Bitcoin on 60 Minutes Changes Nothing

Tonight, U.S. TV program 60 Minutes features bitcoin in one of its segments. Will this lead everybody to run out and buy bitcoin?

Not if this preview clip is any indication:

When you refer to bitcoin as a “rocketship with no mission control,” that does not usually inspire people to hop on that ride.

But even if the actual piece is more balanced or even positive, there’s a simple reason it won’t stir the pot:

60 Minutes targets the wrong audience in a way that does not incite their emotions. While that makes for good, informative TV, it’s a terrible way to get people hyped about anything.

Anderson Cooper is the opposite of hype

For those who don’t know, 60 Minutes is a fairly sober TV magazine with a journalistic bent. The host of this particular segment, Anderson Cooper, made his name by asking hard questions without bias (though some consider him “on the left” when he handles political topics).

It’s about as far away from this as you can get:

Why does that matter?

Because the show reaches a mainly older, U.S. audience. As recently as 2015, its average viewer was 62 years old and that’s not likely to have changed much in the past four years, despite attempts to bring in more 18-49 year olds. For reference, the show averages about 11 million total viewers each week but only about 1.8 million in that 18-49 year old bracket.

I talk to people all the time about cryptocurrency—even earlier today at my nephew’s 1st birthday party—and I assure you, old people have zero interest in buying cryptocurrency, even if they knew how. I know from listening to their questions, seeing their reactions, and hearing their feedback on my book, Consensusland.

My conclusion: most people who watch this show will either be young people who already have an interest in crypto or older people who see it as an amusing curiosity.

(My cynical side thinks this is a ploy by producers to get young people to watch the show and pop a higher rating among the coveted 18-34 demographic during “ratings season”. But I try not to let my cynic cloud my judgment.)

It may change minds, but it won’t change habits

Even if 60 Minutes presents a positive slant on bitcoin, you have to understand the mindset of older Americans.

There are two big concerns for everybody I know who’s in their 50s and up: taking care of their health and taking care of their family.

They aren’t willing, by and large, to risk their financial health on an asset with such wild swings in price. One day, bitcoin booms, the next day, bitcoin crashes.

When you’re in financial preservation mode, you’re not going to plunk down your hard-earned cash in any asset that bounces around like bitcoin does. It doesn’t matter whether the 60 Minutes segment blows your mind and converts you into a true believer.

For the rest of the population—the 300+ million Americans who will not watch this segment—it’s not likely to matter because they’ll never see or hear anything about it.

One TV segment doesn’t make you mainstream

If you believe the surveys—there are many, too many to list here—between 72-90 percent of people in the U.S. have heard about bitcoin. I can say that’s about right, based on my conversations with regular people. It’s safe to say awareness is already high, even if most people don’t know what bitcoin actually is or what it does.

As a result, it’s unlikely a one-off 60 Minutes segment will raise bitcoin’s profile any more than it already is.

Will it encourage any new people to buy bitcoin? Probably not. If you haven’t bought bitcoin yet, you’re not going to do it based on a 15-minute segment on a TV show.

Does this mean it’s bad that bitcoin’s on 60 Minutes?


One small step toward “normal”

Only about 5% of U.S. people own any cryptocurrency, if you accept reports of 22 million U.S. accounts on cryptocurrency exchanges.

Featuring a balanced story about bitcoin on a well-established, highly-regarded broadcast TV program will make bitcoin seem more normal for the 95% of Americans who haven’t formed a strong opinion.

Unless, of course, it’s a hit-piece that obsesses over the “roller-coaster” bitcoin price swings and the losses people suffered during the horrible crypto winter without actually talking about the technology or potential of bitcoin. But I doubt we’ll see a hatchet piece, that’s just not how this TV show presents its content.

I personally won’t have a chance to watch—60 Minutes airs during the time I give the kids dinner or bath/shower (depends on how late we stay at the party for my 5-year-old’s classmate).

If you do watch, I hope you enjoy the show! Will you let me know what you think? Ping me at any of the links under my “Connect” menu.

Mark Helfman is a cryptocurrency commentator and author of Consensusland, a book about a country that runs on cryptocurrency.

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