In 2018, talk about cryptocurrency moved beyond a niche area among finance geeks to a mainstream one that’s part of popular culture. It’s made it into dinner table conversation among families. Companies that mention blockchain have seen their share prices gone up. Bitcoin has stood in the way of friendships.
Now, publishers are getting in on the frenzy. Media companies from Business Insider to Investopedia are all creating new products, from newsletters to video — but the pressure is also on to differentiate.
At Business Insider, which hired an additional reporter to focus on crypto stories last year, traffic to crypto stories jumped 500 percent between the second and fourth quarters of 2017, according to Mario Ruiz, a company spokesman. Last month, it rolled out a video show and newsletter.
Markets Insider, the BI site that focuses on markets and data, also saw traffic grow 430 percent between the third and fourth quarter of last year.
“Three types of people have been looking at crypto stories,” said Markets Insider director and general manager Thomas Greaney. “The diehards who have been there from the start, people who are investing in markets who may be little skeptical, and new users who were never interested, but want to know what bitcoin or ethereum is.”
To keep up with the fast-developing news cycle, he explained that it requires the outlet’s U.S., U.K., and Australia bureaus to work together to ensure round-the-clock coverage.
Traffic to Quartz’s future of finance section, which has been reporting about cryptocurrencies for six years, grew 10 times throughout 2017. It also hired an additional reporter to focus on the topic last year. For Jason Karaian, global finance and economics editor, the spike in interest in cryptocurrencies gives Quartz the license to go deeper to explore the issues and people behind the news.
“We read the signals from the huge increase in readership, and we felt emboldened to be as ambitious as we can be about our coverage,” said Karaian.
For instance, last year, Quartz sent reporters to a bitcoin mine in Inner Mongolia and a secret Swiss mountain bunker where wealthy investors stash their bitcoins. Given the scope of the topic, knowing what not to cover is important. Quartz hasn’t covered the avalanche of ICOs very much, and it doesn’t do stories about every company that sets up a cryptocurrency exchange, Karaian said.
“Many of them will sign up some high-profile celebrity to pitch them, and we don’t consider that newsworthy in and of itself.”
For specialized outlets like IAC-owned Investopedia, cryptocurrencies are giving rise to new products that can grow its revenue, including a crypto-focused newsletter that will roll out in the first quarter of this year, and a “Cryptocurrency for Beginners” course that will launch this week for $99. It also plans to release a cryptocurrency investments course in the next few months.
“We have a lot of evergreen content, explainers and FAQs, and we’ve been adding to it,” said Caleb Silver, Investopedia’s editor-in-chief. “It’s an opportunity to drive traffic, and we’ll continue to add to that, while we add more newsier content around the price [of cryptocurrencies] and the things that impact the price.”
Cryptocurrency content has also generated increased interest from financial services advertisers, he added. Investopedia reported that by the end of 2017, visits to cryptocurrency content accounted for 10 percent of the traffic to the site, or approximately 9 million pageviews, compared to the three to four percent of pageviews in the beginning of that year, some 3.5 million.
Bitcoin was the top searched term on Investopedia in 2017, said Silver, who added that courses are a way the publisher can respond to growing interest from readers.
“We love getting on the pulse of what people are trying to educate themselves about in finance and investing in general, and cryptocurrency has been a great example of that.”