Crypto news site CCN shuts down, citing traffic loss from Google update
The longstanding cryptocurrency publication has closed its digital doors.
Update: CCN decided to come back to life.
CCN, founded in 2013, was one of the earlier and more prominent crypto news sites. Now it's shutting down, announced founder Jonas Borchgrevink in a post. The site has seen a 71% drop in mobile traffic following the June Google search engine updates, he explains.
The June update saw CCN's visibility drop sharply.
"You might say we ought not to face any issues since we've been at those levels and lower, in the past. What you need to realize is that we have added more people to the team, both full-timers and part-timers," Borchgrevink explains.
In 2019, the CCN team numbered more than 60 people.
"We do not want to downsize the team, we do not want to break the morale of the team," he said.
A complete shutdown is likely also quite morale breaking, however.
Opinion: Mixing crypto and politics
A range of other crypto publications also saw their visibility decline in the same June update, although CCN appears to have been hit much harder than others, Borchgrevink noted.
He and others speculated that CCN was impacted especially heavily because of its political bent, although Borchgrevink maintains that "CCN is unbiased as a news site – meaning no political agenda from the editorial board – we have allowed all sorts of opinions from journalists and guest writers. From the far left to the far right."
But for all practical purposes, CCN
is was a deeply political publication with an emphatic political bent in many of its news pieces and the vast majority of its political op-eds. Neither human nor algorithm would look at CCN and say with a straight face that it had no political agenda.
Unfortunately, the combination of free speech and a hands-off approach to moderation doesn't mean a platform ends up being politically unbiased. In fact, it's probably closer to the opposite as communities crystallise around shared ideologies.
There's no easy solution there either. You can try to promote balanced dialogue to avoid the appearance of having an agenda, but at a certain point, you're just going out of your way to actively aggravate your core audience by printing things they actively dislike, which doesn't sound like a great business strategy.
If there's a lesson to be learned here, it might be that politics and literally everything else don't mix. Once you start down that road, you risk building and getting locked into an ideologically united audience, which then keeps shaping the kind of content that goes on the site and how it presents itself as a whole.
A very tangible example of this can be seen when you look at how different crypto publications handled the Bitcoin vs Bitcoin Cash debacle. Some chose a side and stuck with it, locking themselves more into one community and away from the other. Others very carefully perched on the fence between the two and deliberately avoided riling anyone up.
It's unfortunate because as Borchgrevink noted, Bitcoin is inherently political. Indeed, your cryptocurrency preferences are probably influenced by your political leanings.
The wider view
CCN isn't happy with Google.
"While we do understand that Google needs to update their search algorithm from time to time, we cannot comprehend why they are allowed to enforce such drastic changes that have such dramatic consequences for so many news sites over the course of a very limited time – 24 hours, without any explanation or warnings to media organisations like ours," Borchgrevink says. "While they did announce the update, they did not disclose any information of what the core update would do."
While the ire might be focused on Google right now, it's also worth pulling back and looking at the wider picture.
The whole journalism industry was turned on its head by the rise of digital media and then by the rise of ad blockers. All around the world, newsrooms and media outlets were forced to scramble for alternative revenue sources. Bankruptcies and layoffs are a common part of the news and publishing landscape. This also opened the door for deep-pocketed supporters with their own agendas, national propaganda agencies and other deeply political entities to start co-opting the news cycle and generally mangling the truth.
It's not algorithmically unreasonable to assume that industry news publications with a clear political alignment aren't what most people want when looking for crypto news, and Google's algorithms (probably) can't distinguish between actual bias and just the appearance of bias.
Right now, Google is like a giant trying to navigate a field of eggshells with just an unseeable goal and general direction in mind. Not even it knows exactly where it's going or where it's going to step each time, but one thing everyone's sure of is that eggs are going to get broken en route.
Now the CCN egg is broke.
Meanwhile, a new study has estimated that Google makes $4.7 billion a year from news.
Disclosure: The author holds BTC and BNB at the time of writing.