If you're writing or creating content online, then Web3 could be the future.
Years ago, many people were sceptical about blogging and didn't see it as a viable way for writers to earn a living. Then it was self-publishing, sometimes considered a bit scammy and not a great way for authors to sell their books directly to their fans.
That's the place Web3 is at today. Many people look at the technologies surrounding Web3 — I'm talking about cryptocurrency, the blockchain, and NFTs — with much scepticism.
In some cases, they are right. However, Web3 could be how content creators work online to build a relationship directly with their followers and fans. And if you're a writer, it could represent the future of how you write or create something that your readers like to collect or want to own.
In this week's interview, I met one of the NFT space's best-known content creators. His name is Zeneca. I asked him how he researches, creates, and writes content in such a new and emerging space.
If you feel like you've missed out, or it's too late to get involved in such a technical space, then fear not because Zeneca has a number of takeaways that will help you get started.
In this episode, we discuss:
One37, ZenecaSupport the show
Zeneca: Just sort of understanding that different people consume content in different ways. And instead of trying to get everyone else to read my content, it was like taking my written content and repackaging it in a way that other people will consume it.
Welcome to the Become a Writer Today Podcast with Bryan Collins. Here, you’ll find practical advice and interviews for all kinds of writers.
Bryan: If you're writing or creating content online, then Web3 could be the future. Hi there. My name is Bryan Collins. Welcome to the Become a Writer Today channel. Years ago, many people were skeptical about blogging and didn't really see it as a viable way for writers to earn a living. Then it was self-publishing. Many people consider self-publishing a little bit scammy and not really a great way for authors to sell their books directly to their fans. Arguably, that's the place Web3 is at today. Many people look at the technologies surrounding Web3 — I'm talking about cryptocurrency, the blockchain, and NFTs — with a lot of skepticism. In some cases, they are right. However, arguably, Web3 could be the way that content creators who are working online build a relationship directly with their followers and their fans. And if you're a writer, it could even represent the future for how you write or create something that your readers like to collect or like to own.
In this week's interview, I caught up with one of the NFT space's best known content creators. His name is Zeneca. I asked him how he researches, creates, and writes content in such a new and emerging space. I was fascinated to hear how Zeneca got started on Twitter before iterating into different platforms. In other words, he's using both Web3 and Web2 tools to build a relationship directly with his followers and with his audience. My other takeaway from talking to Zeneca is that the technologies within Web3 are constantly adapting and changing. So, if you feel like you've missed out, or it's too late to get involved in such suppose a technical space, then fear not because Zeneca has a number of takeaways which will help you get started.
I hope you enjoy this week's interview with Zeneca. If you do, please consider leaving a short review on the iTunes Store. Because more reviews and ratings would help more people find the Become a Writer Today Podcast. You could also consider sharing the show with another writer or another friend who you think would enjoy learning all about writing and creating content in Web3. Even if you're not ready to create content in Web3 just yet, keeping up to date with the latest tools and technology and trends could help you prepare for whatever the future looks like for writers and for content creators working online.
I know that's what I'm planning to do, so I spend a lot of time writing blog posts and articles, and trying to rank these articles in Google search results so I can get traffic for my website. So, it's a pure Web2 business model. But I'm also experimenting with Web3 tools and platforms. Mirror.xyz is one that comes to mind. You can use Mirror.xyz to turn your writings into an NFT, that you can then potentially give to your followers and to your fans and readers. Now, I have no direct plans to sell any of these NFTs. This is just simply a way of me keeping up to date with the latest tools and technologies. Anyway, let's go over to this week's interview with Zeneca.
Bryan: Welcome to the show, Zeneca. It's great to catch up with you. I've been following you online for some time now. I'm wondering, could you give the listeners a bit of a flavor for who you are and how you got into creating content about your specific topic?
Zeneca: Yeah, absolutely. First of all, it's good to be here. I was a professional poker player for about 16 years. That was my job profession for a very long time. Throughout that process, at some point, I started a blog, a poker blog. It had a moderate success. It wasn't a lot of success. But I enjoyed writing. People enjoyed reading what I was writing, and it just sort of gave me the bug for creating content. Eventually, it fizzled out because I stopped playing as much poker. The blog was all over the place. It was like a blog about poker. But then, I also write about the dinner I had and travel. It was like this all over the place thing.
Then for many years, I always had the idea in the back of my head of starting up a new blog or newsletter or something about food, or travel, or yada, yada, yada, but the world doesn't need another — yet another travel blog. And so, none of that really panned out anywhere. Then I got into crypto and NFTs pretty heavily. It was this new up and coming area where there wasn't really much content at all. And so, when I started writing about it, I started a newsletter. There was really no one else really creating much content, especially written content. So, it kind of blew up. I fell in love with it. I was writing about a specific niche within a niche within a niche. It wasn't this broad poker plus lifestyle, plus travel. I mean, that was in 2021. It's about two years ago. Ever since then, it has evolved into a thousand other things like podcast, and YouTube, et cetera. I'm sure we'll get to that. But that's how it all started.
Bryan: Interesting. You described having a blog that covered poker and what was going on in your life. So, that's a mistake that a lot of new bloggers make, where they just write about everything and anything rather than picking a niche within a niche. I think that's when I found you when you started creating content, specifically on Twitter. You created a lot of threads and informational content. That's fair to say you made it easy for new people to the space to digest what was happening. Because crypto and NFTs are quite technical for people who are outside of that space.
Zeneca: Yeah, I would say, for me, I started writing only four months after I got into this space. It was sort of like a two-way street, where I knew that I would learn better. If I had to probably write about something and explain it to other people, you obviously have to research it and understand it yourself, and then to be able to distill it to others. And so, I was thinking part of the impetus for creating my first newsletter was, if I have to write about it, I'm going to have to understand it. I'll learn it better myself. Throughout that process, I just started learning more and more how difficult it is for people to understand complicated topics. Then the ability to distill that into easy-to-understand content is I think one of the reasons things started going really well for me on that front.
Bryan: At what point did you decide to move beyond just writing Twitter threads? I know you set up a Substack newsletter as well, and you moved into podcasting and YouTube.
Zeneca: Probably only like two or three months — maybe like three to six, actually. It's really a better timeframe. After written content, I looked at all in together, Twitter and newsletters, et cetera. It was going really well. But it dawned on me and hammered into me by a few other people that 80% of people just aren't going to read long-form written content. My newsletters really take 20 minutes to 30 minutes to read. And for the people that do take the time to read that, they love it. I love writing it. But the reality is, we live in a—
Well, people consume content in different ways. And we also live in this TikTok generation now where people are consuming shorter and shorter pieces of content. Usually, videos. Sometimes audio. I thought, if I want to really grow and expand and reach a much wider audience, I need to go to where other people are consuming content. And so, written is great. But then, that's where I was like, "All right. Let's work on podcast. Let's work on YouTube videos." How there is a similar trajectory with YouTube, I started out my videos, like two-hour long interviews. The same realization was like, well, a lot of people aren't going to watch that. Let's try and do 10-minute videos and 60-second shots. That's been a learning journey as well. Just understanding that different people consume content in different ways. And instead of trying to get everyone else to read my content, it was like taking my written content and repackaging it in a way that other people will consume it.
Bryan: I'm on your Substack newsletter. It's excellent. I've learned a lot about Art Blocks, which is an NFT project, for example. I can imagine writing something that's that in depth, it's a little bit technical. It takes a lot of time. So, how much time do you spend on content creation? Because I know you also have a community of collectors for your NFT, and you sometimes trade NFTs as well. How much time does content creation take up?
Zeneca: Yeah, it's one of those things where I seemingly never have enough time to dedicate to content, especially these days as I would like. A single newsletter, the one you just referenced, I think that would take two or three days to really create. Many, many hours of research. Occasionally, I'll write something that it's just like a stream of consciousness, thoughts that I'm writing from my own experience, and not necessarily breaking down a more complex topic. I can do that in two to five hours, but that's still a pretty heavy time investment.
I guess, to answer your question, these days, I probably only spend 10 hours a week on content. That's total across a couple hours podcasting, a couple of YouTube videos. In an ideal world, I'm putting out one newsletter a week, but that's not been my cadence since 2021. One of my resolutions this year is to release 52 newsletters, to get back into one a week. It's maximum 10 hours a week at the moment. It definitely doesn't feel enough, so I need to sort of restructure my life. Because I do want to — I love creating content. I want to focus more on it, because I think it has a lot of potential to really amplify everything else that I'm doing.
Bryan: I started a YouTube channel a year or so ago when editing takes up a lot of time. So, I hired a video editor. I have a podcast editor as well with this podcast. Do you have many team members who help you with your content creation process?
Zeneca: Yeah, we have both of those things. I have an audio engineer who does all the editing for the podcasts, and a video editor. They're not part of the team. They're freelancers that we work with. We definitely outsource that way. Then on the team, I have a company Zen Academy. It's about education and content and media and a whole bunch of other things in tech, in crypto, in Web3. Part of the team, there's a couple of people who are managing different types of content. So, they definitely help with — if I record something, they make sure the show notes get written, and then it gets published on YouTube, as well as TikTok and Instagram. Do we need to be on those platforms, and all that kind of stuff? Even with a team, I still feel like I'm sort of drowning a little bit. So, it takes a lot to create good content.
Bryan: It does. It's certainly an investment. Considering what you're creating, it means a lot of research too. I can imagine it's quite time consuming. What would you say is the most important channel for you at the moment?
Zeneca: I would say Twitter is probably the most important. It's the place that I've, I guess, grown the largest audience, and I'm the most active and visible on there. Every day, I'll tweet at least something. After that, my newsletters. My newsletter is the thing that's closest to my heart. It's 25,000 readers. I speak directly to them, and I write these long pieces that they enjoy reading. Otherwise, they wouldn't be on the list anymore. That's the most important to me.
In terms of like what I think is the most important to grow, I would say YouTube. I think that's the thing that I'm not good at. I'm not inherently comfortable behind the camera. It's like a whole new learning process. Whereas writing, I was pretty comfortable with for most of my life. Recording and being on camera, that's like a whole new learning process. So, I've been trying to figure that out for a year — buying cameras and get the lighting right, and all that kind of stuff. I need to understand how to craft a video in a way that gets people to click on it, and then start watching it and just keep watching it. That's a whole big thing that I really want to master and get better at. Because I think that's how you really, really grow in today's world. It's to create good video content. But it's not there yet for me.
Bryan: I've had a similar experience. I know the topic. I can write 1000-word article in about an hour. While to record a video with a similar script or something comparable in length, it would take me at least twice that long, not including editing time. So, I still need to work on video creation skills. I presume you're referencing long videos in YouTube. Have you spent much time investigating creating short-form content outside of Twitter? For example, TikTok or YouTube Shorts.
Zeneca: Yes, I've done a bit of YouTube Shorts. It's always a struggle for me to keep it under the 60-second mark. Occasionally, it works. It's another one of those things where it's like it's easy to create average content. You just record yourself speaking for 60 seconds, and say what you're thinking. It's like, all right. That's okay. But to create something that's compelling, that goes viral, that people will share, that's where you need to think about, "All right. What am I going to say the very first second? What's the thumbnail going to be? What's the first five seconds going to be?" You really need to break it down a lot. It's not something I'm great at yet.
Bryan: Will shift gears for a moment. I always enjoy reading people who write thoughtful threads on Twitter. But since ChatGPT has emerged, sometimes I'm looking at the threads. Does that give me a formula that Twitter writers use? But I'm now beginning to wonder. Are some of the threads even been written by the writers, or are they entirely being generated by ChatGPT, or someone, or AI? Perhaps I'm being unfair. But definitely, it feels like Twitter has gotten more formulaic.
Zeneca: I agree completely. I think it was happening before ChatGPT. I was already noticing. A lot of people who are local would be using the same trend. The formula was like, "Here are seven tips to help you, yada, yada, yada,” then finger pointing down. Or, "These are things you must do! If you want to succeed, yada, yada, yada, then the same things.” Or, "These are seven websites that I used to—" I think ChatGPT and AI has just accelerated that pace, where it used to be they would just copy each other's titles and formats. And now, like you said, it's possible with ChatGPT or some other writing tools literally writing the whole thread or 90% of it.
It's certainly a new world that we're entering into. I kind of hate it. But I accept it, and I understand that it is the future. AI is incredibly powerful. It's about how to use it to just stand out from the crowd. I think that's one of the biggest takeaways that I've been thinking about. It's that AI helps. Virtually, anyone can be like a really good writer now. Virtually, anyone can create good threads. But very few people can create excellent threads, or be an excellent writer, or an excellent storyteller. ChatGPT helps people go from whatever, 0 to 8. But to get from 8 to 10, that's where I think the people will really stand out.
Bryan: Yeah, I've used ChatGPT. As somebody who has built a lot of content websites, when you write an article for a blog, it has to follow a specific formula to rank in Google search results. A lot of bloggers will say that it sucked the creativity out of blogging. Because you can't just write about a personal story. You have to cover a specific topic in the blog post. So, I do look at ChatGPT and whenever, it'll eliminate that step as well.
That said, I found it's quite useful for tasks like writing headlines or meta descriptions, or maybe even coming up with different ideas for a Twitter thread and then maybe insert some personal stories into the thread, which is more helpful. I also think the job of a good writer sometimes is to maybe drop analogies or comparisons that aren't self-evident. So, between two seemingly unrelated topics. That's not something that AI can do. Or perhaps also to insert something from their own experiences with NFTs or whatever it is.
Zeneca: It's just something AI can't do yet. That's the scary part. AI is only going to get better, which is really a little terrifying. But it's also exciting at the same time.
Bryan: I know you'd like to collect generative art and different types of NFTs. I suppose what I'm mostly interested in is how writers can use NFTs. With a few small exceptions, it does seem like most writers have not used NFTs or considered how to use NFTs in the same way that visual artists have. Is that fair to say?
Zeneca: Yeah, that's very fair to say. I think it is more difficult for a writer to sell a single NFT the same way that a visual artist can sell a piece of art. It's a lot more difficult for someone to sell an article or a book, I think. Maybe there is just far less of a demand for it. The way that I see writers, or content creators in general, using NFTs, at least in the short to medium term as a good solution is, if you think about how most content creators monetize. One of the aspects is usually, they have a newsletter, and they make it a paid newsletter. Some of the editions, you have to pay for, or they have a patreon. Depending on how much you pay per month, you get special perks and access, maybe a private Discord or a Telegram group, yada, yada, yada. Monthly subscriptions, basically. I think that that's a good model, and that should exist.
But what NFTs allow you to do is effectively sell a lifetime access version to your content, where you can say, "All right. You could pay $29.95 a month, or $4.95 a month, or whatever you charge." Let's say, I'll use $10 a month — just for simplicity's sake — to get access to my paid newsletter. Or you can buy this NFT that costs $100. And so, people are like, "Well, all right. Maybe I'm going to be reading this person's content for five years. This $100 purchase seems very valuable to me now, rather than paying a monthly fee." Some people might say, "Well, you can already do that with a yearly subscription on Substack, or potentially they have lifetime options as well." The benefit of an NFT is that then if you buy that for $100 and decide in three years, "Oh, I no longer am interested in this content," you could resell that to a third-party or gift it to a friend. Whereas with traditional models, you're sort of tied into that inability to move that membership from one person to another.
I think there's a lot of interesting ideas when it comes to membership models or subscription models, and how NFT is going to activate different types of memberships, and tease memberships and owning a membership in a way that you couldn't before. That's one example that comes to mind.
Bryan: Yeah, Tim Ferriss was one author who I found is experimenting with using NFTs for his fiction work. But I guess he already has an audience. So, chances are his audience will buy whatever he creates, anyway.
Bryan: You currently use Substack for your newsletter. Perhaps the Web3 version of Substack is arguably Mirror.xyz. Is that something that you've looked at?
Zeneca: Yeah, I definitely looked into it. I've even spoken to the team there. I think they're doing some really interesting things. It's definitely worth keeping an eye on. I think they're allowing anyone that reads a newsletter to sort of mint a free NFT, to sort of prove that they read it. Then you can collect emails along with wallet addresses and things like that, and then maybe reward people who've read all of your newsletters or read them all within a week of publishing them. There's definitely interesting dynamics there, as well as interesting monetization options.
I love Substack. I think it's a great company. They've done the newsletters really, really, really well. They really help creators grow their following, and they provide you with a lot of tools and everything like that. I think Mirror is understandably a little bit behind on the newsletter front. They're a newer entity, I believe. However, they're leaps and bounds ahead on anything blockchain or Web3-related. As far as I know, Substack doesn't have any interoperability with crypto or Web3. So, I'm keeping a close eye on Mirror. It is obviously a huge thing to migrate a newsletter from one platform to another. I'm just not quite ready to make that step yet. But I wouldn't be surprised if in a year, I'd decide to use Mirror for everything because of some new things that they're doing that Substack isn't?
Bryan: I also suppose your audience is very familiar with how to onboard with an NFT. Whereas maybe in other niches or verticals, that might not necessarily be true. One thing Substack does seems to do quite well is discovery. I've interviewed a number of Substack newsletter authors, and they often described how people will find their newsletter organically within the Substack app firstly. Then secondly, if they're listed on a particular category, they can sometimes attract subscribers that way as well. Is that an experience that you've had?
Zeneca: Yes, definitely. I think that the discovery as a whole is something that Substack does well. It was pretty good. Then they introduced that whole recommendation feature. That just amplified it by 10. It's such a great way for — occasionally, I'll reach out too or another writer will reach out to me who's writing in a similar sphere, whether it's crypto, NFTs technology. We like each other's newsletter. We're like, "Hey, should we recommend each other's newsletter?" Or, I just do it organically because I liked someone, and then I see that they do it back.
Then you can just see it as a graph of how many subscribers you have. Then when someone else starts recommending you, if they have a reasonable newsletter, it just up ticks a lot. Because, all of a sudden, it's not just as organic discovery, where it's just recommended in the Substack app or something like that. That's either 25,000 newsletter subscribers. If I start recommending another newsletter, all my 25,000 subscribers, they'll be able to go, "Oh, well, we like his writing. And now he recommends the other one. It's probably worth checking out." And so, it's a great way to get new subscribers and just get more eyes on your writing.
Bryan: We were talking about Twitter a few moments ago when AI has changed. I mean, the algorithm is obviously going through a lot of changes since Elon Musk took over. Some people will say that it's harder to get your content to appear. Have you looked at alternatives to Twitter? One that I experimented with, for example, is Bit Cloud, which is like a decentralized version of Twitter. Mastodon is another one that's popular. Have you looked at any of these?
Zeneca: Yeah, I looked at Bit Cloud 18 months ago when I was first starting out. Twitter just seemed — they were way more users. The thing with social media platforms is, you generally want to go where the users are if you're trying to build a platform. It's why it's so difficult for someone to unseat an incumbent. There are arguably — I mean, there are platforms that are technologically better than Twitter and have better everything, except they just don't have the billion users or whatever Twitter has. So, it's difficult for them to overtake it.
However, there are now a few others that are gaining in popularity, especially during all this turmoil with Elon. I haven't tried Mastodon. I have tried Farcaster. I think that's a really interesting one as well — which I think it's inherently like Web3 native, where it's designed for people in technology and crypto, the way that it's built. But I haven't actually used it for a couple months. I lost access to my account. So, I need to get a new one. It's a whole thing. But I think there are some interesting alternatives, for sure.
Bryan: Almost checked that out. Firecaster, is that the correct name?
Bryan: I'll check that out after the call. You're, in crypto land, what's described as self doxxed. So, people know who you are, and I could talk to you on an interview like this. When you're researching projects, a lot of the creators use their Web3 identity, or pseudonym, or a jpeg. Obviously, in NFT land, there's a lot of bad actors and nefarious players. Do you find it difficult to get in touch with people when you're interested in writing about a particular project or the work of an artist?
Zeneca: Not really, I think. I mean, most people, especially if you're going to write about them, are pretty forthcoming and willing to speak with you, I think. Most people use Twitter as well. So, you can generally find a way to reach someone via Twitter. Getting in touch with people is not an issue. I think if you feel like you need to know, like have a headshot of their real face or know their first and last name, that is definitely more difficult. But personally, I think it's totally fine to be anonymous or more accurately pseudonymous rather about that person without necessarily knowing their full name or what they look like.
I think it's actually — obviously, there's potential risks through the encrypter where people can be bad actors. They can scam. They can take money and run away and not be held accountable as much. But I think it's one of the beautiful parts about crypto and everything as well, because it eliminates the possibility for prejudice and any biases that people might have based on someone's age, or skin color, or gender, or political views, et cetera, et cetera, or a country they're from. It's like a person's work speaks for themselves — their words, their actions, their writing, this, that and the other. I think that's one of the best parts of crypto.
Bryan: A lot of content creators, they use Circle to interact with their community. But in crypto and NFTs, Discord is their primary platform for projects and creators to connect with their followers and fans. What's ironic is Discord was actually built for gamers, not for crypto and NFTs. A lot of Discord early adopters don't like that NFT creators use it. Do you think people like you will continue to use Discord in the future, or will there be some other platform that creators might use?
Zeneca: It's a good question. I think it comes back to the same thing with Twitter, where Discord is not perfect, but it is good enough for most people's purposes. And it's been embraced by the Web3 community for long enough. There's always third-party tools and bots and plugins, and everything that people can integrate into the servers that make it very easy to use Web3 and crypto integrations. And so, because of that, it's difficult for another competitor to come along. I mean, there are others that do things better than Discord. But because everyone uses Discord, it's difficult to get a community to use something else.
I can't remember where I heard it. But basically, whoever it was said that, in order for something, like a product, to unseat something like Discord, or Twitter, or Facebook, they don't just have to be better. They have to be an order of magnitude better, at least. And until we see something that's an order of magnitude better than Discord — at being what Discord is effectively, a chat room server — I'm not sure that the crypto space will move away from Discord.
Bryan: If somebody's listening to this and they're thinking, "I want to start writing about Web3 or NFTs," but then they go and check out the floor price of a Board Ape Yacht Club, they're going to say, "I don't have that kind of money. Can I still get involved in the space," what would you say to them? How can somebody get involved?
Zeneca: I would say you don't even need to own an NFT or anything to be involved in the space or to write about it. Certainly not a Board Ape or any sort of expensive NFT. Some of the biggest and best creators, they use their face on Twitter as a profile picture. They use something that they made themselves, or that they paid $5 for, or anything like that. I don't think you need any NFT. It's not a prerequisite for anything in the space, really.
I think you can participate in the space virtually, just as much as someone who has a body. Just being yourself, whatever you want to be — that's the beauty of the space. You can join. You start chatting to people. You make connections. You start learning. You start asking questions. You build out a network. You start writing. You start creating content, if that's what you want to do. I think it's a very equal playing field. And so, I really don't think—
This is even an argument we made, where having a Board Ape could be a detriment. Because certainly, some people find it almost like elitist now, which is ironic. Because when they first came out two years ago, there was the counterculture project where there was a previous project called CryptoPunks. Everyone thought they were the elite project. Then this Bored Apes came out. They were not that expensive compared to most things in the space. It's a really great community and counterculture form. Now, obviously, they're so expensive that they're seen as elitist. And so, maybe if you're trying to build a brand, whether it's personal or professional and great content, definitely, I can see arguments that not having a Board Ape would be better than having one.
Bryan: It makes sense. So, Zeneca, where can listeners go if they want to learn more about you or your work?
Zeneca: Two places. My Twitter is where I spend a lot of time. It's just @zeneca. Then I have my website, which is Zeneca.xyz.
Bryan: I'll put the links in the show notes. Thank you, Zeneca.
Zeneca: Thank you so much.
Bryan: I hope you enjoyed this week’s episode. If you did, please consider leaving a short review on the iTunes Store or sharing the show on Spotify, Stitcher, or wherever you’re listening. More reviews, more ratings, and more shares will help more people find the Become a Writer Today Podcast. And did you know, for just a couple of dollars a month, you could become a Patreon for the show? Visit patreon.com/becomeawritertoday or look for the Support button in the show notes. Your support will help me record, produce, and publish more episodes each month. And if you become a Patreon, I’ll give you my writing books, discounts on writing software and on my writing courses.