The recent discussion about cryptocurrency media has focused on advertising bans across major media platforms.
The bans, which aren’t necessarily unique to crypto, have advantages and disadvantages.
Companies like Google, Facebook, Twitter, and the email service Mailchimp have said that crypto projects advertising initial coin offering (ICOs) or token sales will be prohibited.
The intent, which fits with the precedent of banning companies promoting other kinds of potentially sketchy financial services and products, isn’t necessarily out of the blue or devised solely to target cryptocurrencies.
The danger, however, is that the blanket advertising ban damages the operations of legitimate and useful cryptocurrency projects such as blogs, news outlets, or newsletters.
It’s hard to operate in crypto these days and not talk about ICOs and token sales. For the good or bad, it’s a dominant part of the crypto industry and blanket bans on ICO promotion are likely to foul up other legitimate and well-meaning activities. In fact, that’s already happened.
The benefits of banning ICO ads on cryptocurrency media
Before proceeding, it’s important to note that there are some likely benefits to banning the scammy crypto ads. We’ve all seen what’s-his-face claiming to be a crypto genius too many times. And it’s clear that there are a lot of operators out there just trying to make a buck off the recent ICO boom.
While it would be great if crypto enthusiasts were trusted to do their own research and be responsible for investment decisions, history shows that consumer protections are needed.
In the absence of any kind of industry-wide self-governance aimed at preventing fraud or run-away ICOs or token sales, content platforms have lumped ICOs (and in some instances cryptocurrency wallet and exchange services) in with other financial services.
In the case of Twitter, which has a pretty robust cryptocurrency community, (if you are not already, consider following @newblockcrypto) the platform has seen an influx of money buying promoted tweets, which is Twitter’s form of advertising.
In order to advertise other financial services (anything from mortgage brokers and lines of credit to securities and investment opportunities) companies have to first prove that they are licensed by the proper authorities.
Since there really are no such requirements yet with the crypto industry, and a lot of ICO projects are just trying to raise money on nothing more than a white paper, creates a perfect storm for fraud.
So, in the absence of any kind of sector-wide self-governance, or official licensing process, and in accordance with a longstanding policy, Twitter and other platforms have decided to ban cryptocurrency ads that are promoting ICOs and token sales in order to protect their users.
The costs of banning cryptocurrency advertisements
OK, so potential consumers are now somewhat shielded from scams across large swaths of the internet.
But blanket bans or restrictions will inevitably impact legitimate projects operating within the crypto space.
MailChimp’s decision to ban cryptocurrency- and blockchain-related content, for instance, has already created disruptions in the industry. The popular newsletter, the Week in Ethereum, was forced to change email providers, as were other projects, such as a cryptocurrency job board.
One of the biggest challenges in the cryptocurrency space is access to good information. So far most coverage focuses on market movements, or what some CEO or investor thinks about crypto.
So when important projects that are helping to bring attention to crypto and seek to provide valuable info beyond the often retread bubble meets internet money stories, then it’s important that those projects don’t have extra barriers to overcome before connecting with audiences.
The bigger picture and the future of cryptocurrency media
Maybe it’s time for a broader shift away from data-harvest intensive digital advertising and towards a method that would deliver better value for the consumer and for the advertiser — a new way of advertising could allow internet users to protect and monetize their personal data, and lead large publishing platforms away from the need for widespread banning of content.
There are other models in the works, and some are based on the crypto token model.
It will be interesting to what kinds of media are enabled by cryptocurrencies and blockchain, and whether those new formats solve old problems or just continue to bolster the old models.
Also published on Medium.