In 2017, bitcoin’s price topped $8,000 for the first time. What happened next was unprecedented: an explosion of media coverage. Euphoria, FOMO, mania—call it what you want—the mainstream media ate it up and the price blasted to $20,000 amid an orgy of celebrity tweets and viral videos of kids buying lambos with bitcoin. John McAfee promised bitcoin’s price would reach $1 million by the end of 2020 or else he’ll eat his penis.
Then the price collapsed.
In the months that followed, bitcoin hit $8,000 several times. One of those times, John Oliver ran a special bitcoin segment on his well-known HBO show. Another of those times, Ripple’s CEO appeared with Ashton Kutcher on The Ellen Degeneres Show to give away $4 million worth of XRP. Warren Buffett, America’s most famous investor, talked about it all the time. Coverage was everywhere. The mainstream still dug cryptocurrency.
By the summer of 2018, all that chatter disappeared, or as my friend said, “I never heard about it again.”
In May 2019, bitcoin topped $8,000 again for the first time in seemingly forever—but outside of “Crypto Twitter,” nobody cared. Friends who flooded my phone with texts about random alt-coins in late 2017 couldn’t be bothered to even sign up for an airdrop.
As a storyteller with a background in Congressional politics and business communications, I can tell you exactly what changed:
Bitcoin is no longer considered “newsworthy.”
What is newsworthy?
Any event that’s recent, timely, novel, consequential, or involves famous people. Google it.
Bitcoin no longer fits the bill.
Nothing like your first time
When bitcoin first hit $8,000, it had never happened before. How could a digital currency with no use ever reach such a high price? How could all these kids and losers and crazy people get rich overnight from fake internet money?
The major players were odd and outrageous, like this guy:
Or this guy:
Celebrities tweeted about cryptocurrency and YouTube went crazy with viral videos about lambos and scams. Random people were buying some crypto and getting double, triple, quadruple returns on their money within weeks—sometimes, days. It was novel and timely, and you might even get rich!
Meanwhile, you had well-known, credible people like Alan Greenspan crying chicken little and Warren Buffett comparing bitcoin to rat poison. Conflict!
Cranky old people, losers who got rich, scammy cons, fake money…nobody had ever seen anything like it.
It was a great story and it drew ratings, eyeballs, and click-throughs.
Second time—not as cool
The second time bitcoin hit $8,000, it was on the downswing from a $20,000 pump. But it was still interesting. People were curious—why hasn’t this thing died? Should I buy?
Some people had already bought some, so they were now invested in seeing which way the price would go. Would it go back up? Would it go down more?
Hype-mongers were still shouting about $1 million bitcoin and people had learned enough to start considering whether this fake money was actually a revolutionary technology.
Will the price go back up? Will bitcoin save the world? Or will it die?
Every other time since—we’ve seen this movie before
Bitcoin hit $8,000 a few other times after that, sometimes on the way up, sometimes on the way down.
Yet there were no viral videos of kids buying lambos. No celebrities bragged about their bitcoin. We still have no evidence that this new technology is anything more than a niche product for a very small group of users.
Pro-bitcoin commentators looked like this:
A well-manicured white guy in a business suit.
It’s old news now
Depending on which survey you believe (there are many), somewhere between 72-90 percent of Americans have heard of bitcoin. You may have similar numbers in your country.
As a result, people aren’t that curious anymore. And with all the drops we’ve seen in bitcoin’s price over the past two years, few believe they’ll get rich from it.
I spend a lot more time with non-crypto people than crypto people. You may think “it’s back at $8,000! Bull run FOMO LAMBO buy now LAST CHANCE BEFORE MOON!!!”
From what I can tell, most people think “yea, whatever, it’s going to crash. It always does.”
We’re at a point where bitcoin’s technology is no longer novel. YouTubers and celebrities aren’t doing crazy things with it anymore. There’s no evidence that more than a small amount of bitcoin transactions are actual payments instead of trading or speculation—though, if you have some research showing I’m wrong, I’d love you to share it (email me firstname.lastname@example.org).
No news is good news
This is a good thing.
It means if you want to buy bitcoin as an investment, you still have time before the mass adoption. If you want to develop on the bitcoin blockchain, there’s less competition.
Better yet, many people consider bitcoin a normal thing. They may not understand it or want to buy it, but they’ve mostly accepted that this is a real technology. So if you want to go into blockchain as a career, there’s not much stigma anymore. When you introduce bitcoin in your business, people consider it a legitimate payment option (though most won’t use it).
Does that mean the FOMO/moonshot/million-dollar-bitcoin gets delayed?
Be happy! It’s better than another boom and bust that turns everybody against bitcoin forever, as I explain in Next Bitcoin Bull Run Needs to Wait.
Don’t stress about the lack of attention. Relax and enjoy the ride! Once Wall Street sinks its teeth into crypto, the whole narrative will change…but that’s a story for another day. Sign up for my newsletter or read my thoughts about Traditional Finance and Cryptocurrency and I’ll tell you all about it.
Mark Helfman is a top writer on Medium for cryptocurrency, finance, and bitcoin topics. His book, Consensusland, explores the social, cultural, and business challenges of a fictional country that runs on cryptocurrency. In a past life, he worked for U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.