Nieman Foundation at Harvard
Why “Sorry, I don’t know” is sometimes the best answer: The Washington Post’s technology chief on its first AI chatbot
ABOUT                    SUBSCRIBE
June 21, 2017, 12:14 p.m.
LINK:  ➚   |   Posted by: Joseph Lichterman   |   June 21, 2017

It’s no secret, of course, that many news organizations are struggling to find sustainable business models, finance ambitious reporting, and build trust with audience. And while many startups over the years have attempted to deal with these issues, a new platform said Wednesday it was looking to address these challenges with a new type of technology: blockchain.

Here’s how the startup, Civil (not to be confused with commenting platform Civil), explained themselves in a Medium post:

We propose a solution called Civil, an Ethereum-based decentralized platform that can be used to create “newsrooms” and “stations” — blockchain-based marketplaces where citizens and journalists form communities around a shared purpose and set of standards, financially support factual reporting and investigative work, and substantially limit misinformation through effective collaborative-editing methods. The net result is a self-sustaining global marketplace for journalism that is free from ads, fake news, and outside influence.


Taking a step back, blockchain is the technology that underpins digital currencies such as bitcoin. Essentially, blockchain is an uneditable public record that lists when and how files are accessed or transferred.

Civil’s goal is to raise money and use blockchain to support an infrastructure that allows reporters to publish accurate reporting while also allowing readers to support that journalism. Civil was founded by marketing entrepreneur Matthew Iles. Stephanie Soussloff leads research and development and Lillian Ruiz runs brand and community.

Civil is also working with journalists Tom McGeveran, Josh Benson and Katherine Lehr, the trio that launched Politico’s state coverage and recently left the company. (Before that, they’d all worked at the late Capital New York, which McGeveran and Benson cofounded.) “They’re currently working together on a new media endeavor,” according to the Medium post. “They are responsible for helping to define Civil’s ‘by journalists, for journalists’ brand voice and recruiting reputable reporters to join our ranks.”

The company is breaking its focus into three distinct marketplaces: newsrooms, stations, and “fact-checking-as-a-service” (FaaS?).

The newsrooms will enable users to combine their funds to pay for coverage of topics that interest them. “The more citizens, the more funding, the more journalists will be drawn to cover it,” Civil explains in its post. “In this way, Newsrooms efficiently enable coverage of niche and local topics while scaling up to serve nationally and globally popular topics as well.”

While newsrooms are reader-driven, the stations are publisher-focused. Publishers will be able to create their own stations to cover topics they want to report on. They then set their prices and determine what the journalistic output looks like. In order to start a station, journalists must first be active members of at least one newsroom.

“We imagine the most successful journalists on Civil will stand out for their larger-than-average Station business,” the company said in its post. “Journalists may view Newsrooms as highly competitive, somewhat uncertain financial opportunities, but terrific outlets for attracting new supporters to their Station. Indeed, Newsroom activity should help fuel Station growth.”

Civil also dictates that stations and newsrooms must contribute a portion of their budgets to fund factchecking operations. Civil envisions journalists and readers working together to factcheck and ensure the accuracy of stories.

All of these will be funded by its cryptocurrency, CVL Tokens:

Because Civil is predominantly a two-sided marketplace with recurring fees for access and participation, the demand on CVL tokens is likely to compound as the network grows because even early members will need to continue ‘re-upping’ their holdings. Meanwhile, journalists (especially full-timers) will most likely look to sell their CVL tokens in exchange for fiat in order to fund their livelihoods. Therefore, we expect the typical CVL token to experience high velocity throughout the system. We will not employ an inflationary aspect to the currency, but instead distribute a fixed amount over time — some at our upcoming token launch later this year, the rest at a later date. Even as the price of CVL tokens fluctuates, we expect Newsrooms and Stations to dynamically adjust their pricing to optimize their member acquisition and retention goals.

Civil plans to launch the tokens “in the next few months.” Before it introduces the CVL tokens, it wants to sign up 10,000 potential users through its email list and public Slack group, attract 100 journalists, which its calling its First Fleet, and finish a usable prototype.

Civil’s full post is available here.

Show tags
Join the 60,000 who get the freshest future-of-journalism news in our daily email.
Why “Sorry, I don’t know” is sometimes the best answer: The Washington Post’s technology chief on its first AI chatbot
“For Google, that might be failure mode…but for us, that is success,” says the Post’s Vineet Khosla
Browser cookies, as unkillable as cockroaches, won’t be leaving Google Chrome after all
Google — which planned to block third-party cookies in 2022, then 2023, then 2024, then 2025 — now says it won’t block them after all. A big win for adtech, but what about publishers?
Would you pay to be able to quit TikTok and Instagram? You’d be surprised how many would
“The relationship he has uncovered is more like the co-dependence seen in a destructive relationship, or the way we relate to addictive products such as tobacco that we know are doing us harm.”