Monday 17 May 2021 1:58 pm

The tides are turning for blockchain in mainstream media

Anyone working in blockchain PR over the past few years will tell you it has been an uphill struggle.

While there is a wealth of trade press in the blockchain space, top tier business and technology media attitudes have been sceptical at best and, at worst, hostile – I vividly remember a conversation where a journalist at a prominent business outlet told us he wouldn’t be covering a story because blockchain was a ‘trigger word’ for him.

While there have certainly been exceptions, City AM being a frontrunner in that category, the general rule was that if you weren’t willing to comment on cryptocurrency prices going up or down, or on how the space was doomed to fail, it was generally a no-go.

However, the tides are starting to turn. A journalist at a top tier business publication recently confirmed that while historically they have only covered price moves and scandals, editorial priorities are beginning to shift. Where previously the focus would have been on cryptocurrencies, we are now seeing more and more coverage of the underlying technology, blockchain.

Writers are being given greater free reign to look at some of the game-changing projects in the space, and starting to realise that several have the potential to completely overhaul the global financial system, and widen access to vital services for many across the globe.

A look at the numbers

The statistics back this up. We looked at all of the articles published in leading UK national, business and technology media which discussed blockchain without referencing cryptocurrency over the last year, and found that there has been a 75 per cent increase from the last half of 2020 to the first half of 2021 – and we aren’t even through the whole of the first half of the year yet!

UK national media publishing blockchain articles that don’t mention cryptocurrency

What’s Musk got to do with it?

So why the sudden change? As with the move towards mainstream adoption of blockchain in general, a large driver seems to be involvement from large institutions. This is not only having a knock on effect on price, but also on media attitudes.

Anyone who was in the space during the 2017 crypto crash will probably agree that this current crypto bull run feels entirely different. We are seeing mainstream institutions investing heavily in both the technology and the currency – from governments creating their own central bank digital currencies and using blockchain to overhaul their education systems, to Elon Musk diving headfirst into Bitcoin and his slightly turbulent involvement in Dogecoin.

Moves like these can lend both credibility and increased public awareness to the space, and long term commitments from governments and businesses show that while some cryptocurrencies may come and go, blockchain isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

A unique opportunity – if communicated properly

Right now, companies have a unique opportunity to get in front of these journalists as they begin to learn about the true potential of blockchain. It’s rare that you get the chance to become the ‘owner’ of even one given conversation in the media, and with the huge scope of emergent applications for the tech, businesses are now in a position where they could become thought leaders in several.

However, careful thought needs to be given to how and what companies want to communicate. We’re definitely still in the early stages of media and, in turn, general public understanding of blockchain technology.

Much like the internet in its early years, a young, complicated and fast growing space attracts bad actors, which in turn can harm the space’s reputation. This definitely rings true for blockchain and cryptocurrencies, which are still often associated with the dark web and scams like the widely publicised Onecoin fiasco.

In order to break through the current barriers of understanding, businesses need to take a utility-focused approach to the media. The internet’s mainstream moment came not when people understood how it worked, but why they needed it.

The same goes for blockchain. The space will only continue to grow as these barriers of understanding are lowered, and people begin to see the wide-ranging potential applications of the technology become reality. Blockchain companies who can get this right now stand not only to benefit from adoption in the short term, but to become the Googles, Microsofts and Apples of the future.

by Jenny Corlett, blockchain PR specialist at April Six