It was refreshing to virtually catch up with Anna Baydakova who is basically CoinDesk’s Eastern Europe correspondent. Based in Moscow, Russia, Anna writes about blockchain projects and regulation with a special focus on Eastern Europe and Russia. She joined CoinDesk after years of writing for various Russian media publications including the leading political outlet Novaya Gazeta.
The last time I saw Anna was in New York at CoinDesk’s Consensus 2019 conference. We bonded over how we’re both itching to be on the road again!
Tell us a bit about your background and how you landed a role as a CoinDesk reporter?
“I’ve been a journalist for almost ten years before joining CoinDesk working at various media outlets in Russia. My last job before joining CoinDesk was at Novaya Gazeta, one of the oldest quality political newspapers in Russia. When I left, I went to New York to study a masters program at the Columbia University School of Journalism because I wanted to upgrade my skills and find an English language journalism job in America.
Then an internship at CoinDesk came up, got hired, worked one year in the New York office of CoinDesk and then I moved back to Moscow to cover this region.”
What’s a day in the life of a reporter covering blockchain projects and regulation in Eastern Europe and Russia?
“During the pandemic, it’s pretty boring. I wake up, sit at my computer, read the news then email or message sources to speak to them on the telephone and then write stories.
In the pre-pandemic life, while I always worked from home, I would go to the city to meet sources and go to events to find stories. I would travel quite frequently to report on stuff outside Moscow. The most interesting stories come not out of pitches but out of something you hear or read yourself. Sometimes there is an idea or some hypothesis that I want to check out and will start reaching out to people from there.”
You may be one of the few English language journalists covering Eastern Europe and Russia in the crypto industry, how do you find your stories?
“I would say the trickiest thing is to actually figure out which of the stories that come my way are really interesting to an audience across the ocean. Stories that seem pretty important here might be not that interesting to people in another part of the world. While sometimes I’m surprised there are some stories that are not that appreciated here about how this industry is functioning, these stories garner a lot of interest for people in America.
What might be obvious to us here in Moscow, could be interesting to people who live in a different reality where the market and laws are very different. You need to explain it and translate the story from one culture to another.”
In your opinion, how has the blockchain and crypto media narrative evolved in 2020?
“Obviously Defi is pretty new and hot now and I don’t remember people really anticipating that this time of the year, last year. It’s interesting because last year’s CoinDesk’s Consensus conference was all about regulation and the FATF travel rule, as regulators around the world started looking at this industry closer. I think that changed the narrative quite a bit.
Now we’re getting into the Defi craze, which feels a bit like the ICO craze when people just experiment in the wild as there are no rules. I think it’s fun and really interesting to see what all these experiments come to.”
How do you think regulators would react to the new Defi experiments?
“They might be a bit baffled and totally blind sighted. They just started figuring out how to track Bitcoin and Ethereum transactions and experimenting with building their own sovereign digital currency. But they might also catch up. The Defi industry is getting pretty big, it might just drive attention to itself and it would be impossible for regulators to ignore.”
How do you keep up?
“I’m trying to focus on things that, in my perception, really can impact this industry and impact the way we function as economic beings and societies. I write about Bitcoin mining and other stories about regulation. Defi is not my beat. It’s impossible to follow everything and not lose your mind. You have to choose to spend your time on something that makes sense for you personally.”
What’s the one thing you wish PRs or companies would know when pitching you a story?
“It’s always good when the pitch starts with an interesting and compelling fact. When people pitch me and they’re like, ‘we are the best liquidity provider’ or ‘we are the new exchange that’s going to beat everyone and be on top’, I think, ‘ok everyone in crypto says that’.
What exactly makes the company special? Give me a number, a fact, a name of some amazing people working with you. When pitches start from something meaningful and factual, it immediately turns into a helpful and interesting exchange.”
What’s the worse or best pitch you’ve received?
“The very worst pitches come from the question, ‘How can we get Coindesk to write about our company?’ and in most cases people trying to pay their way in. That provokes a strong allergic reaction for me.”
How has COVID19 impacted the way you work and/ or crypto journalism in general?
“I’ve been remote for more than 1 year now and when the pandemic started, it didn’t change much in a sense that I still work from home. The worst thing is that it really cut my ability to travel and to meet people. The best conversations I believe still happen in reality when you meet someone face to face at an event or party or conference, you exchange ideas and something interesting comes up. Luckily I was able to meet my best sources here in Russia before the pandemic and establish relationships before it all started.
One interesting thing that has changed things, is that while we are all remote, it’s not that important who is where it feels that our work has become more global. I can record podcasts with people in America sitting in Moscow and it doesn’t sound strange and everyone is tuning in from wherever.
In addition, we discovered quite a few amazing opportunities. I personally discovered virtual reality during this pandemic. You can produce new forms of content there, so it has been a time of discovery while a lot of old opportunities shut down.
On the surface I’m patient but I’m so looking forward for all this craziness to end so we can travel and meet each other freely again.”
We all hope to travel again soon too, Anna!