In Crypto Media
cryptocurrency is not necessarily mainstream just yet, it has been getting mainstream press attention for a good while now. Ever since it exploded in popularity in the early 2010’s, there has been a growing fascination surrounding the concept by mainstream publications particularly financial ones. But if cryptocurrency is to reach the level it seeks, there is a need to explore the current cryptocurrency representation within the media and see what aspects of the industry are most fixated on. Analyzing some of the most popular cryptocurrency-related news coverage is in recent times, it can be highlighted that certain aspects of the industry have captured mainstream fascination more than others.
It seems like after the bitcoin halving everyone is pre-occupied with the price of cryptocurrencies, especially major ones like bitcoin. This applies to both short-term traders, HODLers, and those who merely want to track the progress of the industry. Mainstream publications also seem to have a fascination with the topic and a search for cryptocurrency-related stories on major sites like CNN and Bloomberg will show a lot of content on crypto price speculation. Whether it is speculation on the price of bitcoin post-halving or the possibility of another bear run, readers appear drawn to the fluctuations that surround popular tokens. Ironically, the volatility within the crypto market is one of the reasons why some investors are wary of it. For mainstream media, the instability appears to be a source of headlines and sensationalism. Will bitcoin reach $1 million? Will it become worthless overnight?
A lot of this could be rooting in the perceived ‘mystery’ around cryptocurrency and how most of the public does not understand it. When an idea is not fully understood, it is vulnerable to media sensationalism. While it does drive more attention to the industry, it further paints it in an ‘otherworldly’ light that might do more harm than good in the long term.
Crypto scams and conspiracies
Still on the topic of sensationalism is the coverage of cryptocurrency scams and conspiracies. Mainstream media has always been able to milk outrage and the cryptocurrency industry often provides them with adequate material. An example of this is the QuadrigaCX story that first broke in 2019. The story involved a now-defunct Canadian cryptocurrency exchange that lost hundreds of millions of dollars of customer funds after their CEO died unexpectedly and was the only one with the key to the cold wallet where the funds were kept. ‘$190 Million in Crypto Gone Forever, How Canada’s Biggest Bitcoin Exchange Lost it All’ one article stated.
Such headlines emphasize the massive amounts and the fact that they have been lost. It is no secret a lot of the public distrusts cryptocurrency and such headlines appeal to that distrust but showing how ‘easily’ money can be lost by the industry. As the story unfolded with fake death conspiracies and demand for the CEO’s body to be exhumed, mainstream media was front and center. While it can be argued that the mainstream financial world receives similar coverage, these sorts of stories are many people’s first contact with the cryptocurrency industry. If their first exposure is a narrative of the industry as one full of scams, long-term adoption could be threatened.
Major crypto wins and failures
It has been shown that the media loves a good story of extraordinary success of resounding failure and cryptocurrency has not been spared. In the early 2010s, some of the most popular stories regarding cryptocurrency were of some of the earliest investors who became millionaires overnight after various tokens saw their value skyrocket. This was the first time that many large media outlets covered cryptocurrency and this went on to set the stage for future coverage. One type of story that took root in the mid-2010s was of people who invested heavily in cryptocurrency and lost it all. An example is Sean Russell, a man who invested his life savings in bitcoin and lost it all. While these do reflect the realities of some people in the industry, it creates a dichotomy; you can either become extremely wealthy with cryptocurrency or lose all your money in the process.
In reality, most people who invest in cryptocurrency make moderate gains at best. Also, many in the industry are pursuing a future where cryptocurrency is used as naturally as fiat currency. This sort of coverage, however, reduces toke tokens to a lottery ticket with big winners or big losers.
Cryptocurrency, and the technology behind it, are largely unexplored and more and more initiatives are being launched that make use of them. The issue with under-explored technology, however, is that there is a lot of room for sensationalized stories surrounding it. Will bitcoin replace the dollar? Will it replace gold? Will blockchain create a surveillance state and take over the world? Again, many of these stories do not approach the industry (or the technology behind it) with a lot of nuance and respect. Instead, wild predictions were thrown about with the sort of ‘robots will take over and enslave mankind’ narrative that only alienates the industry from the wider public.
This is not as possible as it used to be but a few years ago, it was somewhat fashionable to diss cryptocurrency. From the CEO of PayPal (a company that has gone on to embrace cryptocurrency transactions) to Warren Buffet, decrying cryptocurrency as a scam, fraud or internet trend that would die off was all the rage. While business leaders have always given their opinions on various business sectors, blockchain and cryptocurrency were all too easy as targets for such attacks. However, the pendulum is now swinging in the opposite direction with the acceptance of cryptocurrency taking center stage.
It is impossible to overestimate the power of media portrayal on the overall acceptance and adoption of a concept and cryptocurrency is no exception. Previous media coverage has leaned towards an almost exploitative and sensationalized view of cryptocurrency as either a get-rich-quick scheme or a strange technological anomaly. However, as cryptocurrency grows in users, the media attitudes towards it appear to become more mature and informed, presenting crypto as a growing part of our modern world.