Shani Merdler of Minute Media: “Empathy is a strong weapon”

Empathy is a strong weapon — when trying to think of what the other side has in mind, whether it’s seller or buyers, try to put yourself in their shoes to understand their perspective. If you approach situations with the mindset of what you would care about, what would move you to action and make you come […]

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Empathy is a strong weapon — when trying to think of what the other side has in mind, whether it’s seller or buyers, try to put yourself in their shoes to understand their perspective. If you approach situations with the mindset of what you would care about, what would move you to action and make you come back again, you are set up for a greater measure of success.


Many have observed that we are at the cusp of an NFT boom. The thing is, it’s so cutting edge, that many people don’t know what it is. What exactly is an NFT and how can one create a lucrative career out of selling them? To address this, as a part of our interview series called “5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Highly Successful Career In The NFT Industry”, we had the pleasure of interviewing Shani Merdler. Shani is the VP of Product at Minute Media, a leading global content and technology company and owner of The Players’ Tribune, FanSided, 90min, DBLTAP, Mental Floss and The Big Lead. SInce 2013, Shani has helped develope the publishing, video and content tools that help Minute Media and its publishing partners create, distribute and consumer digital content. Today Minute Media holds the #1 spot in Comscore’s U.S. sports video rankings and #3 in U.S. sports reach.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory and how you grew up?

I grew up in a small town in the center of Israel, the eldest of four children and granddaughter to immigrant grandparents from Romania and Iraq.

I was always very independent and after serving in a technology unit in the Israeli army, I took a different path from most freshly-released Israeli soldiers. I started working in the hitech industry. What was supposed to be a year of saving up money for a long, glorious trip was replaced by a career path that led me to where I am today.

Is there a particular book, film, or podcast that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz is a short book that lays out in a very structured and simple way sources for our suffering as humans that mostly come from our perception. It resonated with me as I saw how we are all used to being part of a situation or experience that we rarely look at ourselves from the outside. There is so much value in this new perspective of understanding that we have a choice in how people’s actions and words affect us. It can help us become more empathetic and compassionate towards others which I believe also leads to success in different aspects of life.

Is there a particular story that inspired you to pursue a career in this new industry? We’d love to hear it.

At Minute Media, I am responsible for product development to help our own media properties as well as our publishing partners reach more people, increase engagement, bring in more revenue and monetization opportunities. This includes everything from video tools, to content management systems, to ad tools. I am constantly thinking of both content creators and the end-user that is consuming the content. Minute Media has a large focus on sports (The Players’ Tribune, 90min, FanSided and others), and the sports world has been an early adopter of bringing NFTs more to the public.

The connection of NFTs to the creators and media world is very natural in my view. As the creator economy rises in popularity and more and more tools and services are being created to empower them and support their success and financial indepences, NFTs are a vehicle that can solve many of the challenges that are coming up for creators.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began this fascinating career?

An interesting experience that I have had was participating in a Roblox concert. I’m usually not a user of the platform but I was intrigued by the experience. I have found it extremely weird to be walking in this virtual space as a character that I don’t feel a connection to. This is why the idea behind Meetbites resonated so much with me, similarly to how I choose what I wear in the physical world, I should be able to choose how I look when I’m in the virtual space. Especially with their new guide on how to convert your character into a metaverse avatar.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

The funniest mistake I’ve made was assuming that the same limitation of the physical world also applies for NFTs. I was thinking that there could be only one copy of what is also called an edition of a certain NFTs, like in the physical world there is only one copy of the Mona Lisa. This made me look at all of the marketplace platforms the wrong way.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I have had great teachers in different forms along the way, many times the most unexpected ones. If I have to choose one person that helped me get where I am today, it’s my father.

My father had his own business in the ERP software industry most of his life, and from a young age he has shared with me stories and dilemmas from his work and the way he chose to deal with them. He was and is a great advisor that helped me look at things with the right perspective more than one time, stopping me from making mistakes by sharing his philosophy.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

At Minute Media we are working on exciting tools to help content creators grow their business through content creation, distribution and experiences. Our goal is to empower them to make the most out of their creation through their properties and through our ecosystem. This is powered by Voltax which features a CMS for written content, an OVP for video content and what we call Voltax Boost — a smart toolkit that helps enhance their revenue potential, content offerings, and audience development, enabling them to stay ahead of the ever-changing industry. For NFTs specifically, I believe that they are a great enabler for us to do great things for creators once NFTs will support new types of assets.

Ok super. Thank you for all that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. I’m sure you get this question all the time. But for the benefit of our readers, can you explain in your own words what an NFT is, and why people are spending so much money on them?

NFTs enable us to own and prove our ownership over digital assets. Similarly to how we acquire physical products from stores, offline or online, we are now able to own a beautiful digital art in the highest quality using NFTs. People that value art and unique objects value it regardless of it’s form of existence. Thanks to technology, digital experiences are no longer secondary to physical ones and that’s the key to why people are willing to spend money on them.

The NFT industry seems so exciting right now. What are the 3 things in particular that most excite you about the industry? If you can, please share a story or example for each.

What most excites me about the industry is the endless possibilities for it to evolve.

If we are getting specific, I’m moved by how NFTs are going to shape digital communities, how a true sense of community can emerge from models where all community members contribute to a certain cause but also be compensated for its success.

I’m also interested in how NFTs shift the power balance to the creators, allowing them to create the guardrails for the consumption of their work, allowing only their true followers, the ones that purchased their item or items before to be able to acquire their latest work.

What are the 3 things that concern you about the industry? Can you explain? What can be done to address those concerns?

The things that I’m most concerned about are around the utilization of NFTs for negative purposes such as racism, hate of speech, encouraging violence and more. While NFTs have had a beautiful (also visually) beginning, we have already witnessed things that started with good intentions but have been misused in a way that caused harm.

To address these concerns, I believe a really strong moderation tool is needed that will be able to scan assets and prevent the exchange of these types of assets.

What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about NFTs? Can you explain what you mean?

I believe that some of the myths that surround NFTs are that they are only relevant for a small group of geeks. However, this can easily be debunked as well-known, more mainstream entities start to use them, as we’ve seen with Taco Bell and others.

What are the most common mistakes you have seen people make when they enter the NFT industry. What can be done to avoid that?

A common mistake that I see broad;y, not just with NFTs, is that people tend to jump into things without understanding how they work. For NFTs specifically, this means that people are entering the industry without being knowledgeable enough about how things work, the different platforms that exist and the entire ecosystem. People have gotten used to consuming quick “how to” videos on everything they do in life and their attention span continues to shorten. My main recommendation is whatever you want to do, first learn the rules of the game, then play.

How do you think NFTs have the potential to help society in the future?

I believe that NFTs could have a great potential for charities looking to raise money using auctions of digital assets. This trend has shown it’s first signs with this auction for the cause of stopping Asian hate.

Ok, fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Highly Successful Career In The NFT Industry?” (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. Knowledge is power — we are fortunate to have access to free information that helps us be more informed in our choices and untap our abilities and potential. You want to be successful? Master the way things are working.
  2. Be nimble — don’t restrict yourself to what has been done or how it has been done, continue to try new things, new platforms and above all, experiment. Eventually you will find what works for you.
  3. Get creative — when you think you have exhausted your options, remember that the number of opportunities is endless. New initiatives continue to emerge and since you know what you do best, think creatively about how it can connect to what is being done.
  4. Don’t be a stranger — there is some loneliness and individualism around creation online but many good things are coming from collaborating with others. Whether it’s via a community, social media or any other form of communication, reach out to people that inspire you, you might be surprised by the outcome 🙂
  5. Empathy is a strong weapon — when trying to think of what the other side has in mind, whether it’s seller or buyers, try to put yourself in their shoes to understand their perspective. If you approach situations with the mindset of what you would care about, what would move you to action and make you come back again, you are set up for a greater measure of success.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would create a platform of NFTs for good, where people can create and donate assets to their favorite charities. The platform will enable the charities to easily create a public auction for the assets and maintain their community of donors.

If that triggers a movement, count me in and let me know 🙂

We are very blessed that very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

Yes, I would love to have a private breakfast with Elie Hassenfeld, the founder of GiveWell to speak about the opportunity NFTs could have for charities.

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