Legacy media has taken an increasing interest in blockchain and cryptocurrency. But considering their traditional background, they often struggle to understand the intricacies of this space. Quality discourse and education can foster greater adoption of new technologies, but how else can media drive the growth of the blockchain space? More so, how can media companies benefit from the potential of blockchain?

To answer these pressing questions and more, Forkast.News executive producer Justin Solomon sat down with three of the most influential thought leaders in the crypto media space — Alanna Roazzi-Lafloret, chief revenue officer and publisher of Decrypt Media; Michael Casey, chief content officer of CoinDesk; and Gary Liu, CEO of the South China Morning Post. The trio explored the responsibilities of media companies towards the crypto industry in a panel discussion called “Driving Growth in Crypto: The Role of Media,” at today’s Bitcoin & Beyond Virtual Summit organized by Forkast.News and co-sponsored by AAX. 

There’s a lack of understanding of the crypto space

The mainstream media is still trying to play catchup with crypto natives, giving specialized crypto publications a more important role in covering the industry. “There’s a big gap, a learning curve between traditional media and the crypto space. Which is why folks like Decrypt and CoinDesk are coming in to fill that gap, and Forkast,” Roazzi-Lafloret said.

One of the issues leading to misinformation in the space is legacy media approaching the industry from a traditional market analysis perspective, which can lead to surface knowledge and an array of misinformation.

According to SCMP’s Liu, the media doesn’t quite have the right talent yet: “We have fantastic market reporters, business reporters, and tech reporters, that over the last X number of years have been responsible for covering the blockchain and crypto space, but they are not blockchain and crypto natives. They are looking at what is happening to this industry through the lens of traditional business and market reporting.” This leads to a filtered bias around blockchain, which is partly why most mainstream media outlets fail to understand the potential of this technology.

CoinDesk’s Casey believes the responsibility of mainstream and crypto media toward the industry is the protection of a public good: “If you talk to regulators, they describe cryptocurrency as private money. I think it is a form of public money, but that doesn’t fit with the way most people think about this. And the obligation of the press, therefore, is kind of a Fourth Estate law, to really fight and maintain that principle in the broad interest of this decentralized structure.” 

Yet, the lack of a central leader in some blockchain projects often leads to a bias in news coverage, especially paired with an initial lack of understanding, and reliance on traditional reporting tools. When it comes to pseudonymous or community-governed blockchains, reporters can no longer reach out to a CEO to gain a better understanding of the project — and for some mainstream media outlets, it is difficult to adapt. 

Blockchain can open new possibilities for media companies

Despite the difficult learning curve, blockchain brings numerous benefits to media companies willing to adopt the technology. While educational material is essential, it’s only the first step towards understanding the crypto space.

“The one way to learn about crypto is to actually do it. To get involved, touch and feel and learn how to trade. Learn about NFTs (non-fungible tokens), mint an NFT … Because if you don’t understand how things work, it’s very hard to discern between the real and the fantasy,” said Roazzi-Lafloret, highlighting the importance of practical experimentation in crypto and DeFi. Decrypt Media is leading by example, as the outlet already launched its first NFT collection on OpenSea.

As a traditional media company, SCMP was one of the first ones to start experimenting with blockchain and NFTs by launching ARTIFACT — a new metadata standard for historical NFTs. “Our goal is to set a standard, that long term will allow traditional organizations that are guardians of history … to translate that into the digital world first, but eventually on the blockchain for immutable recording, and do it in a way that benefits both the world and the original IP owners,” said Liu, who expects the project will translate to better understanding and coverage of the blockchain space.

A metadata standard like ARTIFACT is a prominent example of how NFTs can create greater transparency in the media industry, and reward the owner of the content piece that is recorded on the ledger. But blockchain has other use cases that can help combat fake news and misinformation as well.

“At Decrypt, we’re partnering with other publishers to create a DAO — decentralized autonomous organization — of publishers. And the DAO is creating a decentralized wire service, pushing stories underneath the DAO name and we’re voting on story ideas, story types, and we’re collaborating across publishers to push these stories live,” Roazzi-Lafloret said. DAOs can foster more communication among journalists, creating a more informed pallet of published pieces and restoring public trust in media outlets.

Casey believes “the advent of social media has been disastrous for newsrooms everywhere,” forcing media outlets to play by the algorithms of these social media giants that separate them from their audience.

“As a media industry, we could collectively think hard about how to break the stranglehold of these quite destructive platforms. And NFTs, blockchain technology, DAOs, in there is a solution that collectively gives us a new platform with which to reach our audience on our terms,” said Casey, on how blockchain can help disintermediate the media industry and reconnect the newsrooms directly with their audience.