According to TIME President Keith Grossman, Web3 wasn’t part of the plan.
In an interview with Decrypt at the Mainnet conference in New York, Grossman shared the story of how TIME was changed forever through crypto and NFTs, and offered his thoughts on Web3 skeptics.
“The main plan was never to bring TIME into Web3,” Grossman said. “We were really rehabilitating a brand that was neglected for ten years.”
Until COVID created national isolation and an even deeper dependency on the internet, that is. The global pandemic made Grossman realize that, from his location in upstate New York, his digital identity was just as important as his physical one.
The executive has been interested in cryptocurrency since working at WIRED in 2014, where he pushed for the company to buy a new computer for a story about mining Bitcoin in the office.
But what had been percolating for years finally solidified for Grossman when the Nyan Cat, a viral GIF of a rainbow-farting feline with the body of a PopTart, sold as an NFT for 300 ETH in February 2021 (roughly $587,000 at the time).
Not only did Grossman see NFTs as a business opportunity—he also sees a parallel between memes and NFTs.
“The cover of TIME—that red border—for 99 years has been a meme,” he said, calling TIME’s cover an “analog meme.”
When Grossman got TIME into NFTs in September 2021, everyone asked him if he was crazy.
“I’m just a dorky guy who likes tech,” Grossman said.
TIME has since released five NFT collections, announced an NFT collaboration with rapper Timbaland, put the issue of TIME with Ethereum Co-Founder Vitalik Buterin on the blockchain, and launched NFTs for Ukraine relief and of past TIME covers, to name a few.
Now—about a year later—TIME has made over $10 million in profit from its NFTs alone.
Grossman is mystified by the mindset of NFT and Web3 skeptics, who often post toxic, anti-NFT memes online.
“I don’t understand the politicizing of a technology,” he said.
But NFTs have sparked a massive shift in the way many view digital scarcity—a change some may despise because they can’t control it.
“People love to say they love change,” Grossman said. “But people don’t actually love change when they either don’t understand where the change is leading to or they’re not controlling the change themselves.”
Despite the controversy surrounding NFTs, Grossman’s stance on Web3 is unwavering—he believes society will move toward adoption via what he calls an “experience state,” focused on the lived experience, rather than on the underlying technology.