Bitcoin in the Headlines is a weekly analysis of media coverage and its impact.
Berklee, Deloitte, Standard Chartered, Vladimir Putin – the mainstream media was spoilt for choice this week as big names from mainstream business circles and global newsmakers contributed their opinion of the technology.
Too bad the press didn’t notice.
With the bitcoin price down from last week’s highs and speculation about a Greek eurozone exit finally waning, mainstream journalists seemed to have taken a much-needed respite from awkward attempts at analyzing the industry this week.
Even with comments from Russian President Vladimir Putin (likely the first head of state to publicly acknowledge the technology) or a key opinion related to how value added tax (VAT) could be handled in Europe, the press responded with a resounding shrug that suggested mainstream news may not soon recover from its Q2 decline.
Macro trends emerge
Speaking of trends, this week saw at least two notable reports celebrate the halfway mark of 2015 by attempting to make sense of developments in the ecosystem.
The most extensive was CoinDesk’s State of Bitcoin Q2, which offered nearly 100 slides of insight. Its most notable conclusion? That bitcoin is increasingly behaving like an asset that can be used in times of macroeconomic uncertainty, while showing more signs of price stability away from its volatile peaks.
As for bitcoin in the headlines, the report found overall press coverage was down in Q2 across all major news outlets surveyed including Financial Times, The New York Times, Sina and The Wall Street Journal.
That report’s most notable conclusions may have been regarding transaction volume on the bitcoin network, as it asserted:
“The network averaged 60,590 transactions per day in June 2014 and 117,474 transactions per day in June 2015. (Note that this does not include the recent spikes due to load testing and spam on the network.) That’s a 94% increase in monthly transactions over the past year.”
Putin’s uncertain address
Possibly the highest-profile – and perhaps unexpected – piece of news this week came during a Russian TV appearance by President Vladimir Putin, who in a question-and-answer session, was asked for his thoughts on digital currencies.
Though the comments hinted at Putin’s lack of understanding regarding the technology, interestingly the remarks were generally neutral in tone.
Putin suggested he agreed with the Bank of Russia and its approach to understanding the technology. Implicit in the remarks was that the Bank of Russia has opposed a draft bill put forth by the Ministry of Finance which has called for bitcoin and digital currencies to be banned.
Still, it was the community’s somewhat comparably hostile reaction to Putin’s remarks that arguably received more play that the comments themselves, which were publicized only by International Business Times and in China-based news outlets.
Writing for NASDAQ, Martin Tillier took aim at comments that sought to belittle the Russian leader and his assertion on how the technology is “backed by nothing”.
“As with all of the old men before him (and many young ones too) he completely ignored that the same thing is true of every modern conventional currency. Dollars, euros, yen and rubles are also backed by nothing and have value because people believe they do. If anything it could be argued that because of the computing power and trustless account network behind Bitcoin it has more backing it than the others, not less.”
Tillier took aim at Reddit in particular scolding the community for its “tizzy” on the subject, though he grounded the comments somewhat in overall criticism for online news reactions.
“With maturity comes respect, and so long as bitcoin users and followers continue to overreact to everything, the respect that the currency deserves as a potentially transformational idea will be withheld by the vast majority of people,” he continued.
Bank news narrative falters
This week also brought the first signs that interest in statements from major financial institutions toward bitcoin may be waning as comments by “big four” auditing firms Deloitte and Standard Chartered Bank failed to draw much interest.
In an interview with CoinDesk, for example, Deloitte detailed the breadth of its bitcoin and blockchain program, noting it was currently exploring use cases for the technology in two of its core verticals, auditing and consulting.
Deloitte Consulting principal Eric Piscini told CoinDesk:
“The solution we’re developing using the blockchain will accelerate the audit process because that company would post every transaction in a blockchain.”
Though the statements were not from any major Wall Street firms, and in the case of Standard Chartered, didn’t coincide with announcements about the actual use cases of the blockchain, the overall quiet period could be read as the first signs that interest in this news narrative is waning.
On one hand, the reaction is logical. As evidenced by CoinDesk’s State of Bitcoin Q2 report, many major banks have already come out in favor of blockchain technology.
However, the development should have a particular resonance, as this news cycle is starting to bear similarities to last year’s furor around the adoption of bitcoin as an e-commerce payment option by merchants such as Overstock and Expedia.
Though these announcements were heralded as major milestones, 2015 has seen a dramatic decline in the number of big brand merchants accepting, or even publicly speaking about, bitcoin and its use as a currency.
The development perhaps hints that despite the increase in attention from banks, real developments at major enterprise financial institutions may still be years away.
Man sleeping with newspaper via Shutterstock