Is Accepting Bitcoin Just a Publicity Stunt for Companies?

Bitcoin_accepted05 Feb 2014 / Slate – For cryptocurrency doubters, it’s easy to be cynical about the almost daily announcement of a new retailer, basketball team, or police chief accepting Bitcoin. Most appear to be nothing more than publicity stunts. But in the wake of the FBI’s dissolution of the illicit online marketplace the Silk Road, this new trend is going a long way toward institutionalizing Bitcoin, even if they’re just in it for the headlines. Each time a respected retailer takes on the cryptocurrency, criminal associations sink further into the background (although not assisted by the recent arrest of Charles Shrem, the co-founder and CEO of BitInstant, for an alleged scheme to sell more than $1 million in Bitcoin to Silk Road users). And linking up with the cryptocurrency gives certain companies a P.R. boost, helping them to appear innovative and risk-taking.

First it was the early adopters that announced they’d accept Bitcoin payments: companies like OkCupid and Virgin Galactic that have made a habit of moon shots and digital agility. Over the past few months though, the cryptocurrency has landed some of its biggest fish so far, like the online retailers TigerDirect and Overstock. But for the vanguard, does the publicity still outweigh the sales?

Mike Maxim, chief technology officer of OkCupid, told me that when interest in Bitcoin began to spike last year, the online dating site saw an opportunity to differentiate their product from other dating sites and announced in April 2013 that it would accept the cryptocurrency. The option hasn’t been overwhelmingly popular: Only about 1,000 people have taken them up on the offer so far, he said, as compared with more than 150,000 people overall who use OkCupid’s “A-List” extra options. Bitcoin payments are still just a small fraction of their overall revenue. The publicity has paid off, Maxim told me, but it was also just an easy way for people to pay for things online….. Read more

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