This is an excerpt and the second in a series of two. To read the first excerpt, click here. To hear the full interview, click the Soundcloud or Youtube links.
The crypto industry is incredibly chaotic; a world that turns lightning-speed where fortunes are created, sought, and lost almost every minute of every day.
When cryptocurrency was born several years ago, there was hardly a crypto ‘industry’ at all–crypto was a movement mostly associated with anarcho-capitalists and other sorts of fringe hobbyists; at worst, it was viewed as a tool for orchestrating criminal activity.
Any sort of news coverage that crypto got was geared toward a highly technical audience. Today, the crypto news industry is one of the most quickly-growing journalistic fields in the world.
Recently, Finance Magnates spoke to NewsBTC CEO Samuel Rae about his journey from journalist to executive, and the challenges of bringing news to the cryptosphere.
The Rise of NewsBTC
In Samuel’s words, NewsBTC and its partner firms, Bitcoinist and Live Bitcoin News, provide “news and media service to users. Our business model is to fund our ability to create this sort of objective journalism using advertising.”
“2013 was the site inception [of NewsBTC], and then up until the end of 2016 early 2017, NewsBTC was just a primary brand through which we published news, but then we introduced Live Bitcoin News into the fray around that time. Over the last 8 months we’ve bought Bitcoinist.com and we now publish through there as well.”
Samuel first began his work with NewsBTC several years ago. “I was the business development guy there,” he said.
“I then took a step back from News BTC, and took an ICO consultation position. So I was linking people with advisory roles in these ICO companies with websites…I was just sort of providing a referral for advertising partnerships,” he said.
Over the course of Samuel’s relationship with NewsBTC, he helped to build the company “from six or seven thousand users a month to where we are now–multi millions of users per month.”
He conceded that while NewsBTC’s hard work has played an important part in the company’s rise,
“we can’t [take all the credit] because we were in the right place at the right time when it started. The industry literally took off as soon as we got into it, so yeah we’ve managed to build and grow with it…there’s [been] a huge amount of interest in this space whilst we’ve been growing.”
Things have changed quite a bit since Samuel first joined the fold at NewsBTC. Towards the beginning of his work in cryptocurrency, a lot of the coverage Samuel worked on “was focusing on the technology specifics, because whilst Bitcoin was, and has been around since 2009, it was still in very early stages.”
Practically, that meant “things like block size, the actual methods between Blockchain and the distributed ledger, all of these things were things that even the people at the cutting edge of technology knew very little about. We were far more of an educational news resource to start with, whereas now we report on the industry side of things.”
Attracting Journalistic Talent in a Highly Competitive, Very New Field
The crypto industry as a whole is still less than ten years old, and the crypto news coverage industry is even younger. There are a particular set of challenges for covering a subject that has such limited history–what kinds of sources can be trusted? When is something actually news? What will the consequences be of reporting on something? And–perhaps most importantly–who will report on it?
We asked Samuel how NewsBTC ascertains who to bring onto its journalistic team. “We have a system in place,” he said, “whereby if we are looking to hire a new writer, or perhaps put an advertisement on the website, we’ll make use of our contacts. We’ve been in the space for a long time, so we know who to ask to find writers, authors, and editors. If we’re looking for a new writer, we’ll advertise, they’ll come to us, we’ll go to them.”
“There’s no bias in terms of how old you are, [or] what your experience is,” Samuel said. “Obviously, we would prefer people to have experience in the space, but…You know as soon as you speak to somebody if they have a thorough understanding of the technology…. I think that’s true of any industry. It’s not just about crypto or blockchain.”
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In Crypto, Twenty-Four Hour Coverage is a Necessity
To explain the particular challenges associated with covering crypto, Samuel made a comparison with the global stock markets. “We could focus on the US session, the European session, the Asian session, and we would have somebody to cover all of those sessions. They would have distinct start and finish times, you can set things up so you can cover things before and after the bell.”
“With crypto,” he said, “there’s no bell.”
“There’s no starting point, there’s no end of the day. You need literally 24-hour coverage which require us to have three or four teams of editors that run through the 24-hour period, cover each time zone, and in turn, these need to control and will have to provide article topics to the teams of journalists.”
Despite the challenges, Samuel added that NewsBTC’s position as one of the most established news coverage sources in the industry has provided it with a number of advantages: “None of these have the resources that we have in terms of editor control and journalists. We’re always on the story first, which is tough to keep up with, but it’s what sets us apart and has helped us grow, so that’s something we have to do.”
Deciding What to Cover In a Chaotic, Fast-Paced Industry
In the crypto world, new coins are born every day; hacks and scandals are practically a regular occurrence. With such a smorgasbord of information coming from every direction, we wanted to know how NewsBTC chooses what’s worthy of coverage.
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— NEWSBTC (@newsbtc) January 5, 2018
Samuel explained that the editors are responsible for deciding what is ‘news’ and what isn’t: “The editor’s role is to look for relevant stories, relevant to their time zones.”
“We have a team of editors on each continent,” Samuel said. “Whenever something comes up that they feel is newsworthy, they’ll send it across to one of the journalists that field specializes in that area.”
“As soon as they see [news worthy of coverage], it gets fed into our journalistic machine, and then gets processed into a story. We have feelers everywhere looking for stories as soon as they come up.
Just how does that ‘journalistic machine’ run? “[The editors will] liaise them with a journalist to discuss how we should cover it, they’ll pick up quotes from the relevant people in the industry, the journalist will put the story together, then it goes to the editor, then the editor feeds back on it. That process goes back and forth as quickly as possible, so we can make sure that we can get the story out on time.”
Structuring NewsBTC For Success, Now and in Ten Years
In addition to filtering out the nonsense, dealing with logistical issues, and discovering journalistic talent, there’s another challenge for just about anyone who has entered the industry within the last several years: “It’s grown incredibly fast,” Samuel said. “With that growth has come a number of challenges, in terms of structure, organization, and personnel.”
Samuel explained that as CEO, one of his goals is to improve the structure that “underlies this company in terms of how it’s managed, how it grows, and how it deals with [advertising partners].”
“I need to make sure that all of that flows, and is in line with what the industry would expect of a company that generates the size of revenue that we do. Right now, whilst we are coping perfectly well with everything we have to deal with, there are challenges.”
The solutions to those challenges “need to be carefully implemented to make sure that it doesn’t inhibit the growth rate that we’re running at now. We will make some personnel changes, there’s a much higher chance that these will be bringing people in as opposed to internal personnel changes.”
“I only say that,” he added, “because the team [members] we’ve got right now are all highly specialized at the job that they’re doing, and are incredibly busy doing it.”
“We can’t allocate extra jobs to people for a combination of the both of those reasons. We’re looking for outside hires, we’re looking to grow our journalist team, and our main goal is just to keep up with the industry. It’s growing incredibly fast, and we have to make sure we’re in line with that. Otherwise, we’ll fall behind.”