Sign up to myFT Daily Digest to be the first to know about Cryptocurrencies news.
You might have heard some rumblings this week about a $1.6tn online retailer that is about to accept bitcoin as payment. Something something Amazon, something something digital currency, something something “insider” . . .
The rumblings started when Amazon put up an advert for a new job on July 22: “Digital Currency and Blockchain Product Lead”. The advert said (emphasis ours):
You will leverage your domain expertise in Blockchain, Distributed Ledger, Central Bank Digital Currencies and Cryptocurrency to develop the case for the capabilities which should be developed, drive overall vision and product strategy, and gain leadership buy-in and investment for new capabilities.
Don’t you just love developing the case for the capabilities which should be developed for new capabilities? Wonderfully fluent corporatese, of course, but the ad didn’t actually explain what kind of product this “product strategy” would be concerned with.
But someone had to! So a number of esteemed news outlets covered the exciting job ad, like Business Insider, who went with “Amazon may soon allow users to pay in cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin” for its headline.
A bit of a leap, perhaps? Somewhat understandable, though, particularly as Amazon had put out a press statement saying they were “inspired by the innovation happening in the cryptocurrency space” and were “exploring what this could look like on Amazon”. It’s not the first time we’ve seen such speculation, either — back in 2017 we had very similar headlines after Amazon registered three crypto-related domain names.
But some news outlets went further — one managed to get someone very much in the know to confirm that Amazon was indeed about to accept crypto as payment. “Amazon ‘definitely’ lining up Bitcoin payments and token, confirms insider”, was City AM’s headline, in a piece first published on Sunday, which explained that the high-street destroyer would be accepting bitcoin payments by the end of the year.
The story sent bitcoin moonward, with the bros’ favourite jumping as much as 14.5 per cent on the back of it, according to Reuters, to above $40,000 on Monday. (Although we suspect that there were also other forces tethering bitcoin’s price action that day.)
After all, the insider in question — anonymous, you understand — seemed to have really quite a lot to say (emphasis ours):
“This isn’t just going through the motions to set up cryptocurrency payment solutions at some point in the future – this is a full-on, well-discussed, integral part of the future mechanism of how Amazon will work,” she told City AM.
“It begins with Bitcoin – this is the key first stage of this crypto project, and the directive is coming from the very top… Jeff Bezos himself.”
It’s almost as if
the person who cooked this up this insider had forgotten that Jeff Bezos is no longer the CEO of Amazon. Sure, he might still be the executive chair, but that doesn’t give him the power to make such a big structural change to its payments system. And wouldn’t that just to serve to undermine new chief executive Andy Jassy so soon after his appointment in the top job?
The story also suggested other cryptos might soon be accepted as payment:
Ethereum, Cardano, and Bitcoin Cash will also be added as payment methods, the insider added.
We looked up the piece’s author, Darren Parkin, who describes himself as an “all-round nice bloke” and a “specialist in cryptocurrency” on his Twitter profile, and noticed that he does tweet rather a lot about Ethereum, Cardano, and bitcoin:
Bitcoin is sliding towards $33k, Ethereum has now dipped below $2,030, and Cardano is nearly under $1.30.
This is close to triggering a massive buy-in, surely?#Bitcoin #BTC $BTC #Ethereum #ETH $ETH #Cardano #ADA $ADA pic.twitter.com/VjXFgxxEPp
— Darren Parkin (@EditorParkin) July 12, 2021
Anyway, Amazon quickly denied the City AM story, sending the price of bitcoin back below $40,000.
But rather than correcting the piece, City AM — or its “Crypto AM” arm specifically — doubled down. It published another piece on Monday that seemed to be some kind of crypto round-up, with the same insider quotes, as well as some fluff about “institutional investors” showing interest. This time we didn’t have to look up the author as we were given a bio at the bottom of the article (emphasis ours):
Francisco Memoria is a content creator at CryptoCompare who’s in love with technology and focuses on helping people see the value digital currencies have. His work has been published in numerous reputable industry publications. Francisco holds various cryptocurrencies but has no bias in his writing.
Then on Tuesday Crypto AM’s editor James Bowater published another piece under the headline “Everyone’s an expert as long as they are anonymous”.
So was it owning up to the fact that this “insider” might not be all they were cracked up to be? No:
It never ceases to amaze me when self interest and attention seeking takes over the narrative. In response to Amazon publicly advertising to recruit folks with blockchain and cryptocurrency experience, Crypto AM editor Darren Parkin reached out to an Amazon insider who verified their identity, employment status and is a 100% solid source.
Given the nature of the piece and the effect it had, it’s really not surprising that Amazon issued a denial – although with less than six months of 2021 to run to say ‘not this year’ isn’t a big ask to put things back – is it?
Whatever the position, it seems utterly bonkers to think that the Amazon source was lying in such detail. I am completely satisfied with the article Darren published and that’s that – maybe those anonymous people on Twitter giving him a hard time (sometimes to the level of unprintable) might look back and feel they were wrong in time.
Because of course it’s the anonymous critics of a story that cannot be trusted, not the anonymous source of it. Makes sense.
We got in touch with Bowater and he told us:
A) I’m not a trained journalist B) I don’t make any pretences about that and C) I stand behind what Darren’s written and his integrity.
We guess we’ll just have to wait and see what comes of all this. But an FT Alphaville insider tells us that with the idea that Amazon — a company with 1.3m employees — would hire just one person to deal with the small matter of accepting bitcoin for the many millions of dollars of sales that go through its site every single hour, and manage to get that all up and running before the end of the year, feels like a bit of a stretch.
For the latest news and views on fintech from the FT’s network of correspondents around the world, sign up to our weekly newsletter #fintechFT