The gravitational pull of the NFT space is undeniable. We’re forging a new creative economy in real-time, and, over the years, the weird wide world of nonfungibles has ballooned, bootstrapping a robust community of creatives and professionals from every industry along the way.
While rising stars of the NFT ecosystem reach for success, Shira Lazar, Founder and CEO of the Emmy Nominated digital media brand called What’s Trending, has become one of the most vocal proponents of blockchain tech and culture. A woman of many hats, Lazar is not only an avid collector of and advocate for NFTs, but a media personality furthering the conversation around how Web3 could positively change society.
Host of the popular Audacy podcast called Inside Web3, Lazar uses her platforms to create educational content around the sometimes enigmatic and misunderstood sectors of blockchain culture. Yet, while she is quickly becoming a recognizable name in the NFT space, her rise to prominence was anything but random.
“I’ve been in the digital culture media space for almost two decades,” said Lazar in an interview with nft now. “I came up in LA in entertainment with a foot in traditional and a foot in digital… I found myself in the middle of those two worlds, but always leaned into the digital world, because, for me, it rewarded enthusiasm and care.”
While these days, you can catch Lazar in all her enthusiastic glory via her recurring Twitter Spaces #Alpha Mondays and “Women in Web3” Wednesdays, the time spent behind the scenes as a self-starter turned executive helped build the front-facing powerhouse broadcaster she is today. We sat down with her to take an in-depth look at how she brought her legacy media sensibilities into the new paradigm of digital experience.
Forging a path of her own
Those entering the NFT ecosystem usually don’t do so by chance. Although stumbling down the NFT rabbit hole can definitely be an abnormal experience, people who become interested in crypto and digital ownership are likely to be digitally native or at least already deeply immersed in digital media and internet culture.
And for Lazar, this rings entirely true.
Having first become interested and involved in the media landscape shortly before the era of iPhones and YouTube, Lazar cut her teeth at the bottom of the corporate ladder, hoping to find a balance between her prowess for traditional media and her passion for all things digital.
“I was always trying to get into traditional [media]. But I would get to the screen test, whether it be like, for a big TV network or something, and then I would always get disappointed,” Lazar told nft now. “Digital [media] always created a way for me to continue practicing what I love doing, without having to get permission to do so.”
From working with websites like WireImage to Yahoo, Lazar quickly found her way into the vlogging world through a gig with CBS News. As one of the first vloggers employed by the news company, she covered internet and digital culture, solidifying this niche to be her long-term beat.
From there, she began her own company and streaming show, “What’s Trending”, which led to her continued interest and innovation in the growing world of digital media.
“‘What’s Trending’, at the time when we started, was one of the first live streaming shows for internet people by internet people,” said Lazar. “It wasn’t traditional people saying, ‘here’s what we think you like.’ It was us saying, ‘here’s what people from the social watercooler actually like. So it was really the first time someone editorialized the news from a social perspective.”
As she built herself as an entrepreneur and an executive, she remained steadfast in her love for broadcasting and content creation. But, after a decade spent growing “What’s Trending,” Lazar felt burnt out, and then COVID hit.
Transitioning into Web3
And that changed everything for Lazar. As she set out on her own personal growth journey, the media landscape transformed before her eyes. And, when fake news, misinformation, and rampant uncertainty went vogue, she noticed influential people in her circles gaining interest in Web3.
“In 2021, I started seeing the Web3 word pop up. A lot of the people I knew from the Web2 space, from Gary Vee to Randi Zuckerberg to Brit Morin, were starting to do projects in the Web3 space,” said Lazar. “And of course, then my radar went up like, ‘Okay, what’s going on?'”
At the time, Lazar was deeply invested in Peace Inside Live, the online yoga, meditation, and breathwork studio she co-founded. Yet, when NFTs reached even this comparably niche sector of her multi-pronged career, she began to take further notice.
“I started collecting [NFTs] and posting about them on my socials, and I started to see the reactions. I realized that I had seen this excitement before, and I felt it,” Lazar told nft now. “It was like when I was at the first-ever VidCon and people were lining up to see YouTube stars. And I thought, ‘I’ve seen this before, but now it’s different.'”
With the young NFT industry continuing to snowball, Lazar found it easy to plant her flag as a leading female voice in the space. As NFT enthusiasts and professionals began to take notice, linking her back to “What’s Trending” and her many other new media endeavors, she started receiving requests to take center stage at major conferences and events, including NFTLA, VeeCon, NFT.NYC, SXSW, and more.
Previously named one of Business Insider’s Most Influential Tech Women On Twitter, throughout 2021 and 2022, Lazar received consistent recognition as both a builder and tastemaker within the NFT space. Quickly, her metaverse soapbox expanded into an amphitheater. As things started to stabilize and then cool down in the crypto and NFT markets, she leaned into the idea of creating a sustainable future for Web3 culture.
Web3 inclusivity and long-term viability
Over the years, it’s become somewhat faux-pas to label or be labeled an “NFT expert.” As the weird wide world of nonfungibles continues to grow and develop, people who claim to know everything about NFTs are often subject to suspicion. Even the most seasoned NFT influencers succumb to braggadocio, but with decades of accomplishments in tow, Lazar seems to have maintained her humility through her transition into Web3.
“As a broadcaster, I am learning about this space and sharing my journey as someone playing in the game, but I’m still learning just like everyone else,” says Lazar. “It changes how you report on the content and the community vs. always looking at it from the outside… Staying curious, building those relationships, and distilling the information to others takes time, trial, and error.”
Yet, if one thing became clear about the Web3 “game” in the past few years, it’s that not everyone within the NFT space is treated equally. The NFT ecosystem may be a melting pot of art, tech, and culture, but the racism, sexism, and discrimination present in Web2 have yet to be ousted from this latest iteration of blockchain technology.
Society — significantly as a niche internet microcosm (i.e., the NFT space) — won’t change overnight. As a prominent voice in the NFT and wellness spaces, Lazar said she understands how race, gender, trauma, and other unconscious biases impact how we exist and perceive each other. This goes for real life and online discourse, and the NFT space is just as much a reflection of our disparate values as it is an ecosystem tied to the idea of decentralization.
“If we are building a new economy and new space, we get to change and rebuild the systems that haven’t worked. With these types of stats coming out, that only 5% of NFT sales go to women creators, and only around 16% of all NFTs are owned by women — clearly, there needs to be a change as it relates to women and other underrepresented communities in this space,” Lazar said to nft now.
A firm believer in “putting your money where your mouth is,” Lazar says the NFT space needs to have uncomfortable conversations on sustainability. And they should focus on the need for diversity in all-white male-led companies, or the need for those in positions of power to do more to support and uplift underrepresented individuals and populations.
“The way we get there is through education, representation, and accessibility,” said Lazar. “It’s my mission as an individual, creator, and entrepreneur to bring this to the content I create and the companies I work with in Web3.”
However, while addressing issues in established networks and companies is its own undertaking, Lazar says that for community building, especially in a Web3 context, longevity and equity start when builders and founders pause to ask themselves a simple question: why?
“I think consistency is key, but also having a clear ‘why?’. How are you not just taking from the space but adding value to the space,” said Lazar. “Be very clear about your value system and your ‘why’… When you’re clear on all that, how do you execute? There are going to be a lot of companies that claim to be doing similar things, but what separates one from the other is its execution, the people behind it, and then the community that emerges from that.”
Lazar doesn’t purport to be an expert on community building, or even blockchain tech. But this is because precisely where the NFT ecosystem will go in the next decade remains unclear. Yet, she still approaches each endeavor with excitement at the prospect of playing an integral part in building toward the future.
“What excites me about bridging the gap [between Web2 and Web3] is not just about innovating and disrupting the old, but also putting a spotlight on emerging leaders and brands. Plus, the possibility of: paying artists and creators their worth, shared ownership, and new forms of IP — which might lead to the next Disney, Google, or Amazon,” Lazar explained to nft now.
“Or maybe it’s not even about that scale,” added Lazar. “Maybe it’s more about connecting with niche interests and communities, and that’s enough.”