Ethereum’s perception in the media has been on a roller-coaster ride since its inception in 2015, but the blockchain and its native Ether (ETH) cryptocurrency are clearly still seen as being in second place behind Bitcoin (BTC).
While Bitcoin rose to fame due to the notorious Silk Road darknet marketplace and its price climax of $20,000 back in 2017, Ethereum has had fewer notable interactions with the mainstream media, even though some might reference how it enabled the initial-coin-offering craze and made trading virtual cats a worthwhile pastime.
Vitalik Buterin is Ethereum personified
Ethereum’s co-creator Vitalik Buterin has been, and still is, significantly influential in shaping its image in the media. In stark contrast to Bitcoin’s anonymous Satoshi Nakamoto, Buterin has, for many, personified Ethereum.
This has made it easier for many to grasp what Ethereum is, with its own foundation led by Buterin and other notable figures such as Gavin Wood of Parity Technologies and Joseph Lubin of Consensys.
Anyone doubting the influence of Buterin should consider the wide reporting in crypto media of anything Buterin wrote on Reddit or Twitter — where he currently has just under 1 million followers — during the ICO craze.
The temptation to conflate Ethereum and its co-creator proved irresistible to the mainstream media and helped shape the way it reported on the fate and workings of a blockchain that should operate without trust.
The relatively favorable impression of Ethereum, compared with Bitcoin, in the mainstream media has been shaped by the story of a 19-year-old programmer who started Bitcoin Magazine, one of the Bitcoin-related publications, to earn some BTC, which led him to eventually create Ethereum, which birthed a whole wave of innovation for this emerging technology.
This story that intrigued many outsiders ultimately led to a growing interest in Ethereum at a time when not many knew what it was.
The ICO craze and its bad rep on crypto
The ICO craze, which took off in 2017, drove mainstream attention to cryptocurrencies, but many would not have known how instrumental Ethereum was to this hype. It was, however, instrumental in helping Ethereum rise to fame, but it didn’t give it the best reputation when regulators such as the United States Securities and Exchange Commission started to crack down on it in 2018.
This was also the time that The New York Times and the Financial Times began to publish explainer pieces and cover news about the popular fundraising method based on Ethereum, which helped educate and inform the public about it.
It’s clear: The wave of innovation that rose in 2017 challenged and led many journalists who were covering technology or finance to start looking into how the Ethereum blockchain and its smart-contract offering enabled innovative applications and projects to be built on top of it.
Ethereum played a big role in turning blockchain into a buzzword that year, and people began to experiment with putting anything from energy and property to data and our identities on the blockchain. It was at this time that cryptocurrency and blockchain journalists began to emerge at notable financial publications such as Bloomberg, CNBC, Business Insider and the Financial Times.
It was only when SEC filed class-action suits claiming that the “tokens” launched by ICOs on Ethereum were considered securities that the platform built up a negative stigma around it.
Ethereum is still behind the scenes of DApps and DeFi
Even as Ethereum powers more technological leaps with the rise of decentralized applications, or DApps, like Cryptokitties and fuels the explosion of decentralized finance, or DeFi — which is close to hitting the $4 billion valuation mark — it still doesn’t seem to get much of the glory in the mainstream press.
Despite this, news stories of people buying virtual kitties for as high as $170,000 helped the mainstream media grasp the concept of nonfungible tokens in an easy to understand and relatable way.
It goes to show that with everything in crypto, assigning a high dollar amount to the value of crypto will capture media attention, which in turn helps raise more awareness of Ether as a cryptocurrency.
Meanwhile, DeFi as the main application of Ethereum is slowly entering the headspace of traditional financial media outlets, even if it’s fueled by skepticism and concern.
At the time of writing, Ether has hit an all-year high in price, with some saying this growth has been fueled by interest in DeFi led by the popularity of yield farming as a way to earn passive income on one’s crypto assets.
It’s 2020, and the COVID-19 pandemic has turned the global economy on its head, leading people to seek out alternative forms of finance, with the digital asset industry attracting some interest.
But even with the Ethereum 2.0 upgrade looming and sentiments of another crypto bull run, Ethereum might still have a while to go with the mass adoption of its technology before it stands on its own two feet in the spotlight of mainstream media.
The views, thoughts and opinions expressed here are the author’s alone and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views and opinions of Cointelegraph.
Samantha Yap is the founder and CEO of Yap Global, an international public relations firm that works with fintech, blockchain and cryptocurrency companies. Samantha is a fintech, blockchain and cryptocurrency media specialist with past experience working as an international freelance journalist in Jakarta, Melbourne, Kuala Lumpur and Hong Kong. Prior to delving into fintech PR, she worked at Channel NewsAsia in Singapore as a broadcast journalist and current affairs producer.