It was one year ago to the day that I read the Civil White Paper, outlining a blockchain-backed publishing platform. I was hooked by how it worked for “built-in” decentralization on the open internet – towards many of the goals of the open-source, open data movements. Today’s opening of the public token sale of CVL marks a major step in Civil’s mission to support quality, ethical journalism and local news reporting.
It came with an exciting announcement: starting on October 2nd, more participants will be able to verify their identities and purchase CVL directly on the Civil website.
Based on my Slack chats with journalists and Twttr exchanges with media observers today, I’ve taken another pass at the very-good questions: “Why blockchain for journalism, and why cryptocurrency for independent media?”
- Blockchain tech makes possible CVL tokens for decentralized governance
- CVL tokens make possible a Civil token-curated registry of newsrooms
- The Civil token-curated registry makes possible a real network for journalism (see below)
- A real network of decentralized self-publishers makes possible positive network effects
- Network effects make possible greater sustainability, generating revenue through membership and subscription plans
- Sustainability makes possible independent, quality media -greater local news, investigative, and policy journalism
As of this morning, the public can go through the process of registering and purchasing forthcoming CVL tokens on the Token Foundry website. Over 1,700 people pre-registered to acquire CVL in this public release process and be part of this project for sustainable local news. Civil has been working ahead of time to make step-by-step guidance available for acquiring CVL tokens.
I’m particularly excited that, starting Oct. 2nd, the process of acquiring ETH to buy CVL) more quickly than through existing crypto exchanges. The platform then launches on Etherem main net within seven days of token sale completion – ballpark, October.
This past weekend, Journalist John Keefe wrote up a thorough and helpful walk-through of the previous process of using a debit card and USD to register to acquire CVL tokens.
Some additions to each of the above points, pegged to same number:
- Blockchain also adds important archiving, permanence and anti-censorship features – much more to say on these fronts, as covered by Civil lead engineer Dan Kinsley and Popula’s Maria Bustillos (also in Breaker in August) and others.
- The Civil TCR maintains the journalistic and ethical standards of the Civil Constitution, which is in continual public feedback and can be amended by the Journalism Council (which can then be overturned by a supermajority of CVL token holders).
- “Real”, in my formulation, means displaying characteristics of “thicker” community equity and regular stakeholder participation, as opposed the “thinner” notion of being passive consumers on social media platforms that’s just advertised as community for ads and data targeting,
- For Civil newsrooms, some network effects would include: reaching new audiences from Civil’s homepage and other sites, content discoverability across newsrooms, and forthcoming blockchain-backed smart contracts for licensing, cross-newsroom collaborations, and member engagement in creative new ways (sometimes using the CVL cryptocurrency on Civil sites).
- Rewards programs can then underpin various non-profit, for-profit, or co-op business plans by opening up additional revenue streams through the following: smart contracts for crowdfunding journalism projects, special member events, and other channels.
- More self-published, ad-free, privacy-respecting media, especially in under-served areas and investigative journalism.
Here’s another overview of the areas in which I think Civil offers much-needed innovation for decentralized self-publishing – in mostly open-source code, as a mission-driven digital-publishing option for journalists (and with most blockchain features “below the waterline” that casual news readers might not even realize).
I. Smart contracts for journalists
- Data journalists, illustrators & graphics, editors & media creators and more can generate revenue streams for their labor & skills – delivered instantly and without a “middleperson” taking a cut when a contract is signed and executed on the blockchain.
- Potential revenue streams for newsrooms from crowdfunding projects using CVL tokens on blockchain – discovered in new ways from Civil’s platform, with unique rewards programs for membership & subscription
II. Permanent & distributed archiving
- Anti censorship proofing – via the algorithm + hash process, confirming text is same as point of publishing from a MetaMask address in the Civil publishing system (this is a useful & key innovation, I think)
- Resistance from influence of rich & powerful – especially important for Sludge’s mission of exposing hidden influence
III. Community governance process
- A real community, as I envisioned last month on Sludge – with participatory actions (regular daily check-ins, levels of involvement) that generate and support community ethical standards (from Constitution and journalism stakeholders)
IV. Unlocking micro-tipping for “a la carte” media, to help begin to replace / restore dwindling / extinct ad revenue
- It may take time to pledge to many Kickstarters / Patreons / GoFundMe’s / Substacks, but from the Civil directory of sites in the token-curated registry, clicking “support” to donate a fraction of a coin to many different projects can be made efficient – with transactions then signed securely in the browser, for example, in Metamask.
- “Support our work with as little as [x fraction of a CVL token]” will be possible on the blockchain
CVL tokens will support Sludge’s mission of relentlessly uncovering corruption in a number of ways over the next year. In addition helping ensure the journalistic standards of the network on the token-curated registry, CVL can enable new crowdfunding of reporting projects – what I envisioned last month as a kind of “two-way Kickstarter for journalism” on the Civil platform.
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.
Questions, feedback? Interested in hearing on how this post can be improved to help make clear how Civil is designed for decentralization. Email me: david at readsludge, then dot com, or on Twttr. Read more on Civil’s Blog!
Update, 8:50 am: second graf has been updated to clarify that starting Oct. 2nd, many participants will be able to purchase CVL directly on the Civil.co website. More details to come.