In the midst of a digital revolution where it is becoming increasingly harder for publishers to generate sustainable revenue streams, The Civil Media company has launched Civil, an ambitious business structure aiming to improve transparency and autonomy through a decentralised approach.
For the first time since the company’s successful start-up campaign in 2016, Documented and Sludge have become the first two Newsrooms to begin publishing using the marketplace. They are set to be followed shortly by ZigZag, which will premiere its first two podcasts tomorrow using the model.
Who are The Civil Media Company?
Publishers are struggling to remain viable as they navigate the transition from a print to digital-based economy. In an attempt to rectify this, Matthew Iles founded Civil two years ago to build an open marketplace for journalists that would adapt to the digital-based economy. What makes this marketplace so different to any other before it are the building blocks by which it operates. Its structure is made up of blockchains and a bespoke cryptocurrency, a system of “tokens” that will both fund the development of the platform and compensate writers and editors.
The Civil Media Company doesn’t lack funding either – it was allocated $1M USD in grants to support a “First Fleet” of more than 100 full-time, veteran journalists across approximately 15 newsrooms. This fleet is driven by newsmakers from well-respected publications including The New Yorker, LA Times, BBC, The Guardian and Foreign Policy among others.
This week, the company named Vivian Schiller, a long-time media executive who’s served as President and CEO at National Public Radio; Chief Digital Officer at NBC News, as the inaugural CEO of the Civil Foundation. She commented on the rapid rise of Civil saying; “If you had told me several months ago that I’d be joining a startup, I’d have never believed you.“
Publishing on a blockchain
What makes Civil so revolutionary is that it leverages the Ethereum blockchain and cryptoeconomics to take third-party interests out of the equation, allowing newsmakers and publishers to run their own operations, and be accountable to their communities alone.
The Ethereum blockchain plays a foundational role in Civil’s model. It enables the creation of a custom token, CVL, which is based on the ERC20 protocol. The token is a value stored in a decentralized database that’s managed by Civil’s smart contracts, which allows the Civil platform to interact with the CVL token.
Writing on Medium.com, founder Matthew Iles commented on the ambitious concept saying, “Until very recently, this concept would be pure fantasy. The advent of blockchain and cryptoeconomics have unlocked a fundamentally new operating model“.
In essence, CVL is the software that bridges Civil with the Ethereum blockchain. It’s vital to Civil’s overall model, as it unlocks two vital business features for newsmakers: self-governance and permanent archiving.
To run on Civil, a newsroom must be listed in the Civil Registry, a whitelist of community-approved newsrooms. In order to gain a listing, a prospective newsroom must take four steps including submitting a charter on a newsroom’s journalistic mission; meeting the Civil Constitution’s ethical standards; and staking CVL tokens as a way of stating the seriousness of intent.
If the parameters are met, and the community is satisfied that the prospective newsroom will be a quality addition to the Civil marketplace, the newsroom will be added to the Civil Registry.
It remains to be seen whether Civil will gain traction, but with its strong foundation of start-up grants, renowned participating publishers and the dynamism of the blockchain ecosystem, it just might be the dawn of a new publishing era.