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January 23, 2023updated 24 Jan 2023 2:40pm

Crypto currency site DL News launching with 12-strong team

Its editor wonders whether FTX was just "the first domino to fall".

By Bron Maher

Months after cryptocurrency giant FTX was brought down by a Coindesk scoop, start-up news site DL News is betting there are plenty more fraudsters to be found.

Launching officially next month, its editor Trista Kelley told Press Gazette that DL News (which is headquartered in Portugal) believes there’s space in the market for crypto coverage that takes the fast-paced industry seriously – but also critically.

The site is being launched by Defi Llama a ‘collective’ whose core product is a dashboard that tracks the total value locked in various cryptocurrencies.

Kelley said: “Outside of crypto a lot of people haven’t heard of it, but inside the crypto space it is just considered the Rolls Royce of data aggregation.” The site says it brings in more than four million page views a month.

Kelley described Defi Llama’s founders as “kind of private guys”. The pair, Charlie Watkins and Ben Hauser, are discreetly identified on site’s “Datasheet” section but maintain a more visible presence online under pseudonymous usernames.

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“I think they want the products to do the talking,” Kelley said.

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The decision by a market intelligence group to launch a news service is not dissimilar to the move into consumer news undertaken by Kelley’s old employer, Bloomberg. But in DL News’ case, Kelley said the parent company had identified a coverage gap it could fill.

“I think there is a Venn diagram of crypto natives who will publish whatever comes out, any rumour, any type of speculation – a lot of pump and dumps.

“And then on the other side, there’s a finance industry that treats this industry [crypto] with a little bit of snark, maybe not as much depth as we are hoping for when we look at content. So we hope to fill that gap.”

The outlet hopes to be up and running in early February, and should launch with a team of ten to 12 journalists based around Europe. Kelley said DL News planned to focus its initial coverage on crypto regulation, using investigations and Defi Llama’s data to “illustrate and tell stories” about the market.

“We have an investigative team who are scurrying away on the interesting characters, frauds and charlatans in this industry. Of which there are many.”

Press Gazette spoke with Kelley amid the ongoing fallout from the collapse of crypto exchange FTX, whose founder Sam Bankman-Fried is currently facing criminal fraud charges. Was Kelley annoyed to have missed the story?

“Abso-freaking-lutely. I wish he had held on for six more months and then had this meltdown. 

“But I think what you’re basically saying is that it’s a shame that we’re missing out on so many interesting stories because we can’t yet publish. But that said – I don’t know, is it the first domino to fall? There’s lots and lots of lots of threads for us to pull on, so I’m pretty bullish about that.”

The day before the interview it was reported that crypto broker Genesis was preparing to file for bankruptcy (which it ultimately did, two days later). Genesis’ parent company, Digital Currency Group, also owns leading crypto news site Coindesk – which was forced to cover its proprietor’s troubles as Genesis started to fall.

DL News too is owned by a player in the crypto space. Did Kelley worry about possible conflicts of interest?

“We have an advantage in that we do not take [venture capital] funding. Our owners don’t trade, in terms of trading with AUM [assets under management]. And we don’t take loans.

“So we don’t have immediate pressures to make a profit – not that we don’t have targets, but we don’t have the immediacy of the overall macro market hanging over us in the same way that [as] any company that takes VC funding or has loans to pay, etc.”

And the site has evidently given some thought to conflicts of interest: its editorial standards page runs to 4,000 words.

Kelley said Defi Llama’s founders are “not journalists themselves, obviously, but had a very frustrating experience with trying to find out what was true and what wasn’t in the crypto space.

“And they said let’s start our own news organisation and brought me on board, and I think that a lot of those standards are part of that ethos of, wait a second, let’s show our work, let’s not do pump and dumps, let’s only tell the truth.”

The company plans to implement a paywall – making some content free but aiming to find “paying readers both in the crypto community and in traditional finance – hedge funds and asset managers, brokerages, high frequency traders, banks, etcetera, who are very interested in this space if they’re sitting on their hands right now.”

But the crypto market is sluggish at the moment: Bitcoin, the largest cryptocurrency by market capitalisation, is currently trading at a little over $20,000 – down from $64,000 in November 2021. Would Kelley prefer to have launched in a bull market or a bear market?

“Definitely a bear market – because there’s nowhere to go but up!”

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Select and enter your email address Weekly insight into the big strategic issues affecting the future of the news industry. Essential reading for media leaders every Thursday. Your morning brew of news about the world of news from Press Gazette and elsewhere in the media. Sent at around 10am UK time. Our weekly does of strategic insight about the future of news media aimed at US readers. A fortnightly update from the front-line of news and advertising. Aimed at marketers and those involved in the advertising industry.
  • Business owner/co-owner
  • CEO
  • COO
  • CFO
  • CTO
  • Chairperson
  • Non-Exec Director
  • Other C-Suite
  • Managing Director
  • President/Partner
  • Senior Executive/SVP or Corporate VP or equivalent
  • Director or equivalent
  • Group or Senior Manager
  • Head of Department/Function
  • Manager
  • Non-manager
  • Retired
  • Other
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
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