Crypto news site Cointelegraph now has two new editors. Veteran journalist Jay Cassano will be taking the helm of the publication as editor in chief, while Dylan Love will be head of news.
Though still widely read in crypto, Cointelegraph had been officially rudderless since mid-September. That’s when executive editor Olivia Capozzalo and head of news Molly Jane Zuckerman simultaneously quit. As proof for those who believe crypto journalism is one giant revolving door, Zuckerman has been a contributor to Modern Consensus, a role her replacement at Cointelegraph used to hold for about nine months.
Cointelegraph didn’t have to go far to find Cassano. “Cointelegraph originally tapped me to launch a new futurist tech site in early 2020 to cover how emerging technology trends will shape our society,” he told Modern Consensus. “When they saw how I was building that site around long-form, narrative features, they realized that it meshed well with the direction they were already planning to take Cointelegraph. So they asked me to take on both roles. I jumped at the opportunity.”
Cassano is an investigative reporter with experience in mainstream media, including covering tech at Fast Company (where he was edited by Chris Dannen, who would later become a crypto entrepreneur). It was in 2014 at Fast Company that he started reporting on Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. He subsequently left for Newsweek’s International Business Times.
During his tenure at IBT, Cassano had no qualms about publicly calling out its parent publication’s management. In February 2018, he and fellow IBTer Alex Kotch threatened on Twitter to quit if the company followed through on firing fellow reporter Josh Keefe. Newsweek backed down but Cassano still turned in his notice four days later. Although the trio—along with David Sirota—won a SABEW award a few weeks later for reporting on how congressional members would benefit from the changes in the tax law, Cassano was denied a $300 reimbursement on some of his expenses, and he took the company to task on (where else?) Twitter.
That wouldn’t be the last time Cassano had a contentious relationship with a publication for which he worked, with his next clash involving a crypto fiasco. A year ago, he came forward to chew out ConsenSys-backed Civil, the blockchain media company that was supposed to reward journalists and readers with a token, CVL. Cassano had been a reporter for Sludge, a news site on the platform. Cassano accused Civil of promising each token would be worth as much $0.75, he told CoinDesk. Some 70% of his salary was to be paid in CVL, which failed to get off the ground.
Along with Love, Cassano will now be managing a couple dozen people on staff including other editors, reporters, developers, illustrators, and back office support. On top of that, they will have to contend with freelancers.
It was as a freelancer that Love got into a bit of trouble. After a few years as a tech reporter for Business Insider—where he covered the early days of Bitcoin—Love struck out on his own for a bit as a freelance reporter. One gig he took on was interviewing the late Jeffrey Epstein for The Next Web. The piece neglected to include a disclosure that Epstein was a convicted sex offender until The New York Times wrote a story about how Epstein used the media to refurbish his image.
We asked Love to comment on the record about the story. “I don’t want to talk about a two-year old interview I conducted as an underpaid, overworked freelancer,” he responded. “I would do a lot of things differently today and regret any association to the guy.”
What Cassano and Love were willing to talk about is their plans for Cointelegraph. So we threw some questions at them and here’s what they had to say:
What challenges do you expect to face?
Love: Time zones! This is my first experience managing a team capable of publishing 24/7.
Cassano: Crypto is a loud and fast-moving space. We’re competitive and we always want to be first, but obviously there are times we need to slow down and report the story out. It’s going to be a lot of finding that balance.
Where will you be based? Where are your writers?
Cassano: I’m based in New York City, where I’m currently hiring to expand our team. Dylan is in Austin, Texas. We have a multi-national, globally distributed workforce. Other writers and editors are based around the world from Vancouver, San Francisco, and DC to Venice, Moscow, London, Tel Aviv, and beyond. We also have a network of regional sites that includes offices in Japan, Korea, Italy, and Brazil among others. We just recently launched the Turkish edition of Cointelegraph.
What changes do you plan to implement? What will be different in terms of processes, style, and staff?
Cassano: You can expect to see Cointelegraph journalists be more of a presence in the blockchain community. I think a defining feature of great media outlets is having writers whose names you immediately associate with the publication. It’s about fostering reader trust.
Who do you view as your main competitor? What’s your view of CoinDesk? The Block? CCN?
Cassano: The blockchain media space is big enough for everyone to play a meaningful role. I prefer to let the readers decide who’s competing with whom.
Who do you view as your primary audience? Traders? Coders? Entrepreneurs? Who more so than others?
Cassano: We try to have a pretty wide appeal. I see Cointelegraph as a place where casual followers can get informed and accessible news, while business leaders and developers can read features that reflect the community they’re a part of. We’ll be launching a couple of new verticals and products this year that serve individual audiences more explicitly.
What underserved part of this space do you hope to reach out to?
Cassano: I’d like to find a way to tap into reader enthusiasm more directly. I think there are a lot of readers who aren’t having their needs met by media outlets. That’s why there are so many great newsletters and podcasts and Twitter accounts in this space.
Cointelegraph has some sister sites. Last year, Breaker wrote a story claiming potential CT advertisers were routed to those sites for favorable stories. Has that ever been addressed? Will it be? What will happen to those sites?
Cassano: I think there has been a misconception about Cointelegraph since that story ran, which probably should have been cleared up sooner. CT does not own those other websites and has no editorial control over them. Rather, our advertising arm works with clients — almost like an independent PR agency — to find the best solution for them whether that be at CT or elsewhere.
Cointelegraph has a strict policy against pay-to-play. And every week I have writers alerting me to offers they’ve gotten — and refused! — to be paid for story placement or interviews or backlinking.
What are your general views of crypto? Of DLT?
Love: This is no trend, it’s completely real and not going away. Zuckerberg’s congressional testimony confirms that the world’s existing power structures are flinching hard at blockchain’s capabilities and what it might mean for how we transact with each other in the present/near future.
Where do you see crypto in the next 18 months? Where will Cointelegraph be then?
Love: I think we’re still in the steep of the adoption curve. In 18 months crypto will be a little more popular and a little more widely talked about, but I don’t think it will have broken through as any kind of mainstream payment system for use at Amazon or Walmart, for example. Within the same timeframe, I can only expect that Cointelegraph’s staff and coverage continue to grow for the sake of owning the crypto news game as effectively as possible.
How big is the current staff? Do you plan on hiring new journalists? If so, what are you looking for?
Cassano: We are expanding and will be hiring several more journalists. I’m looking first and foremost for good reporters. It’s obviously important to know the ins and outs of the blockchain space, but I tend to think the best blockchain reporters are just great reporters period. We need storytellers, muckrakers, and data journalists—just like any other modern newsroom.