“It’s worth a try,” wrote New York Times columnist Kevin Roose of his attempt to auction one of his articles as a non-fungible token (NFT). Just a day later, however, it appears to be worth much more than that.
After publishing a step-by-step NFT explainer titled “Buy This Column on the Blockchain!” on Wednesday, Roose has successfully auctioned today what he calls a “digital original” of his article as an NFT on the Foundation platform, raising over $550,000 for charity.
The last half-hour of the auction was a particularly exciting one, with a bidding war breaking out to drive up the price from just under $50,000 to the final $562,891 sale. Competing for the coveted digital clip was Facebook veteran and stealth startup founder J Ouyang and the eventual winner, Dubai-based production company 3F Music.
The proceeds of the sale are being donated to the NYT’s The Neediest Cases Fund, which has distributed over $300 million to charities and families over its 110-year history.
The donation to charity makes sense given that — even as many newspaper and media companies shut their doors primarily due to venture capital and hedge fund mismanagement — the NYT is thriving. The company’s earnings report for q4 2020 shows that the company generated $80.5 million in profit on $509.4 million in revenues during the period, with newer verticals like digital subscriptions and podcasts as standout earners.
This successful foray may prompt the 170 year-old newspaper to experiment further with blockchain technology. After all, the hard part is over: on Twitter Roose made playful reference to what was no doubt a lengthy legal process in getting the institution and its various lawyers and gatekeepers to lend the NYT brand to the experiment, saying that it induced “maximum possible confusion.”
Relatedly, the answer to the question “how can a single human generate the maximum possible confusion inside a media organization” turns out to be “sell a corporate-branded blockchain token”
— Kevin Roose (@kevinroose) March 24, 2021
When reached for comment, Roose simply said “Wow.” He noted that a follow-up column will be forthcoming, but did not specify if it will also be for sale.
The sale might be a boon for Roose personally, as well: NYT finance editor Randy Pennell made a crack about how the high price tag indicates that Roose’s per-column rate might deserve a bump:
So if I’m reading all this right, we should be paying you $38,000 per column?
— Randy Pennell (@randypennell) March 25, 2021
However, by that metric the Times might want to look elsewhere for new talent. Amid a surge in absurd NFT sale prices, Roose has been solidly beaten by a robot: Hanson Robotic’s Sophia sold a painting for over $700,000 at auction.