The Wall Street Journal has released a mini documentary on cryptocurrency today, October 3rd, called: “WSJCoin: To Understand Cryptocurrencies, We Created One”. The film was made by markets reporter Steven Russolillo, who documents his travels to Japan and Hong Kong to explore the world of cryptocurrencies. As the title suggests, Russolillo takes his acquired knowledge surrounding the world of digital money to create his own cryptocurrency, the WSJCoin, which is described as “a virtual token for the newspaper industry”.
The documentary briefly outlines the wild journey cryptocurrency has been on since 2009. As every crypto enthusiast knows, the world of digital money is filled with highs and lows, tons of hype and limitless expectations. But the booms and busts of the crypto market failed to deter Russolillo from the allure of creating his own crypto.
The film gives a brief tour of how people all around the world are finding different use cases for cryptocurrency, from a Japanese college campus using its own coin for cafeteria purchases, to the failing attempt by the Venezuelan government to launch a stable coin backed by the country’s national oil reserves. Private companies like Kodak and Playboy also get a mention for creating currencies designed to reward customer support, and viewers are given a tour of a small cryptocurrency mining facility run by an ex-college student living in Japan. Concerns about the tremendous amount of fraud taking place through half-baked cryptocurrencies and poorly managed exchanges are also noted.
A total of 8.4 billion WSJCoins were created (total supply was determined by averaging the totals of the top 10 ranked cryptocurrencies), and an additional 150 physical WSJCoins were later distributed at the WSJ’s D.Live annual technology conference in Hong Kong. The creation of the coin was done in partnership with Japanese developer Makoto Takemiya, who helped get the WSJCoin up and running in less than 24 hours.
Amusingly, Russolillo and Takemiya later go to a bar and buy a couple of beers using their new coin, marking the WSJCoin’s first official transaction.
While the documentary is largely produced for the entertainment of crypto novices, the panel discussion at D.Live provided some interesting discussion around the potential for cryptocurrency to reshape the journalism industry. Cointelegraph reports that both BitPesa CEO Elizabeth Rossiello and former Ripple CTO Stefan Thomas were vocal supporters during the conference for the potential value of a journalism-based crypto asset.
“If you lower the cost of moving money around, the entire economy changes … ‘How do I pay for a news article online?’ changes,” Thomas told the audience at the D.Live event.
Unfortunately for Russolillo, the WSJCoin project was ultimately terminated by the company’s head of ethics, Neil Lipschitz, who argued that the WSJ Coin raised too many “ethical questions”.
“We’re not in the business of getting into the cryptocurrency world; we’re here to report it and to explain it, just like we report on banks but we don’t go out and start a bank,” he said, adding, “We’re not going to create a currency.”