Ethereum may be in the dumps, but CryptoKitties are reaching a nationwide audience. The Indicator from Planet Money, a podcast on markets and economics by National Public Radio, has purchased two digital felines and introduced millions of listeners to one of the silliest commodities on the blockchain.
The story follows Wednesday’s episode, in which Cardiff Garcia and Stacey Vanek Smith introduce the “strange, kind of ugly, kind of cute-ish crypto fad which also represents a brand new type of commodity.”
Although the reporters do not hide their skepticism of blockchain pets, they also report on the potential of non-fungible tokens for more serious products: “this is an entirely new way to own something.”
In the second installment, the reporters attempt to buy and breed a pair of CryptoKitties, with many pratfalls along the way. You can listen to the whole thing here.
Mass Utility Still Far Off
The biggest takeaway is how far cryptocurrency still has to go before it can be considered a mass-usable product, much less a reliable currency. After spending over an hour on Coinbase, the pair finally succeeded in buying $100 in ether. “I feel like we’re on the cutting edge of 2009,” Garcia says.
By the time they returned to the story a week later, the currency had dropped by 30%, much to the reporters’ chagrin. “It’s brutal in the blockchain,” Smith remarks.
After successfully buying and breeding a pair of “wily-eyed” cats, the podcast ends with notes of mixed amusement or exasperation. “We have lost more than thirty percent because of the exchange rate,” Garcia concludes. “I’m betting against us getting our money back.”
Crypto Becoming a Recurring Topic
This isn’t the first time the Planet Money team has speculated on risky commodities. In previous episodes, the podcast bought a hundred barrels of oil and followed it from well to refinery to pump. They’ve also gone panning for gold, and thoroughly “researched” the benefits of brand-name vodka.
Cryptocurrencies have been an increasingly-common subject in the podcasts, reflecting the mingled fascination and curiosity of a still-hesitant public. Last year, Planet Money covered BitInstant founder Charlie Shrem’s second start as a blockchain entrepreneur, after several years in Federal prison.
Indeed, NPR themselves seem to have been early adopters. In a 2011 version of the podcast, a different pair of reporters tried to “buy a few bitcoins and buy lunch with them,” although in the days of Mt. Gox, that was easier said than done.
Thursday’s episode ended with The Indicator’s reporters losing most of their money, and only successfully selling one of their newly-bred Cryptokitties….which means they’ll likely forget about their two Gen 0 cats until long after they disappear from production.
Depending on how things turn out in the market for digital pets, the next crypto episode could be recorded from a Lambo.
That’s probably unlikely. But it would be a purrfect ending.
The author has investments in Bitcoin and Ethereum, but not CryptoKitties.