Coinbase is hunting top editorial talent — for journalism or marketing?

Coinbase wants to build a media arm but journalists won't control it.

Coinbase — the most prominent crypto exchange in the US — is now recruiting editorial talent to build its own media operation.

The Delaware-headquartered company is looking for a “top media editor,” noted Axios, who will guide the endeavour but report directly to its internal marketing team.

Coinbase now has a few job listings for content creatives, including Content Director.

The latter will “develop and drive a content roadmap that builds the Coinbase brand and generates excitement for crypto by working closely with Coinbase product managers.”

The ad explains Coinbase wants its media arm to enact a “crypto 101” strategy for a non-technical audience of “consumers, Wall Street, journalists, policymakers, and regulators.”

The idea is to make the world’s first publicly-listed crypto exchange the “go-to place” for learning about digital assets “in a way that’s easy to understand and approachable.”

But by forcing its publishing effort under the eye of its marketing department, Coinbase has deviated from journalism before it’s even started. 

Journalists answer to the public

Cryptocurrency media already walks the razor’s thin edge of coagulation between news and corporate entities. 

According to the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s (UW) Centre for Journalism Ethics, the hallmark of partisan journalism was an absence of “stories that might flatter the opposition.”

Indeed, Coinbase seems to be harking back to the party newspaper era of the 19th century.

Back then, the “power of the press consisted not in its logic or eloquence, but in its ability to manufacture facts, or to give coloring to facts that have occurred.”

UW noted when “Democrat Grover Cleveland won the presidency in 1884, the Republican Los Angeles Times simply failed to report this unhappy result for several days.”

“The truth was not suppressed,” wrote one historian. “It was simply hard to get in any one place.”

That sentiment might feel uncomfortably familiar to modern crypto news junkies.

Of course, it’s easy to point out the inherent biases of large modern media organizations like Fox (the Murdochs), the Washington Post (Bezos), the New York Times (Slim), or Bloomberg.

But what those institutions don’t do is vet news through a marketing team. A journalist from a non-profit industry body told Protos: “That is not journalism — journalists answer to the public.”

“I’ve never heard of any respected news organization operating this way. If you report to the marketing manager, you’re doing marketing,” they said.

Crypto exchanges can do it — look at BitMEX

Research arms of crypto exchanges are prime examples of the tightrope between news, journalism, and industry propaganda. 

BitMEX Research — owned and operated by the crypto exchange — is perhaps the clearest guide on how to navigate that conflict.

No doubt, BitMEX Research has historically published impressive work grounded in objectivity (with articles and papers largely penned by chief exec Arthur Hayes, no less).

However, BitMEX Research doesn’t label itself a media operation. The outlet still provides invaluable information to the crypto community. 

BitMEX Research says it filters “out the hype with evidence-based reports on the cryptocurrency ecosystem.”

It could be that Coinbase’s media wing doesn’t push for recognition as news at all. Instead, it might choose to bombard Coinbase investors and users with “educational content.” 

This certainly aligns with its job listings. But if educational content has to be approved by a marketing department — one must reasonably question it’s educational merit.  

We already have some clues as to what “education” means to Coinbase. The number one way to avoid losses, according to Coinbase? “Don’t fall prey to FOMO and FUD.”

If JP Morgan or BlackRock educated their clients with the below, it’s easy to believe those brokerages would be ridiculed. 

“Too much information can definitely be a bad thing,” reported Coinbase.

[Read more: Coinbase is big — but can it be Amazon big?]

But crypto is a new paradigm, in which education (and journalism) is increasingly suspect if it’s not specially tailored (or gamified) by multi-billion dollar corporations.

As Axios pointed out, Coinbase is not the first industry participant to develop an interest in spinning narratives their way to drive business.

The hyper-sensitive VC class — tired of tech journalists questioning their intent — has been doing it for years. So too have members of the casino industry.

Still, it’s not impossible for Coinbase to see crypto has no need for more watered down explainers or lukewarm takes.

And it’s not too late for Coinbase to rescue its prospective newsroom recruits from under its marketeers.

Protos has reached out to Coinbase for comment.

Update 23:32 UTC, May 30: A Coinbase spokesperson has since contacted Protos but declined to comment.

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