A start-up called Civil Media has an ambitious plan to save journalism using blockchain technology and cryptoeconomics.
After assembling 13 start-up newsrooms to kick things off, Civil announced last week it will launch its cryptocurrency on Aug. 13, followed by its blockchain-based publishing protocol about a week later.
The company used a lot of buzzwords in its announcement, like calling itself a "protocol" for journalism and saying it valued "decentralization."
But between the buzzwords, what is the company actually trying to do?
We talked to the company and think we figured it out.
The problem with journalism, according to Civil, is that reporters are compromised by working for companies that value returns to shareholders over the relentless pursuit of truth. Ad-based business models drive reporters to generate shallow content to generate page views, while threats from advertisers or wealthy people threatening lawsuits can cause publishers to alter or remove controversial stories.
Civil believes that one way to restore alignment between reporters and readers is to let readers buy the right to "vote" on whether a newsroom represents fair, quality journalism or not. The only way newsrooms can be challenged is if a majority of involved readers agree.
The currency used in this process: Civil's cryptocurrency, CVL, which will be based on the Ethereum blockchain.
"The single most significant aspect of why we are applying blockchain and the cryptoeconomic model to what we are trying to do is because we think it has the potential trying to flip the system on its head and create an environment in which journalists can truly be beholden to their readers above all else, not to a company with shareholders and ... a fiduciary responsibility to maximize profits,” co-founder Matt Coolidge said.