After the events of 2014, the Bitcoin community trusts almost no one — including the biggest Bitcoin news websites. Everyone is a potential scammer, and the only way to prove otherwise is by delivering a legitimate product that does everything as advertised. For Bitcoin journalism, that means having an impeccable editorial policy and sound journalistic ethics. The new vanguard of this industry must review potential advertisers with extreme scrutiny, writers must disclose any and all affiliations with the companies they write about, and there must be full disclosure when a site publishes a sponsored article. This is not a complaint, these editorial policies should have been the standard all along. It is a travesty that money had to be lost and lives ruined for the Bitcoin news industry to come to this realization.
A sound editorial policy is nothing without high-quality content. As Bitcoin grows more popular, our news sites will gain more attention, and people will eventually start to compare us with much bigger, more mainstream websites. Thus, it is time to leave the blogosphere once and for all and take responsibility for the serious positions we have created for ourselves. Regardless of the language a website is published in, spelling and grammar must be perfect — any mistakes must be corrected as soon as they are noticed. Gossip will simply not be good enough in the future; all claims must be backed up with facts. To the community’s dismay, this means that publications cannot declare that a company is a scam without actual proof that it has broken the law. If a mainstream media outlet labeled a business as a scam based on hunches and hearsay, it would be sued for libel and would likely be shut down. Just as the Bitcoin media must be honest about their advertisers and sponsors, they must be fair to companies that come under scrutiny by the community. Lastly, opinions must become more tempered. Most of the Bitcoin community is young and emotional — I include myself in that generalization. Our opinions are strong and we want them to be heard. But if someone writes for a website and has an audience, they must consider his or her readers when sharing an opinion. In order to remain successful in the future, opinion pieces on Bitcoin news sites must be fair. Both sides of the argument should be accurately represented, with the writer defending his or her position with concrete facts, sound logic, or both.
The breaking news model is dying. Most of the big Bitcoin news websites have dedicated all of their efforts to finding breaking news and competing with each other to be the first to publish the stories. Certainly, this strategy will bring in traffic for some time to come. However, if Bitcoin continues to grow in popularity, mainstream business media will take on the task of covering Bitcoin business developments. We simply do not have the resources to compete with those outlets. Since their coverage extends to all parts of the economy — whereas our focus is centered on Bitcoin — they will be able to expose Bitcoin companies to far larger audiences. Even now, when mainstream Bitcoin coverage is just starting to pick up, Bitcoin websites mainly worried about breaking news are losing traffic. This is an indication that readers are losing interest and trust in our industry’s old guard, opting for bigger publications with more diverse coverage and more established reputations. Thus, in order for Bitcoin journalism to remain relevant, we have to leave the breaking news model behind and try something new. We should start focusing on education, reviews, features, and analysis, which will allow us to extend readership beyond the current community by creating new Bitcoiners and growing the community. For the time being, breaking news is still a good short-run traffic driver, but websites planning to survive the coming years should draw up plans for gradually phasing it out.
The three changes mentioned above will form the foundation of the future Bitcoin journalism industry. Some of current big players in the industry can adapt to the shifting market if they work hard enough. However, it is too late for others, as the Bitcoin community has shunned them for dishonest editorial decisions — foreshadowing of the future expectations Bitcoin news sites will encounter. As time progresses, and these shifts are initiated, the Bitcoin news industry will transform into a portal of education and analysis, a place where newcomers will find information and veterans will look for opinions and in-depth coverage of community issues.
What do you think Bitcoin journalism will look like in the future? Let us know in the comments below!