Take 2: News Startup Civil Announces Rebooted Token Sale for February

After a failed token sale in October, ConsenSys startup Civil is launching an offering in February that incorporates lessons learned.

AccessTimeIconDec 19, 2018 at 9:15 p.m. UTC
Updated Sep 13, 2021 at 8:41 a.m. UTC
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More journalism, less techno-boosterism.

That's the central message of a new blog post from Civil co-founder Matthew Iles about the company's path forward. Civil aims to use blockchain and an ethereum-based token to breathe new life into the online news industry – though that objective faced a major setback after a failed token sale in October.

As Iles wrote:

"Civil was never about ICOs and tokens or even blockchain. We’re about community-ownership, transparency and trust. We believe journalism (and media at large) should compete on craft, but collaborate on infrastructure."

While Civil promises to put reporting first, it has not eliminated tokens from its model.

In the new announcement, Iles confirms that the CVL token will go on sale in February directly on the company's website. Unlike the first go-round, Civil will not impose a deadline or any sort of caps. The tokens will simply be up for sale until all 34 million are gone.

As we previously reported, Civil will use a new model for tokens called the "consumer token," developed by the Brooklyn Project, which, like Civil, is a spoke of ethereum venture studio ConsenSys. That model wasn't enough to make Civil's first initial coin offering (ICO) work, and Civil ended up refunding contributions to those that supported it.

According to Civil, CVL tokens can be used to take part in governance, launch a newsroom and potentially for readers to support newsrooms.

In November, CoinDesk was first to report on journalists in Civil-affiliated newsrooms complaining that the failed token sale impacted their negotiated compensation, which included partial payments in CVL tokens.

New approach

"This is driven by doing a lot of user research after the token sale and ensuring that we heard and transparently responded to major feedback wherever possible," Civil co-founder and spokesperson Matthew Coolidge told CoinDesk in an email Wednesday.

With the launch of the new token sale, Civil will also debut its Civil Registry and Civil Publisher products. The former allows CVL holders to participate in the governance of the network of news organizations. (To that end, the company also announced a new draft of the Civil Constitution today.) The Civil Publisher tool will allow journalists to index documentation for their stories or even to archive content.

On Monday, Civil newsroom and culture publication Popula announced it had archived a news article on IPFS and ethereum, a first for the Civil network and perhaps a first for any news organization.

Civil currently has 18 newsrooms committed and has redesigned its website to help make the output of those affiliates more easily accessible.

Coolidge said Civil has 12 more newsrooms signing on, with one well-known brand that it will announce soon.

Alongside crypto crowdfunding, some of the newsrooms have been going to Kickstarter for fiat crowdfunding. The Colorado Sun and Block Club Chicago both successfully completed campaigns there earlier this year, and Popula just launched its Kickstarter campaign this week.

For Civil itself, though, this remains a crypto-driven fundraising approach. The company assures its supporters that the token purchasing process will be easier this time, but it will also still include a know-your-customer check and a quiz about buyers' crypto knowledge. Those aren't going away yet.

For its part, Civil the company has refocused on bringing small and medium-sized newsrooms into its network. As Coolidge told CoinDesk:

"Our initial focus is on catering to independent journalists who want to tap into this larger community, and have a more deliberate reason to access their peers, and to get cheaper rates on services like licensing AP content or hiring custom WordPress devs."

When asked to clarify, Coolidge added that Civil is working to build a vendor network with discounts for Civil members.

"Civil's 'community-owned and operated model' could just as easily be called a 'journalism co-op,'" he said. "Hence all major decisions requiring community consensus to be ratified."

Correction: An earlier version of this story listed Feb. 20 as the date of the new token sale. No specific date in February has been established by Civil. The story has been updated.

Disclosure: This reporter supported the Popula Kickstarter with a small pledge.

Newspaper printing press image via Shutterstock


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