Civil announced this past Friday that its public CVL token sale is now open for registration on Token Foundry, and will commence on September 18th, 2018.
On July 18th, the Civil Foundation also announced five of the 15 inaugural members of a journalism advisory Council, experts who will advise on the continued development of the Civil Constitution and the platform’s journalistic standards.
Sludge is excited to be part of the CVL token ecosystem, giving us the crucial editorial independence and research time to focus on money in politics reporting. Sludge is ad-free and without-paywall, so the majority of our operating revenue will come from donations from Sludge members. To date, reader donations are conducted in regular dollars – and in the future, partly through CVL tokens.
As background, the traditional ad-supported revenue model of local & policy journalism is widely agreed to be in severe decline – see a Feb. 8, 2018 study by the Tow Center of Journalism: “The decades-long decline in traditional and digital ad revenue is forcing publishers to shift their business models.”
Among media industry analysts and news publishers, the need for new membership- and subscription-based business models and à-la-carte micro-donations to independent publishers is widely recognized. CVL tokens provide this open protocol in a community-driven, token-holder-accountable network – all on top of open-source web platform, building new & user-friendly technology that integrates with the Ethereum blockchain.
Here are some of the reasons why readers of Sludge’s money-in-politics coverage might be interested in registering to acquire, and later in circulating, CVL tokens on the network:
- Civil community governance – CVL tokens power the self-governance of publishers on the Civil network. Token-holders participate in votes on newsroom applications and challenges in the token-curated registry of publishers listed on the Civil network – see below for more on how this can work to build real community.
- Crowdfunding reporting projects – this is one of the areas of the open Civil protocol about which I’m most excited – the ability for distributed networks of CVL token holders to band together and support reporting work. Blockchain and CVL unlocks the potential for what I’ve been describing informally as a “two-way Kickstarter” for journalism:
- Newsrooms such as Sludge can put out bounties for reporting projects we seek to undertake– say, around dark money in the midterm elections – and CVL token holders can pledge a small amount of CVL towards reaching the goal.
- CVL token holders can also band together as decentralized supporters of journalism project proposals, and newsrooms such as Sludge can then bid on the contract to complete them – or contribute to them, with data analysis or power mapping – in the forthcoming Civil marketplace.
- Upon project completion, the media product or news report is delivered to its supporters according to the smart contract’s terms (which will often mean it’s published for public consumption on the open internet), and CVL tokens will transfer accordingly to signatories on the contract (primarily writers and reporters, as well as sometimes story editors, illustrators, fact-checkers, web designers, systems administrators, and others). It’s a view of a marketplace for supporting policy and local journalism that’s never existed before, and while projects on the Civil network will gladly accept donations in traditional fiat currency (dollars, Euros, etc.), the CVL token offers new micro-donations abilities and in some cases special rewards programs for donating in CVL.
- “Micro-tipping” on Sludge articles – Coming in months ahead, Sludge readers will be able to tip a CVL token (or a fraction of a CVL token) to an article’s writer, by pressing a button on article pages (and going through a brief process with your secure account through a free browser plugin, MetaMask). Because a reader knows the donation goes directly to Sludge, with no middle-person, they might “chip in some CVL to show your appreciation for this article.”
In all these ways, the open protocol of the CVL token incentivizes quality media, promoting the principles of diversity as outlined in the Civil Constitution and enforcing journalistic standards on the network. One of the most meaningful ways that I see the CVL token operating is as a real ownership stake in the Civil network. Commercial platforms such as Facebook often invoke a notion of “community,” but it’s a very thin concept in practice, because users usually have no direct mechanism for affecting the tech platform’s policies or a Group’s governance. A Facebook Group is only a community as long as the administrator keeps it active in that form, and as long as it continues time-spent-on-platform for Facebook’s business goals.
The CVL token-curated registry makes Civil’s publishing platform a “thicker” and more real sense of community where token holders have real equity and different levels of financial stakes in the standard of the network, as governed by the Civil Constitution. I believe it stands to be one of the first times that ownership of a new-media publishing platform has been so transparently and efficiently democratized.
More practically, in the course of a daily workday, I get a series of notification emails from professional projects – some crowdfunding efforts I’ve backed, some newsletters from industry leaders, some requests to sign-on to letters about transparency and freedom of information. If and when notifications from the Civil platform governance come through, I’m sure to be really interested in opening them, seeing the governance actions, and reviewing the analytics on the platform.
Building those participatory mechanisms and habits of engagement will generate the community equity I mentioned earlier as being more binding and inclusive than just being users on a platform with ad-targeting data-driven revenue. I don’t get regular emails from Facebook or Twitter asking me for direct and meaningful input on the hate speech policies of their platforms, but with Civil’s clearly-documented community self-governance and the experts on the Civil Council, the investment of my time and attention in governance actions can have a direct and tangible effect on the Civil platform’s operations and growth. These repeated, consequential governance touches will build and grow my connection with other publishers on the Civil network – so different from getting an email about a privately-held platform “changing its policies” unilaterally.
In fact, the first Sludge collaborations on the network have already been published live, with two Civil newsrooms- following up on Sludge’s investigation into ICE contractors: Block Club Chicago, July 10th, on more than 20 ICE contractors in Illinois (five in Chicago); and Documented NY, July 13th, which used a spreadsheet of data from Sludge’s ICE article to identify another contractor in immigrant transport. Sludge published a follow-up story on July 13th, on so-called sanctuary jurisdictions which continued ICE contracting. Additional Sludge collaborations are planned with the Civil First Fleet sites Cannabis Wire, Popula, and soon the Colorado Sun – we can’t wait for these to be published, read, shared, commented on, and built on with additional reporting.
Now, you can participate directly on the Civil network and contribute your time and attention to its mission to produce ethical journalism, by registering to purchase CVL tokens on Token Foundry. To register, users will first be required to take a quiz about responsible purchasing – visit Civil’s help guides to learn more about that as background. We hope you’ll register to purchase CVL, to support Sludge’s independent focus on money in politics, giving us the sustainability to dig deeper, report out stories, and connect the financial dots, all in the public interest. Email us with questions and feedback, we’d be happy to chat in more detail about how CVL is an integral part of our mission of producing independent journalism: david at readsludge.com, or on Twitter at @ppolitics.