On January 17th, National Geographic's "Geo Genesis" collection dropped on Polygon
Though it sold well, normies FUDed the hell out of the project
NatGeo's Social Media platforms were flooded with nasty comments about NFTs
This is a clear sign that NFTs still have an image problem in the wider non-web3 world.
2023 is still young but we might already have the most controversial NFT project of the year—it's from the most unexpected of sources: National Geographic.
The collection and the backlash
National Geographic’s ‘Geo Genesis’ collection features 16 images from world renowned photographers, each focused on the theme of daybreak and “GM.” It was pushed hard on social media with Twitter Spaces and lengthy threads. Minted on Polygon, the NFTs sold well... but NatGeo received such a barrage of criticism, they must be wondering whether it was worth the effort.
Nat Geo’s inaugural NFT Collection “GM: Daybreak around the World” launches tomorrow, Jan. 17. Learn more and pre-register here: https://t.co/PYiXB4zfBi.— National Geographic (@NatGeo) January 16, 2023
Responses to the launch day tweet were vitriolic, including “fuck NFTs,” “NFTs are a scam," “you are vile people” and screenshots of cancelled subscriptions. Others called the sales figures “made up numbers” and suggested that Nat Geo would “file for chapter 11 bankruptcy” by the end of the year. Some claimed to have blocked the Twitter account simply for mentioning NFTs.
NFTs still have an image problem
For all the talk of mainstream adoption, this reaction shows that many people still associate crypto with scams, rugs and cynical cash-ins. Environmental damage is another negative connotation despite Ethereum's Merge and the rise of "green" blockchains. The WWF learned this the hard way last year when negative reactions forced it to cancel an NFT collection meant to raise funds for conservation.
Although many of these criticisms are now out of date, National Geographic didn't help itself. The launch was beset with problems as the minting platform, Snowcrash… crashed. Collectors complained that the KYC process was too rigorous and went against Web3 values, as did restricting minting to just one platform (contracts are locked). The Discord was also muted (apparently to prevent people from posting scam links) but this raised suspicions as well. Some would-be collectors spent hours trying to mint, only to give up. Snowcrash acknowledged the problems and even extended the length of the primary sale.
'Geo Genesis' raised a lot of cash for National Geographic and was well received by the Web3 community (before the problems hit). However, it did nothing to encourage wider adoption. The disastrous mint likely reinforced pre-held conceptions that NFTs are innately suspicious. Whether or not other mainstream media companies decide that the benefits of web3 ventures outweigh their risks remains to be seen, but they'll likely think twice before following National Geographic's example.