Civil Is Using Blockchain To Finance A New Journalism Economy That’s Ad-Free

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Written by Dana Sanchez

Hoping to pioneer a new business model, Civil Media opened a sale of its CVL token earlier this month, offering $24 million worth. The idea is to use blockchain technology to finance an old profession — journalism — that has been losing ground and advertising market share to Facebook, Google, Twitter and Amazon.

A Brooklyn-based startup, Civil is building a network of user-supported newsrooms and a marketplace for sustainable journalism. Fourteen newsrooms have launched on the Civil platform including Popula, Sludge, and Cannabis Wire.

Others plan to launch including The Blackness, a newsroom founded by Hollywood star, activist and writer Erika Alexander. She teamed up with Civil to create a newsroom that features “longform investigative journalism from marginalized communities.”

Civil wants to help news outlets raise money from readers and investors while also providing tools to monetize journalism in an ad-free environment. Readers who buy Civil’s cryptocurrency tokens, CVL, can “vote” on whether a news outlet is doing its job well, and in an ethical way, NBC reported.

Blockchain unlocks two features that have allowed Civil to build a marketplace of great journalists and great newsrooms, said Civil co-founder Matt Coolidge. One is self-governance — the ability to introduce a new incentive structure. The other is permanence.

The immutability of the blockchain ensures that “archives are permanently stored in a decentralized fashion where there’s no one single point of failure, there’s not one single actor, a concentrated group or oligarchy of very powerful folks that can make the unilateral decision to just unplug the archives,” Coolidge said during a panel discussion at SXSW 2018.

Civil has raised $5 million in capital from ConsenSys, the largest venture production studio in the blockchain ecosystem. ConsenSys was founded by Joseph Lubin, the co-founder of Ethereum, in 2014.  Its technologists and entrepreneurs are building infrastructure, apps, and practices on the Ethereum platform to enable a decentralized world.

“What we’re doing with Civil is trying to build a platform that exists for the sole purpose of promoting ethical journalism, of being a home for the independent network of individually owned and operated newsrooms,” Coolidge said.

The tokens are meant to create a shared community responsibility between all of Civil’s publishers, NBC reported. Civil has partnered with the Associated Press, the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California, and the European Journalism Centre, among others.

 

Initially, Civil entered the marketplace for local, international, policy and investigative journalism, Coolidge said during a Consensys-sponsored event, Moguldom reported:

“We see those as arguably the four beats that have been hardest hit by two decades of mass consolidation. They’re very underserved markets in this day and age when the institution of journalism is being vilified by the top levels of government as the enemy and not a critical hedge against overreach and corruption. They underpin democracy. I think we see those as critically important. If we can build our reputation initially as a marketplace serving those very in-demand markets, we think there should be a lot of people excited about us.”

Civil’s growing community supports the idea of an ad-free marketplace for more sustainable journalism, Coolidge added.

Nushin Rashidian is the co-founder of Cannabiswire. “We’re bringing some watchdog and investigative journalism about the cannabis industry to the Civil platform,” Rashidian said during a panel discussion at SXSW 2018.  “Cannabis is rich territory for serious journalism. Legalization raises urgent questions about regulation and law, technology and taxation, science and business, criminal justice and individual liberties. It stands at the intersection of a booming billion-dollar industry and promising advances in medicine, all while remaining federally illegal. That’s where Cannabis Wire comes in.”

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Civil co-founders Matt Coolidge, Lillian Ruiz and Christine Mohan at the company’s Brooklyn, NY headquarters.Photo: Civil Media