournalists would allow creators to directly compete with big players like Getty, which alone earns over $300 million per year. Such a category would give the creators the power to set royalties for each transaction, and the marketplaces would earn transaction fees well into the millions. By bypassing the third parties, news outlets could eliminate the hefty subscription fees they incur from dealing with stock sites.

An NFT Media Vertical would need to incorporate the pricing naming, exclusivity settings, and conduits to connect directly with the buyers that the stock sites lack. Putting editorial content on a chain would also allow interested parties to view media outlet purchases, read the licensing terms, and identify the creators of the content transparently.

How It Could Be Done

For a well-established and well-capitalized player like OpenSea, implementing the logistics of a media vertical would be straightforward and inexpensive. The marketplace already has the infrastructure, such as a minting mechanism to fork. It could add parameters and metrics licensing terms customization and put in a subscription paywall for buyers.

New marketplaces like Uniswap could build a category focused on editorial content. Due to its democratic nature, holders could vote on the logistics until they launch the marketplace.


  • Paul Cooper

    Paul Cooper is a writer, thinker, teacher, and father. He lives and works in the United States and loves annoying his daughter.

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