Posted in: Older News
Published:
July 14, 2014 9:19 AM UTC

My response to TomOnBTC’s “Bitcoin News Sites & Dishonesty”

TomOnBTC has written a unique and informative piece on how different news sites allow advertisers to pay for articles. I wanted to share my response to TomOnBTC or "Anthony", including a re-submission of his entire article (using nofollow and noindex, of course). TomOnBTC writes: UPDATE CCN apparently…

TomOnBTC has written a unique and informative piece on how different news sites allow advertisers to pay for articles. I wanted to share my response to TomOnBTC or “Anthony”, including a re-submission of his entire article (using nofollow and noindex, of course).

TomOnBTC writes:

UPDATE

CCN apparently marks the stories as sponsored. Still, they are letting people buy links essentially and that should still be discouraged.

and:

CryptoCoinsNews

These guys have been known for a bit of link bait and even misquoting others but I wanted to give them a fair chance. They at least mark them as “sponsored stories” but still, cash for coverage is wrong.

Dear Anthony,

You can always do a sponsored story for 250 USD. One of our authors can write it for you and we will have the story on our front page for at least 48 hours.

And you can post the announcement in our forum:
https://www.ccn.com/bitcoin-forums/forum/announcements

Regards,

David Parker

This message contains confidential information and is intended only for the individual named. If you are not the named addressee you should not disseminate, distribute or copy this e-mail. Please notify the sender immediately by e-mail if you have received this e-mail by mistake and delete this e-mail from your system. E-mail transmission cannot be guaranteed to be secure or error-free as information could be intercepted, corrupted, lost, destroyed, arrive late or incomplete, or contain viruses. The sender therefore does not accept liability for any errors or omissions in the contents of this message, which arise as a result of e-mail transmission. If verification is required please request a hard-copy version.

Well, it might be “marked confidential” but I am publishing it anyways. These sort of signature lines have NEVER held up in court.

To make matters worse this is one of “Zero Blocks” media partners. We will go in to more details about that in this piece and why I am horribly disappointed in the Zero Block team because they are actively contributing to this problem as well.

My Response

Hello again Anthony or TomOnBTC,

I just want to make you aware that in our robots.txt file we have:

Disallow: /sponsored-stories/

https://www.ccn.com/robots.txt

Even though we do disallow Google to crawl sponsored stories, I’ll personally make sure that all sponsored stories get a rel=”nofollow” tagged on their links (most of our sponsored articles already have that: https://www.ccn.com/sponsored-stories/indacoin-instant-bitcoin-credit-card/2014/07/05 )

When that is said, CCN is a website with more than 35 authors worldwide. We are not funded by different Bitcoin early investors, with different agendas, but we are dependant on receiving enough funds each month to be able to pay our team. I believe CCN does more good than harm for the Bitcoin community, and I hope our readers believe the same.

Since you posted my response, I assume you would be perfectly OK with me republishing your post (using noindex of course) with my comment attached.

Let me know if you want to join our team, as I believe you would be a great asset when it comes to investigative journalism. All writers on CCN can write about whatever they want, why don’t you test it for yourself?

Thanks for an interesting article. I enjoyed it.

Regards,
David Parker

This message contains confidential information and is intended only for the individual named. If you are not the named addressee you should not disseminate, distribute or copy this e-mail. Please notify the sender immediately by e-mail if you have received this e-mail by mistake and delete this e-mail from your system. E-mail transmission cannot be guaranteed to be secure or error-free as information could be intercepted, corrupted, lost, destroyed, arrive late or incomplete, or contain viruses. The sender therefore does not accept liability for any errors or omissions in the contents of this message, which arise as a result of e-mail transmission. If verification is required please request a hard-copy version.

I would also like to highlight that companies that pay us for Sponsored Stories, can only have their stories published as a sponsored story in our Sponsored Story category which is clearly marked.

TomOnBTC has replied:

Read the full reddit thread here.

 

TomOnBTC’s original post

When I read news sites on the Internet I have the expectation that they are being honest.

Journalists who conduct themselves honestly prove themselves worthy of trust. — NPR Ethics Handbook

I’ve been trying to write stories about Bitcoin in the most honest and transparent way possible. I have suspected for some time though that this isn’t always the case of my peers though.

Cash for news coverage: It’s what Rosental Alves, director of the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas at the University of Texas, calls “the dark part of journalism”–and it happens every day somewhere in the world. — Via CIMA Research Report: Cash for Coverage

How many of the Bitcoin news sites are you reading that are accepting cash for coverage? How many aren’t fairly disclosing investments?

These are the sort of questions I have decided to set out and determine with a Chris Hansen style sting. The plan is simple, email various cryptocurrency “news” sites and see which ones accept cash for coverage.

You might be wondering why this is an issue? Should writers not be paid for the work they produce. Absolutely, journalists and writers should be paid — they just shouldn’t be paid by the people they are covering.

So, I went undercover. A freshly created email address and a large list of sites it was time to see who was reporting honestly and who wasn’t and expose that to my readers.

Sites that accept cash for coverage should just not be trusted. Once a “journalist” accepts cash of any sort to write a piece they are biased and will write more positive things. Sometimes — even worse some of these so called “journalists” will extort companies and allow them to not have a negative piece published if they simply pay.

To get things started I decided to just be outright with my offer for cash. Emailing several sites with the following message….

Hi!
I’m working on a new Bitcoin exchange that will be launching soon and we are looking to get some coverage. I was curious if we could pay and have your site feature us in an article?
Anthony

How many sites would take me up on my offer and allow me to pay them for coverage? What sort of rates would they be asking?

I had come in to this with the guess that 25% of the sites I emailed would accept payment for coverage. Would I be wrong?

Just the act of having to pay-to-play is suspicious. Even if they don’t guarantee positive coverage the fact they accept payment is a very serious issue.

UPDATE

CCN apparently marks the stories as sponsored. Still, they are letting people buy links essentially and that should still be discouraged.

Coin Report still sells “press releases” on the site but they at least use nofollow. I’m going to remove them from the list because they are at least trying.

99bitcoins.com

99bitcoins is a pay-to-play kind of site. You should treat any site that allows others to purchase stories as suspect. Do the writers have your best intentions at heart?

Hey Anthony,

Yes it’s possible. Coverage on 99Bitcoins is $250. Let me know if you’re interested. This will put you up on the main page for about a month.

Ofir

At the time of publishing this piece 99bitcoins does not have an editorial policy stated anywhere on the site regarding pay to play style submissions.

CoinDesk

In regards to editorial policy the CoinDesk website has sparse details but does state the following.

All editorial team members and writers for CoinDesk disclose their investments and activity in companies associated with digital currency. Investors and employees of CoinDesk are subject to the same rules.

At the time of publishing this piece CoinDesk had NOT replied to my email as Anthony asking if they would publish for payment.

CoinDesk is practicing some questionable things but I can’t say they are publishing stories for money.

Coin Fire

Coin Fire nearly immediately shot us an email back stating they do not accept payments for any story, any time. They also did not direct us to purchasing an advertisement on the site in the email.

Hello Anthony,
Thanks for your message. Coin Fire always loves reporting on new products and services that pertain to Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.

That said, we do NOT and will NOT accept any sort of payment for stories on our site.

We strive to provide a news source that is honest of bias and do not allow for payments for stories under any circumstances, EVER.

Please send us more details regarding your startup and we will take a look at it and determine if we want to write a story about it.

Thanks,
Mike

At least someone isn’t charging it appears and outright says it.

CryptoCoinsNews

These guys have been known for a bit of link bait and even misquoting others but I wanted to give them a fair chance. They at least mark them as “sponsored stories” but still, cash for coverage is wrong.

Dear Anthony,

You can always do a sponsored story for 250 USD. One of our authors can write it for you and we will have the story on our front page for at least 48 hours.

And you can post the announcement in our forum:
https://www.ccn.com/bitcoin-forums/forum/announcements

Regards,

David Parker

This message contains confidential information and is intended only for the individual named. If you are not the named addressee you should not disseminate, distribute or copy this e-mail. Please notify the sender immediately by e-mail if you have received this e-mail by mistake and delete this e-mail from your system. E-mail transmission cannot be guaranteed to be secure or error-free as information could be intercepted, corrupted, lost, destroyed, arrive late or incomplete, or contain viruses. The sender therefore does not accept liability for any errors or omissions in the contents of this message, which arise as a result of e-mail transmission. If verification is required please request a hard-copy version.

Well, it might be “marked confidential” but I am publishing it anyways. These sort of signature lines have NEVER held up in court.

To make matters worse this is one of “Zero Blocks” media partners. We will go in to more details about that in this piece and why I am horribly disappointed in the Zero Block team because they are actively contributing to this problem as well.

CryptoArticles

These guys aren’t making it much of a secret that they write features if you pay them as “sponsored posts”. The issue I have at the moment is how do you know what is a sponsored post? They shouldn’t be taking money for articles and presenting them as articles. If they take money for articles, you shouldn’t trust them. Plain and simple.

The Crypto Crimson

These guys have an editorial policy stated on the site as follows:

Each of our journalists are expected to maintain complete transparency, meaning that any investments or holdings falling under the categorization of editorial content in relations to digital currency should be disclosed accordingly.

Each of our writers are required to provide a brief bio along with at least one form of contact information.

At The Crypto Crimson, we believe that all journalists should be held accountable for their work and that they should be easily accessible in the case that there may be any discrepancy in the content provided.

They did not respond to “Anthony’s” request so we can assume they actually follow the statement on the site that they hold journalists accountable.

The Super Super Super Bad Players

The following coin “news” sites all accept paid submissions from a single broker and as such should NEVER EVER be trusted.

The Bitcoin News — https://TheBitcoinNews.co.uk

Crypto Articles — https://www.CryptoArticles.com

Bitcoin Views — https://BitcoinViews.com

Crypto Biz Magazine — https://CryptoBizMagazine.com

Coin Speaker — https://www.CoinSpeaker.com

Bitcoin Warrior — https://BitcoinWarrior.net

Bitcoinist — https://Bitcoinist.net

What have we learned?

We can barely trust any Bitcoin news sites. We have a lot of really, really, bad players…

What can we do?

If we want to see real change we have to show the bitcoin “journalists” that we are no longer going to keep supporting them.

Stop donating to the bad players. They are clearly receiving funding from other companies anyways. It is SHOCKING to me how many people will give money to these jerks.

Don’t upvote on /r/bitcoin. Each time you give them a vote up you are literally helping spread the site to new and established users alike and giving a vote that you are okay with this sort of practice. If you truly feel strongly I suggest downvoting the features from the bad players until they change policies. /r/bitcoin drives an INCREDIBLE level of traffic to the bad players. If you want them to change stop helping them.

Visit a site such as CoinJabber and leave your dissatisfaction in a review with these sites and the current policies allowing for pay-to-play in a review. Sites such as CoinJabber are a common stop for new users who don’t deserve to be burned by this sort of “journalisim”.

Contact the bad players and ask them why they engage in this practice. Let’s see how many of them will stop. Tell them you are dissapointed. Many will defend the practice saying it is the only way they can stay online. If that is the case perhaps they should be in a different business.

Visit the good players listed above. At the time of this publication they were not accepting payments for features. You can count that I’ll be following up in the future.

Tell Zero Block to remove the “media partners” who are bad and dirty players by accepting cash for stories. The fact that they actively keep adding sites that are known to accept payments for placement makes them just as guilty — especially given that some of the more honest sites have been unable to get on the application.


Did you enjoy reading this piece? I write purely for the love of writing and learning.

I’d appreciate a small tip, no matter how small the size.

It’ll help me keep writing things like this.

My Bitcoin address is: 1AhEv9FxgrmDnANSdGVkeYFFMPbYhR4GC9

Last modified: January 10, 2020 2:40 PM UTC

Jonas Borchgrevink @JonasBorch

Founder of CCN.com and Hacked.com. Passionate about how technology can empower people to create a more just and sustainable world.

Show comments