What if we sold a copy of “20 Minutes”, transformed into an NFT, at auction with Piasa?

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For several months, this acronym has been on everyone’s lips. “NFT” for non-fungible token [jeton non fongible en VF], virtual objects (tweet, gif, meme, source code, etc.) with indisputable and inviolable identity, authenticity and traceability thanks to a certificate listed in a blockchain, most often ethereum, including virtual currency ( ether) is also known as the second most important after bitcoin.

Since March, digital works – those of singer Grimes, the first tweet of Twitter founder Jack Dorsey, the source code of the World Wide Web – have been sold at high prices (several million dollars). The American media are also doing it. A photo from the article “Buy this column in the blockchain” from New York Times, turned into NFT, was sold for $ 560,000 while CNN decided to auction off snippets of historical reports in the form of non-fungible tokens. As of February, highlights of the NBA had sold for more than $ 230 million. And let’s not talk about American artist Beeple, who has become one of the top three living artists in the world since the sale of one of his NFT works for the record price of $ 69.3 million. It’s hard to observe the crypto-art revolution without being a little curious.

A tweet, an insta post?

This crazy idea matures in my journalist’s mind and I decide to give it a go like the New York Times. Before embarking on the NFT adventure, it’s the technical aspect that worries me the most. The crypto world seems nebulous and my brain, known to be closed to any mathematical formula, doesn’t seem armed for it. In the end, the technology – however obscure it may be – is nothing compared to the dozens of questions which thwart the project.

First, what virtual item are we going to auction. The first tweet in the history of 20 minutes like Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Twitter? Lack of pot, the
first newspaper tweet, which dates from February 27, 2009 [«L’OM ne tombe pas de aut aux Pays-Bas : FOOT – Les Marseillais se qualifient aux tirs au but… »], has no interest, neither intellectually, nor historically, nor journalistically.

After considering the first Instagram post, then a tweet associated with a major event in French history, the idea of ​​transforming one of our digital newspapers into NFT emerged. As a reminder, for several years, 20 minutes does not appear on Tuesdays and offers a digital edition instead. In 2020, the editorial staff produced several thematic supplements (special Star wars, special Futur, special CES, special Festival d’Angoulême…) published exclusively in digital version.

A collector’s NFT

We think first of special issue “Generation 404” which had been talked about when it was published in 2015 for its irreverent tone and its formats against the tide and
special prostate issue who had created a stir with his one: “Just a finger” in front of the pretty buttocks of a statue of a man (sensitive souls, abstain). We decide to involve our dear Internet users to select the number which will have the honor of becoming an NFT. We have them voted on eight major newspapers in the history of our free daily (find the details here). Verdict:
the future supplement published in digital version in January 2020 and titled: “The crazy years 2020” received the greatest number of votes, not far ahead of the prostate special.

Eight 20-minute headlines (editing)
Eight 20-minute headlines (editing) – 20 MINUTES

With hindsight, this supplement seems almost prophetic after having lived the first two years of the 2020 decade made of repeated confinements, curfews, barrier gestures. The number has never been printed, it exists exclusively in a virtual version. A perfect “collector” NFT. At this point, I am convinced that it is enough to pass the digital diary through the blockchain mill and voila, but not at all (this will be the subject of an entire episode of this logbook).

I contacted Manuel Valente, Scientific Director of Coinhouse, a leading player in France, for some technical advice: you must first download MetaMask, a cryptocurrency software wallet used to interact with the Ethereum blockchain. I then recover my Ethers (ETH) which “sleep” quietly on the Coinhouse buy and sell platform, transfer part of them to my wallet, which allows me to use them easily. I’m connecting this wallet to Rarible, NFT’s largest build and sell platform. So far, so good. I’m exporting a version. png file from my digital journal, PDF format not being accepted, I upload it to the platform. Gorgeous. But in front of the box “I fix a price”, I freeze. A bunch of questions collide in my pristine crypto-art mind.

What about an auction house?

How to determine the price of a special issue of 20 minutes, a daily free in essence? Is it up to the auction to determine its value? Should we start the auction with a symbolic euro or on the contrary reveal the production cost of this issue which has received no publicity? Remember that the business model of a free newspaper is based almost exclusively on the purchase of advertising space by advertisers. However, this Futur supplement is an ad-free number.

Having no idea of ​​the real cost of a six-page issue, I contacted the payroll department of 20 minutes after taking an inventory of all the people who participated in the creation of this six-page supplement. In all, seven employees of 20 minutes -writers, department manager, editors, editor, prepress- took part in this issue. Each worked between one to five full days for a total of around 2,600 euros. To this amount, it would be useful to add the running costs of the newspaper and the remuneration of all the employees who, without being directly involved in the production of this issue, played a crucial role (accounting, administrative, technical, reception, etc.). maintenance…). Not to mention all the people who have allowed (and still allow) 20 minutes to be a powerful press brand, capable of reaching millions of readers every day. Difficult to determine its real cost, its value will be determined by the buyer at the time of its sale. But it goes without saying that the press is free only for its reader.

If the planets seem finally aligned, one last idea comes to thwart the adventure: why not bring in an auction house to organize a public sale? It all seems so simple, but it was without taking into account that in France, the digital representation of a work (like an NFT), because it has no physical consistency, remains an intangible movable good, and, as such cannot be part, on its own, of a voluntary sale at public auction in France. Is there a way around the law or will I decide to be outlawed? At this point, the NFT still hasn’t been created and nothing is going to turn out the way I envisioned. Spoiler alert: It will be even better.

In the next episode, we tell you how we managed to join forces with the Piasa auction house to organize the first public sale of a newspaper NFT in France. See you next week, dear crypto-addicts.

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