A Marketplace for Writing

February 10, 2021

Since the Mirror crowdfund happened, I've been thinking a lot about the idea of crowdfunds and bounties being two sides of the same coin. Both of these ideas are getting a lot of hype lately, and I think lots of people are looking to experiment with them.

Then, in the back of my mind has been a question around how Mirror can develop a network effect and be more like Uniswap, less like a standalone product. An exciting thought here is that Mirror could be a marketplace / aggregator for both bounties and crowdfunds at once. This would be a central part of the product (and a dedicated page in the UI), and make Mirror more about writing production, not just writing consumption. It would have two parts:

  1. Crowdfunds: Any participant in the Mirror ecosystem, whether an individual writer or a publication, can create a crowdfund, similar to the one we did last month. It has a funding goal, a funding cap, and a summary of the work to be done.
  2. Bounties: Any participant in the Mirror ecosystem can create a bounty. It works similarly to the crowdfund. When someone wants a specific kind of piece to be written, they set a funding amount and a summary of the work to be done, but it does not yet have an author. For example, a reader might say "It's worth 1 ETH for someone to write a post about digital public goods." Then, anyone can fund that bounty, receiving tokens in exchange. When the bounty is funded, any participant in the Mirror ecosystem, whether an individual or a publication, can apply to the bounty, and the people who funded it can use their tokens to vote on who gets it.

This kind of central marketplace would establish Mirror as the place where writing is financed. Similar to Uniswap, there would be a huge network effect around aggregating all of this liquidity into one place. Additionally, it adds to Mirror’s defensibility. Not only is the liquidity a moat, but over time, publications and profiles would build up some credibility around the amount of work they’ve done before, and how successful it was.

For an author or publication applying to fill a bounty, you could see things like Total Bounties Filled (in ETH), Average Page Views (per post, once Mirror has analytics built in), and Average Funder’s Score (did people who funded the post enjoy it).

The power of this kind of liquidity means that people could eventually build huge publications on top of Mirror, not just blogs or newsletters. It’s not completely insane to imagine that someone could build a publisher at the scale of the New York Times on top of a marketplace where there was enough capital around just waiting to fund writing production. I think this is actually quite different than something like Substack, which to me is purely about about paying for consumption.

What remains to be seen is if demand for writing production will increase to a point where it can support this kind of ecosystem, and if Mirror can aggregate that demand by building a great platform. But I'm optimistic.