Hopping back on the horse again.
I’ve been playing around with Lightning Network (LN) a lot lately, which if you’re unfamiliar is a Layer 2 (L2) scaling solution for the Bitcoin blockchain. At a high level some of the key benefits of this solution are:
1.) Lower transaction (tx) fees
There are other benefits that you can read about here in the Lightning Network whitepaper. That whitepaper also gets a bit into the technical weeds about how this technology builds upon the rock solid fundamentals of the Bitcoin blockchain.
If you’re reading this and completely lost or already feeling overwhelmed, Andreas Antonopoulos has a nice video breaking it down in a non-technical way, which should help you better understand LN at a high level.
Now that we’ve briefly gone over some fundamentals, let’s get into the topics at hand: Streaming sats, and the value for value content model. Currently you’re probably subscribed to a streaming service (or several) of some sort where you pay a monthly subscription fee to your various service provider(s). This subscription fee is the same every month, no matter how many movies, videos, music, etc. you’ve streamed that billing cycle. What if, instead of a flat rate you were charged based on consumption? Let’s set up a scenario. I’m subscribed to Netflix, and I’ll be honest I haven’t watched some Netflix in several months, but my family uses it often, so I’m still subscribed. In this example, however, we’ll just assume I’m the single user on the account. Instead of the $17.99/mo I’m normally charged, Netflix will charge me a quarter of a penny every minute I watch of Netflix for unlimited streaming, up to $17.99/mo maximum.
Let’s do some quick math. To make it easier, we’ll just round to $18.
$18/$.0025 = 7200mins
7200mins/60mins = 120hrs
120hrs/24hrs = 5days
I’d have to watch 5 days of content in a billing cycle to get the full value of my subscription, otherwise if I’ve already binged my favorite show last month and watch a cumulative 60 mins worth of Netflix this month, then I make out much better with the consumption model.
Now the only problem is this isn’t really possible with fiat currency, as the lowest denomination we have (in $USD) is a penny, not a quarter of a penny as used in the example. I only use $USD an example, but this lack of micro divisibility afflicts all fiat currencies. However, as explained on our FAQ page, Bitcoin is denominable all the way down to .00000001 or 1 satoshi.
Here’s where things get interesting. As time has passed and more tools are becoming available, developers are figuring out how to leverage the Lightning Network to make these micro transactions in practical, useful ways. Streaming sats is probably one of the most compelling use cases in this sub-section of the Lightning Network apposphere simply off the strength of the consumer facing industries it could, and in my opinion, WILL effect. This will obviously take time to play out, but the early results of what’s possible today is very promising. If you’re a content creator have built a community around exchanging information and providing value, this can be an avenue to receive value back for value created. A good working example of this is something like yalls.org, a forum that allows users to write articles and exchange ideas. The site is monetized by requiring microtransactions to perform actions like post an article or react to a post, but in exchange writers can then earn a small fee for valuable content they’ve provided on the site. Readers determine what is valuable and what is not with their wallets, and everything is transparently displayed.
The creator economy has already undergone massive changes in just the past 5 years and lots of folks have begun embracing the direct to consumer (D2C) model. I believe that individual creators and small communities will be the first shoe to drop when it comes to demonstrating the power of the value for value model (V4V). This technology enables you to exchange value on such a granular basis that it’s astounding, really. V4V may start off as a supplementary income stream for those who are already monetizing using traditional ways such as advertisements, but eventually V4V will become so prominent that it will become the dominant model for these groups.
How can YOU take advantage of this today? The most experience I have with streaming sats is in the podcasting space. Breez and Sphinx are currently the two best platforms to set up your podcast to get set up on. In my opinion Breez is the easiest and most approachable to get set up on, and undoubtedly requires the least amount of legwork, so that’s what we’ll focus on. If there is interest, perhaps I’ll do a walkthrough of how to get set up on Sphinx as well. Before we jump in, a little background on Breez: it’s a Lightning enabled wallet app that has some additional integrations such as a gateway to popular retailers that accept Bitcoin payments via Lightning. Additionally there’s a free point of sale app for vendors and the aforementioned podcast integration. It’s actually becoming more of a Lightning platform than just a wallet app. The app is pretty slick and the interface is very simple.
Focusing on the podcasting bit: as you can see in one of the screenshots above, listeners of your podcast can “boost” your podcast by sending a bundle of sats (as little as 100 or as many as 50k per boost at the time of writing) or stream you x amount of sats per minute (with options from 0 all the way to 1k/min). This is super cool because you can get direct feedback from your audience when you’re providing content they like, as well as monetize your podcast in a permissionless way. The podcast part of the app also has all the functions you’d expect of a modern podcast app.
Now there’s two avenues you can take to implement this, either via a fully self hosted or a third party hosting. When referring to hosting, I mean the hosting of the Lightning node which is required to receive the streamed sats (aka to get paid) through people streaming your podcast on Breez’s app. Now don’t worry, you don’t have to run a Bitcoin node register your podcast, you can use Voltage which is the 3rd party Lightning node host Breez recommends.
Now that we’ve greased the wheels, let’s get started.
Getting set up on Breez
Step 1 – Make sure your podcast is registered on Podcast Index. If you have an active RSS feed, you’re probably already in the directory, so just confirm you podcast is showing up.
Step 2 – After you’ve found your podcast on Podcast Index, you’ll want to claim your feed on Podcaster Wallet by clicking on the lightning bolt icon right under your description on your podcast page.
This link will forward you to the sign up page for Podcaster Wallet, where you’ll need to verify you own the podcast feed. There’s also a disclaimer for those hosting their podcast on Anchor or Soundcloud, so look out for that if it applies to you.
Step 3 – After you sign up and verify you own the podcast, you’ll be able to sign in and update your Lightning node pubkey (public key). This is how you will get paid! If you’re hosting with a 3rd party, they should provide this pubkey to you. Otherwise, either log in to your self-hosted node and to get your pubkey so you can paste it in the required field
You should see something like this after you put in a valid pubkey:
Referring to the text in the screenshot above, you don’t have to copy the “value block” into your xml feed for the purposes of working with Breez, so at this point you’re done!
In my testing it seems to propagate pretty instantaneously, so you can boot up the Breez app on your phone to make sure your podcast is showing up in the podcast section.
You can send a couple hundred sats to your Breez wallet to make sure everything works well.
I hope this has been useful to someone. Please feel free to reach out via our contact form if you have any questions or if you would like some help setting up your own Lightning Node!