Welcome to ‘On The Record’ with YAP Global – a series where we speak to the journalists behind the stories that keep you up-to-date on the pulse of the digital asset, DeFi, blockchain and cryptocurrency industry
Although Aoyon Ashraf spent a decade in mainstream journalism at Bloomberg covering equities and commodities, it didn’t take long for him to find his passion within crypto. After graduating from the University of Toronto with a degree in Mining Engineering, Aoyon pursued his wonder for mining, metals and energy. This natural interest in mining led to where he is now as an editorial writer at CoinDesk.
Currently, Aoyon is based in Toronto, Canada and is inspired by the industry experts and ground-breaking movers and shakers he spends his working days connecting with. Aoyon finds the crypto ecosystem constantly evolving and is consistently learning – only igniting more fuel for his curiosity.
Lauren: Thanks for taking the time to connect today! What does the word cryptocurrency mean to you?
Aoyon: One word — future. As a millennial, growing up during the dot-com era, I have seen first hand how a far-fetched idea of the “internet” can forever change the world and revolutionize our daily lives. I can see the parallels of both technologies and almost an eerily similar trajectory of crypto to the early days of the internet. Of course it will be a bumpy ride, which is characteristic of any new emerging industry, but I believe these blips will create a more matured and widely accepted industry.
Lauren: Can you tell us about your journalism journey and how you ended up writing about crypto?
Aoyon: My path to crypto has been an interesting one. I spent the last decade at Bloomberg News, covering equity markets, particularly stocks of commodities related companies. However, I have been involved in trading crypto currencies since 2018 and have tried my hand at mining bitcoin as well, which gave me exposure to both financial and some technical knowledge of the crypto ecosystem. Prior to Bloomberg, I was in investment banking, where I was involved in financing commodities related companies. Before that I graduated as a mining engineer from the University of Toronto and had a very brief stint at a gold mining company. Interestingly, I now cover crypto mining. In a way, It all came full circle for me, even though they are two completely different “mining” industries.
Lauren: How has your experience at Bloomberg helped you at CoinDesk?
Aoyon: News in the crypto sector moves at break-neck speed and sometimes can be very technical. Breaking down these news in concise, detailed and easy to digest bite-sized pieces is essential for any crypto reporter. Also, being fast and first to report any breaking news is equally very important. Covering equities for real-time traders at Bloomberg has helped me do just that. Moreover, having the financial background from my sell-side days also helps me understand and pick out which news is most important to investors. This, combined with my reporting skills sharpened at Bloomberg helps me write about crypto at CoinDesk on a daily basis.
Lauren: What does your day-to-day role look like? How do you keep it structured working from home?
Aoyon: What I like most about crypto is that no one day is the same. Things can change extremely quickly and you have to be ready for it. Fortunately at CoinDesk, we have one of the best, if not THE best team tracking all the news, tick by tick. So by the time I have logged in, I already have the team notifying me about most of the important stories of the day that need to be covered.
I like to start the day early, as it gives me time to go over all the stories, pitches and ideas for the day, as well as get prepared for my meetings. After going through what my team has flagged, my Twitter feeds, Telegram and several other trader’s chat rooms, I’m ready to jump in and tackle the day, of course with the help of my first cup of double espresso. Since I cover crypto mining companies, and there are tons of them that are publicly traded, my day is extremely busy until the market opens at 9:30am. After that, I usually go through the rest of the bigger stories that need to be reported on and attend all my Zoom meetings with my team and my contacts.
Since I work remotely 100%, it’s extremely important to keep my team updated on what I’m working on and vice-versa. Slack, Zoom calls and phone calls keep me aligned with what the rest of the CoinDesk team is working on. By the time the market closes, with the help of my second and third cup of coffee, I’m ready to tackle all the news that comes my way after 4:30pm. If it’s not too busy by 6pm, I’m ready to take my dogs for a walk and hit the gym. Also, I’m a big believer of meeting sources in person, so I try to meet my contacts for coffee or drinks at least once a week, if they are in Toronto, if I’m not traveling to other cities.
Lauren: When you’re focusing on tech in a space that is already very technologically advanced, how do you keep up and understand all the movements?
Aoyon: This is where meeting and keeping in touch with my sources come in very handy. If I don’t understand something, I will either send out a Telegram message or a text to my contacts and ask them if we can go over the details over a call and sometimes over a coffee, if it’s not breaking news. Of course, I also ask the CoinDesk news and research team to help me understand the details as well.
Lauren: What’s the next trend in your view? More regulation? More NFTs?
Aoyon: Given I cover crypto mining, I believe ESG and successful capital raise will be the next big trends for the miners. For the overall industry, and also for miners, given recent events, how the lawmakers around the world implement regulations on the crypto industry, will be a key theme to watch.
Lauren: Where do you see crypto going in the long run?
Aoyon: As I said previously, I’m a big believer in the crypto industry. I’m not a maxi, but I’m bullish on the prospect of crypto and how it can change how we think about money and finance. However, to get there we will need to weed out lots of fake promises and technologies that come with any new industry. Once we get there, crypto will be able to solve a lot of the world’s monetary issues that we face with fiat currencies, currently.
Lauren: What are a few things you wish PRs or companies would know when pitching you a story?
Aoyon: I have seen a lot of pitches since my days at Bloomberg and now at CoinDesk. One thing that stands out to me between a very large PR firm pitching a story about traditional companies versus crypto, is professionalism. There are still very non-professional pitches in the crypto industry that may be hiding the potential for a really good story. In my point of view, an email, addressed to the journalist and with a compelling subject line is a very good first step to a pitch. The body of the email should have only a few bullet points or sentences about who the company or the clients is and why it matters and how it relates to a journalist’s daily beat, can make or break a pitch.
Lauren: Do you think it’s ethically acceptable for journalists to be able to invest in crypto, why or why not?
Aoyon: I believe that as long as a journalist fully discloses the holdings publicly and is not allowed to day trade or short any of the holdings, it should be okay to invest. Having skin in the game can help a journalist understand how crypto works, given the complicated nature of the technology. Of course, it can create conflict of interest in some cases, which is why the above-mentioned restrictions should be implemented by the employer and policies should be reviewed every quarter by the company’s compliance team to make sure no bias is seeping into the published content. CoinDesk does an amazing job making sure such is the case.
Lauren: What does the process look like when looking at which PRs to choose?
Aoyon: As I mentioned, professionalism by the PR firms and being able to reach out to them when something breaks is key. I have had many PR firms reach out to me only when they don’t like certain stories about their clients, but not when I reach out to them for comments in the first place. If a PR firm makes it a two-way communication I think a lot more journalists will be interested in working with the PR firm.
Lauren: What makes a good story?
Aoyon: The who and the why is very important: Who is behind the story and why does it matter for the beat. Of course, exclusives and scoops are always key to any story.
Lauren: How is the recent turbulence in the crypto market going to affect new and veteran users in this space?
Aoyon: Overall, having gone through the past crypto winter, 2008 financial crisis and dot-com bubble, one conclusion I can provide is that it’s a cycle and there will always be peaks and troughs in the market — it’s all about who can manage both. For both crypto users and companies, being able to plan for the worst and not just jump into a sector that is hot, is very important. There will always be stories about how a company grew 10x or certain traders got rich overnight, but that’s only a handful of people during the peak. Very few shed light on the downside of such so-called bubbles.
There will be lots of companies and people who got into the sector during the peak and likely didn’t hedge for the downside. There will definitely be blood on the street through this bear market but those who have planned for the worst can and will come out on the other side unscathed. This, I believe will be very important for any crypto companies and users to consider as they navigate through this down-cycle.
Lauren: Will this lead to more regulation?
Aoyon: Absolutely. We have seen the human toll of a bear market over and over again. And I believe proper regulations, especially for a new industry such as crypto will be monumental to create a more mature and widely accepted industry. A bear market will only expedite the process.
Lauren: When do you see this bear market ending and why?
Aoyon: One of my mentors told me back in the 2008 financial crisis, “this too shall pass and when it does, it will be back with a bang”. I believe this would likely be the case this time as well. However, given high inflation and ideas of “stagflation” being floated around, without a significant change in macroeconomic conditions, the bear market will not go anytime soon. This is more important now than before, given the crypto market’s high correlation with the broader equity markets and big institutional investors coming into the market.
You can read Aoyon’s coverage on CoinDesk here.