This summer, Civil Media Company has seen the launch, or pending launch, of several new, independent newsrooms across its blockchain platform.
Take The Colorado Sun, for example, run by former Denver Post editors. It just closed out a successful Kickstarter campaign bringing in more than $160, 000 to fund its new newsroom. The outlet published its first newsletter-exclusive story recently and will launch as a full-fledged news site later this summer.
Other new outlets, like Block Club Chicago, run by ex-DNAInfo Chicago staffers and focused on local news, have also reported successful Kickstarter runs, revealing a public willing to pay for independent journalism.
The rise of these new outlets — 14 on Civil in all — comes as many newsrooms have been decimated by layoffs and consolidations, usually to boost profits rather than sustain journalism.
Matt Coolidge, a Civil cofounder-head of brand and communications, adds: “It’s not the fault of the journalists, but the ownership system they’ve been forced into. Newspapers are increasingly seen not as purveyors of a vital public good, but as a distressed asset by the hedge funds and private-equity firms increasingly purchasing them."
He notes their eye is on "streamlining operational efficiency and maximizing their own profit margins.”
Coolidge and his cofounders developed Civil to decentralize the publishing model. It is a way to incentivize individuals to “act with the greater good of the platform, not their own individual interests."
“Blockchain allows us to introduce a cooperatively owned-and-operated model where a large global community, not a hedge fund or tech firm, controls the platform,” Coolidge told Publishing Insider.
“We’re building a network that’s predicated on being home for quality journalism above all else — and which has specific rules and incentives in place to reward those who positively contribute to its growth.”
In addition to the Civil Media Company, the Civil Foundation was formed. The foundation is an independent, nonprofit organization receiving initial backing and support from the media company, which will act as a think tank and work to “uphold and advance Civil’s ethical journalism standards,” while also overseeing philanthropic grants.
NPR’s Vivian Schiller became CEO of the foundation earlier this year.
Citing a recent Reuters Institute study that surmised approximately 10% of the population is willing to pay for news, Coolidge is hopeful an incentive-based market could lead to a sustainable future for journalism, specifically through the introduction of the CVL token system. That allows users to pay or reward the work they’re most invested in.
“We want to unite these people in a network that prioritizes ethical journalism above all, and which promotes a novel new way to support newsrooms,” said Coolidge.
“It’s a grand experiment to be sure, but we think it holds tremendous potential. It can only be realized if we can connect with that critical subset of the population that see Civil as a way to promote a better way forward for a beleaguered industry.”