Cointelegraph had a chance to work together with different incredible media at the World Economic Forum in Davos. We were exchanging ideas, feedbacking on events, chasing speakers together to get an interview. But with one colleague we just couldn’t help making an interview ourselves- Mike Butcher is the one who set a trend of quality for tech journalism, the one who made first steps of media covering the development of Blockchain and crypto, the editor-at-large at TechCrunch.
We discussed with Mike the media’s role in the digital economy and media driven market volatility,
the modern reporter’s responsibility to the market and their readers, as well as his work in reporting on Telegram's TON ICO and crypto going mainstream.
CT: Thank you very much for joining us. So we are here in Davos and the first subject that is discussed is the digital economy. Blockchain is the word that is heard everywhere. How do you feel the media are handling now all that is related to Blockchain and crypto?
Mike Butcher: It’s interesting because the mainstream media are very much trying to play catch-up in these subjects. Most of the journalists even in tech aren’t necessarily in up to the speed on it as well, because the industry of Blockchain and cryptocurrency has only really become a big issue in the last year. Prior to that, it was considered an interesting technology, but people weren’t quite interested in it as they are now.
So the mainstream media is playing catch-up and you see a lot of simple mistakes made about mixing up the differences between tokens and coins. It’s a tricky one. I think we will get there, but it’s certainly a fascinating time.
CT: How would you evaluate the influence of media towards the market volatility now in fintech?
MB: I think that there’s a bit of a problem because that needs to be much more robust journalism about this space. A lot of it is certainly press-releasing. I think we need to do a better job. It would be good if everyone could do that a little bit more like independent journalism would be better.
CT: What for you is news that is worth being published? I mean that now companies are using Blockchain in their names or launching ICOs and think this is newsworthy. What is for you the thing that catches your attention?
MB: The thing about TechCrunch is that we are fundamentally interested in the actual underlying technologies of all this new world, so we don’t really go in for writing about ICOs and things like that. We prefer to talk about the underlying technology, the actual applications, what it’s going to disrupt, those kind of things. Sure, it’s fine to mention the fact they might be doing an ICO, but that’s not what really for me what should lead the news. And also I think some ICOs that are interesting, many are not. It’s the fundamental technology that counts.
CT: You are one of the first that caught the launching of TON ICO, Telegram ICO, so how would you evaluate the project? What actually attracted your attention?
MB: I wasn’t just one of the first. TechCrunch and my story I did with Josh Constine was the first deep dive into what the Telegram ICO will consist of, how it will operate in the economy in its own right. What that means: generally, for the long-term survival ability of Telegram itself and there are enormous implications as well of how it’s going to affect other existing social networks like Facebook, for instance, which of course is hugely valuable now at this point.
So what interests us is that it appeared to be that they are going to move towards having their own currency similarly to the way people are using WeChat in China to swap value with each other and to pay for goods and services. I think it’s fascinating because Telegram’s ICO and therefore the TON currency that is going to come with, it means basically that this will be the first ever mainstream consumer application with a currency attached to it, which nobody has ever done before. It’s really a big deal, so for obvious reasons, that’s a big news story for TechCrunch.
CT: What about the other highlights of the year of 2017? What caught up your attention the most? What influenced and inspired you in Fintech and news about it?
MB: I think it was fascinating to see the roll-up rise of challenger banks, like Revolut or Starling in Europe. So challenger banks suddenly starting, I think, that’s going to give consumers a taste for brand new banking systems and banking brands. And then once they have a taste for that, they might also be interested in what’s going on in the crypto world. It’s fascinating to see the rise of Coinbase as really the first really common major consumer application in this area. Who knows what 2018 will bring? I think many interesting things in this space.
CT: What are your expectations?
MB: I have no expectations. I just have to write the raging bullets for a while. I think a lot of people are about a market correction. I think that probably will happen in the real-world economy, as well as in the crypto world. Actually, funny enough, with those market corrections, you actually get a lot more innovation, so the cycle continues.
CT: What about the public attitude towards crypto and Blockchain? How did it evolve during that time that you were working for the tech-related media and what do you think will come in the following years?
MB: I think that 2017 was when we saw crypto become a mainstream discussion. When you have taxi drivers talking to you about Bitcoin – that’s when you know it’s pretty mainstream, so that’s a big deal. For various reasons that is not necessarily a fabulous thing because it does mean it’s very bubble-ish. It’s a very bubble market at the moment. But I think the fundamental underlying technology of what Blockchain technology is all about is not going away. It is here to stay. It’s the authentication layer for the Internet that the Internet always needed and from here the sky is the limit.
CT: What about Davos and the crypto community here? Is it different from other crypto communities at different events that you’ve met? Do you think that the level of discussion is different here or the views towards Blockchain and crypto?
MB: I think there’s a lot of hype. Remember that most of the people attending Davos are really in the finance community and asset management. Now that means anyway they are actually quite naturally predisposed to understanding the concepts around cryptographic assets. But in terms of technology, they are often still behind, so you go to see people at dinner and they talk about Blockchain, but they don’t really know what they are talking about. It’s really fascinating to watch. It’s not as geeky, shall we say, as some of the events I’ve been to, to cover the space, but it’s also very interesting and it’s worthwhile, I think. But as somebody said to me the other day, “Why are we doing crypto in Davos when we should actually just be doing our own version of Davos for the crypto community?” And that’s probably what will happen.
CT: Great! Well, enjoy your time in Davos and thank you very much.
MB: My pleasure. Thanks!