Bitcoin in the Headlines: Nathaniel Popper Strikes Media Gold

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Conversation about bitcoin and the blockchain was seemingly everywhere this week, though a closer look at the bylines reveals this was mostly the work of one journalist – New York Times reporter Nathaniel Popper.

CoinDesk, Fast Company, Forbes, TechCrunch and Vice were just some of the publications this week that either ran interviews with Popper or exclusive excerpts of his new book, Digital Gold, the product of six months of research on the technology.

Popper’s excerpts generated headlines and social media buzz for their revelations regarding industry activity, with portions devoted to reexamining some of the community’s most mainstream stories and subjects.

However, the New York Times wasn’t the only media outlet focusing on bitcoin this week, with Bloomberg and The Wall Street Journal devoting their share of articles to the emerging technology.

Nathaniel Popper’s bitcoin tour

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Leading the charge was perhaps Popper’s most provocative story, his account of his personal search for Satoshi Nakamoto, the still-anonymous author of the bitcoin white paper and its assumed creator. The trial, as we explored last week, led him to cryptographer Nick Szabo.

The report was widely covered into last weekend, though most articles aimed for clicks in ways that suggested the author had broken new ground on the Nakamoto mystery. More sensational headlines included “Did the New York Times Find Satoshi?” and The New York Times Thinks It’s Identified Mysterious Bitcoin Creator Satoshi Nakamoto”, though these were only a few of many.

Just as interesting, however, were new revelations provided in detailed narratives on the untimely demise of bitcoin exchange Mt Gox that added new perspective to the situation surrounding its February 2014 insolvency.

New information was also provided on 21 Inc, the startup that until last week’s CoinDesk report was bitcoin’s best-kept secret. In his account, Popper explained how 21’s mining operations effectively allowed Silicon Valley’s elite “to invest without needing to come out as public supporters of bitcoin”. Popper shed further light on the company’s funding rounds, indicating it has paid back most of its original investors.

Additional reports illustrated Wells Fargo’s early interest in bitcoin as well as the early days of BitInstant, one of the first major venture backed companies in the bitcoin space.

Bloomberg’s deep dive

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Boasting contributions from bitcoin industry luminaries such as Digital Currency Group founder Barry Silbert and Coin Center director Jerry Brito was a Bloomberg special report on bitcoin, a deep dive into topics such as global regulation, anti-money laundering (AML) compliance and the viability of bitcoin’s mining sector.

BitGo CEO Mike Belshe, Boston University professor Mark T Williams and Wedbush Securities managing director Gil Luria were among the industry participants featured in QA segments of the report.

Among the most interesting observations, though, were the report’s attempts to tie bitcoin to the rise of mobile banking. Cited therein were figures that suggest 23% of merchant acquirers and independent sales organisations surveyed have plans to “start accepting bitcoin within the next two years”, a development Bloomberg suggested would spur wider merchant adoption.

The conclusion notably clashes with findings from CoinDesk’s Q1 State of Bitcoin report, which found that merchant adoption growth is on the decline.

Elsewhere, Bloomberg tried to connect bitcoin swaps trading with its price volatility and took aim at itBit’s assertion that its New York banking charter would allow it to serve customers in all 50 US states, claims it continues to evoke in the media.

Paul Hastings LLP partner Chris Daniel told the report:

“While itBit may have engaged in this exercise already, it will require a state-by-state approach to determine whether other states agree that a trust company is the right regulated structure to engage in commercial cryptocurrency exchange activity in their state.”

Sponsored by SolidX and Xapo and featuring ads from Blockchain, Nadex and the Bitcoin Investment Trust, the report was just as much a showcase of the range of bitcoin companies seeking to reach Bloomberg’s influential audience.

WSJ’s bitcoin pizza party

WSJ, Paul Vigna

This week also brought signs that bitcoin continues to hold a place in the larger pop culture consciousness in the US.

Several notable news outlets (including CoinDesk) issued tributes to bitcoin’s homegrown holiday, Bitcoin Pizza Day. Held on 22nd May, the celebration commemorates the first purchase of a physical good with bitcoin by developer Laszlo Hanyecz.

Somewhat surprisingly, The Wall Street Journal was the most vocal on the subject, running two separate (albeit somewhat overlapping) reports on Bitcoin Pizza Day both in its BitBeat column and in a separate video.

Still, WSJ reporter Paul Vigna used the lighthearted event as a way to express the larger narratives around bitcoin.

In the video, this was highlighted through explanations of how the event helped prove the digital currency could be used in finance, while in print he noted that influential representatives from Wall Street are now taking bitcoin seriously, silly holidays and all.

Vigna wrote:

“The growing opinion on Wall Street — and this is just what we’re gleaning from the people we talk to — is that this technology is not simply an online scam, even if it’s not exactly the epoch-shaking disruptive force its most fervent adherents want it to be. Its future will somewhere between those two extremes.”

Nathaniel Popper is scheduled to appear at Consensus 2015, CoinDesk’s flagship conference to be held 10th September.

Newspaper image via Shutterstock

Bitcoin in the Headlines

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