Journalism as we know it is about to change. It has to. Consumer confidence in mass media companies, as of late 2016, was down to an all time low of only 32%. I watched years ago from the inside, as a Gannett employee, as the industry failed to innovate. When they did — they had already missed the curve. “All hands” meetings, where ideas to bolster subscription rates were thrown against the wall, fell flat on their face.
Mass media as we know it is onto its next iteration: the blockchain.
So it begins…
This year, Tom McGeveran and Josh Benson, former editors at Politico left their jobs to change the way things are done in media. They, along with a few strategic partners, founded Civil — a New York based firm aimed at using smart contracts and blockchain technology to completely decentralize all of the functions of a media company. That is to say:
newsrooms, stations and all of their functions (circulation, marketing, advertising, editing, etc.) will all be decentralized units
It’s a beautiful concept (in theory). You simply provide the medium for journalists to post their work and the community decides. Originality and accuracy are rewarded. Facts are checked by the community and authors who violate that trust are pushed to the bottom of the pile.
The 3 Pillars
Civil is approaching this model with 3 main components: Newsrooms, Stations and Fact-checking-as-a-service.
Newsrooms support coverage for a specific topic.
Stations allow journalists to create their own monetized community.
Fact-checking-as-a-service helps to prevent “libel, plagiarism, falsehoods, misinformation and simple errors”
How do journalists get paid?
Civil is creating it’s own token called Civil token (CVL). For those of you not familiar with Crypto just yet, this simply means they’re forming a new “digital currency” that will fund their platform. You would buy the token directly from an exchange like Coinbase or Kraken and trade your US Dollars for the token.
Editor’s note: the SEC in the U.S. has strict rules around these offerings (ICOs) so it would likely have to occur on a European exchange and wouldn’t, technically, be for sale in the U.S.
As far as payments are concerned — it appears from their whitepaper that all work will be funded by community participants. I would venture to guess that the platform would also give an initial seed round of tokens to “first movers” on their platform. Something that has become standard practice in the past few years.
Journalists can also add revenue by applying to be part of a Newsroom that will share portions of their distribution profit with the members. The newsroom would be self governed much like a normal organization but still responsible to the constituents.
Lastly, for those “techies” out there — It’s not clear from their whitepaper if the CVL token will be based off of the ever-popular Ethereum (ETH), EOS or some other crypto technology. Their byline alludes to ETH but it hasn’t been named in the whitepaper.
The technical details at this point are a bit sparse. This is not cause for concern just yet but I will be following to see how they plan on implementing CVL with a third-party (CoinFund has currently been named as their technology partner). Usually complex technologies like this require a Chief Technology Officer (CTO) to drive the effort which I’m unable to immediately find.
Civil must also figure out the complex puzzle of corruptibility with crowdfunded journalism. If a malicious actor pushed a large bounty towards a specific, pointed rhetoric this could be damaging. This concept is something I believe to be fundamental and it’s something they’ll need to solve before this concept can become viable. Civil admits in their comments that there is still much to be ironed out and this is a new digital frontier, so it’s worth being patient for more details.
Idealistically, this is a project I would love to see come to fruition. It parallels what Steemit is doing in the space but takes it a step further.
Part of this new crypto space is open discussion on topics like this. I would love to hear what you all think of this concept, its implications and the feasibility of the project.