On Covering the NFT Hype

In a bull market, people new to crypto will seek out any information they can, from serious to silly. What should they find?

AccessTimeIconMar 19, 2021 at 6:10 p.m. UTC
Updated Apr 3, 2023 at 2:15 p.m. UTC
AccessTimeIconMar 19, 2021 at 6:10 p.m. UTCUpdated Apr 3, 2023 at 2:15 p.m. UTC
AccessTimeIconMar 19, 2021 at 6:10 p.m. UTCUpdated Apr 3, 2023 at 2:15 p.m. UTC

The Lindsay Lohan NFT is the kind of story we at CoinDesk approach with a bit of trepidation.

On its face, it seemed tawdry and inconsequential: A tabloid celebrity cashing in on this bull market’s version of the 2017 initial coin offering bonanza, in partnership with a blockchain project known mainly for its marketing stunts. Plus, by simply writing about it, we risked abetting an endeavor that was, at best, silly. In a field where attention is almost as valuable as money, merely pointing out to our readers that something exists is often misperceived as “pumping” it.

But cover the story we did. Reporter Danny Nelson held his nose and did a yeoman’s job of spelling out how the auction of a non-fungible token by a former Disney moppet was a sign of the zeitgeist and market froth. He asked the right questions (was Tron paying Lohan? What exactly did the NFT entitle its holder to?) even if he couldn’t answer them with the limited information provided by Justin Sun’s PR team. When the pandemic is over, I will be buying Danny many drinks.

Why cover it at all, though? It’s a fair question. Not for clicks. Well, not just for clicks.

Marc Hochstein is CoinDesk's executive editor. This post originally appeared in The Node, CoinDesk's daily roundup of the most pivotal news stories on the future of money and Web 3.0. Subscribe to get the full email newsletter here

In my book, Lohan’s NFT was far less important in the scheme of things than, say, the progress of Bitcoin’s Taproot upgrade or the return of BTC micropayments to Twitter (alas, poor ChangeTip!), both of which we covered the same day.

Still, a quick Lohan write-up was worth doing for the same reason other circuses sometimes merit a few paragraphs. As noted, it’s a bull market, and every day tens of thousands of new readers who normally don’t give a thought to cryptocurrency are coming to CoinDesk. When normies hear that Lindsay Lohan is hawking some weird investment, or that Elon Musk is tweeting about an electronic currency with a cute dog mascot, they are going to seek out information about these things whether we like it or not.

So the question is: What do you want them to find?

Hence, last month, when dogecoin was trending, tech reporter Colin Harper wrote a deep dive showing how the canine cryptocurrency’s codebase had until recently been neglected like a stray mutt. And last week, as numbers kept going up, CoinDesk Research analyst Christine Kim and Research Director Noelle Acheson penned a 41-page report (and a shorter article) detailing the risks of investing in two more-serious assets, bitcoin and ether. (They also co-hosted a webinar on the topic.)

To be clear: These pieces did not engage in fearmongering, as so much mainstream coverage of our industry does. They treated the audience as adults. Educated investors assess risks before making decisions, and we are trying to give readers some of the rudimentary tools to do their own research. I’m proud of those articles, and I’m proud of the way we handled the Lohan story – with context, skepticism and merciful brevity.

All the same, I’m glad we skipped the Charmin toilet paper NFT.

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