With a mission to demystify, Decrypt is challenging crypto media’s vanguard
Future News 100
‘It’s here, it exists and it’s not going away’ is the mantra, while being open, inviting and inclusive is the name of the game for the newest editor-in-chief covering Bitcoin and its cryptocurrency cousins.
Daniel Roberts joined Decrypt from Yahoo Finance alongside executive editor Jeff John Roberts (formerly of Fortune) and publisher and chief revenue officer Alanna Roazzi-Laforet (ex-Interactive Advertising Bureau) in February.
It’s been action stations ever since their appointments, with Bitcoin reaching a record high of more than $60,000 and a booming digital art market (backed by non-fungible/one-off tokens typically on the Ethereum blockchain) capturing the imagination of US influencers and their audiences, driving auction prices to eye-watering levels.
This type of flood of mainstream interest in Bitcoin led Roberts to go all-in on covering cryptocurrency and its community, moving from a relatively safe position within a Verizon-backed outlet to a three-year-old start-up closely linked with a notoriously volatile market.
“I don’t think [Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies] are niche anymore – it’s not fair to call it that anymore because it’s now just one part of mainstream finance,” Roberts, who started covering the space back in 2011 for Fortune, told FN. “It’s no different to being a market reporter.”
It’s a view that has also been accepted and adopted in some parts of the mainstream media, with the likes of Bloomberg and Reuters (as FN 91 pointed out) committing full-time reporters to the beat.
Bitcoin’s price movement and further adoption – thanks to the perfect storm of conditions created by the Covid-19 pandemic – has also created plenty of coverage and commentary in the FT, Wall Street Journal and in other areas of the respectable business press.
All of these publication and journalists are following in the footsteps of CoinDesk, Bitcoin Magazine and the other trade titles which have been reporting on the sector for years and years.
Established by blockchain company ConsenSys in the so-called ‘Crypto Winter of 2018’ (following a dramatic crash in the price of Bitcoin at the start of that year), Decrypt is very much the new kid on the block.
“Without needing to name names, I see a few problems in the crypto news space that we address and that we want to remedy on our website,” Roberts said. The first issue he claimed was the “insider tone” of some outlets, where the content is written for “people who are experts or who already live and breathe crypto”.
The editor-in-chief conceded that “there is a space for that”, however the aim for Decrypt is to be for everyone. The outlet, by way of example, has a ‘learn’ vertical to educate novices, people with an intermediate knowledge of crypto as well as experts. “My biggest priority is having a clear tone,” Roberts added.
Another problem he identified was around trust and ethics, with some crypto influencers being “somewhere in-between an investor and journalist”. Unless they are fully transparent, it creates a grey area for the community, potentially putting people off and fuelling the scam narrative some of Bitcoin’s detractors share.
Decrypt’s manifesto commits its reporters and editors to “celebrate the things that are working, while sounding the alarm about scams, frauds and bad technology”.
As for how the outlet makes money, it runs non-intrusive advertising and paid-for-content alongside an events business. “We’re adapting very quickly to a virtual world,” Roberts stressed, revealing that the next Decrypt summit is coming very soon.
This all pays for 16 full-time staffers, with the majority of the journalists based in the US and UK and other contributors filing from the likes of France and Venezuela.
“Once it’s safe to do so I hope to go into an in-person desk in New York a couple of days per work...I hope we’re not going to be virtual for the rest of our lives now,” Roberts added.
The outlet is also actively open to innovation, including creating a Discord channel for its readers. And, as a mobile-first publication, Decrypt’s latest experiment has been launching its own readers reward token for users of its app.
Consumers can now earn Decrypt Tokens (DCPTs), which aren’t exchangeable for money or for other cryptocurrencies, by reading, sharing and interacting with articles. The initiative sounds similar to Reddit’s coin system, which is designed to boost engagement and usage.
“I'm really excited about what it could mean for digital journalism,” Roberts said, with his outlet openly mooting that DCPTs could be used for reader prediction markets (more on those from FN 67 here), among other possible applications.
In the first few hours after launch on Thursday 18 March, the team were seeing a new wallet created every four seconds with a total of 17,500 DCPT wallets being created this weekend. Keeping it simple seems to be paying off.
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