Decentralization—keeping important information verifiable, and permanently stored across a whole lot of independently-controlled computers—is central to our work for the future of journalism at Popula, which runs on the blockchain-based Civil publishing platform. The Civil token (CVL) will allow all of us—all our writers and readers—to participate fully in protecting the continued integrity of our journalism. Anyone holding CVL tokens can take part in defending, or challenging, specific stories or newsrooms through a blockchain-based voting process. And there is a lot more to this cryptoeconomy coming.
That all sounds jargony, I know, but I promise you it is going to be a lot of fun—and it’s starting in just six weeks’ time. The CVL consumer token and the cryptoeconomy it supports will come to life through a sale at Token Foundry, which will begin on September 18th.
I love Popula with my heart’s blood, but I care every bit as much about the Civil platform. Popula is just one of many publications on the Civil network, all working toward the same goal: strengthening and protecting press freedoms and the quality of our media. So far they include Sludge, Cannabis Wire, ZigZag, Block Club Chicago, FAQ NYC, The Colorado Sun, Documented, Hmm Daily, The Small Bow, The River, Splice and Global Ground, with more on the way.
CVL tokens aren’t a cryptocurrency like Bitcoin; they’re a next-generation blockchain innovation called a “consumer token.” The main difference is that consumer tokens like CVL are meant to power a specific business framework, rather than serve as an “all-purpose” alternative to money, as a pure cryptocurrency like Bitcoin does.
For Popula, the coming of CVL tokens means that long-planned experiments will soon be underway on our site. We’ll be archiving permanent, incorruptible text versions of our work onto the Ethereum blockchain, for example, a possibility I’ve been thinking about since I first learned about Bitcoin back in 2011 or 2012. I will probably faint when I first get to try it.
Excitingly, too, the Civil platform supports microtipping in an elegant and simple-to-use way. It will be possible to give quite small amounts, not only to writers whose work you like, but eventually, to anyone in the system—for example, to a commenter whose ideas you find valuable.
If you are a writer: Imagine your most popular pieces, the ones that are still being studied in classes or mentioned in books, able to gather compensation from readers many years past the original date of publication. It’s my conviction that this innovation will eventually lead to an all-new payment model for our profession. As a reader, I can’t wait to get started making direct contributions to the welfare and longevity of the writing, and writers, I really love.
Please note: you’ll always be able to read a lot of Popula for free every month, and you’ll still be able to subscribe and buy merch, etc., using dollars. But if you want to engage with us on a deeper level—if you want to write comments on the site, support writers you like, receive support for your own comments and contributions, and participate in voting on the wider Civil platform, you can do these things by purchasing some Civil tokens—in other words, by becoming an active participant in creating and protecting good journalism with us.
Defending the integrity of world journalism. Because the system is decentralized, Civil publications like Popula will not be vulnerable to any random billionaire who happens to take a dislike to us, as was the unfortunate fate in recent years of Gawker, DNAinfo and Gothamist. Instead, our work will be distributed across the massively powerful Ethereum network, and thus beyond the reach of any one individual or entity. Civil’s larger intention is that eventually, even in countries where the Internet is controlled, subscribers will be able to access our journalism through this network. Alterations to our archive can be made only through addenda, never through erasure. Attempts at censorship or deletion will be an unwinnable game of whack-a-mole.
Helping to create a journalism economy in which advertisers, corporate interests, venture capitalists and billionaires who are big jerks can have no influence. For years publishers have struggled to come up with a business model which frees them from the compromises they were forced to make with advertisers, platform companies and corporate overlords in the chaotic period of the internet’s ascendancy. Civil’s decentralized marketplace provides a framework for that freedom, permitting publishers and journalists to connect more directly with the reading public and with one another in a number of novel ways.
Eventually, we believe there will be enough of us publishing, writing and reading on the Civil platform that journalism becomes a thriving economy in itself, totally mainstream and completely independent of outside commercial interests. Conceivably, publications that are not on the people-powered Civil platform will face a credibility barrier when compared with those that have been crowd-vetted and approved by a large, committed community of skeptical CVL holders.
I am blathering on at such great length because we would love for you to be part of this effort. We invite you to visit the token sale page and read a bit about how it works. The process is a little bit involved, let me say in advance; some barriers have been put in place to limit the sale to those genuinely interested in participating in the Civil project, and to bar the door to crypto speculators: If you’d like to participate in the sale, you’ll need to register at Token Foundry, for example, and pass a brief quiz. We’re here to help you with the tricky bits, and will be posting detailed instructions over the coming weeks.
Our Civil colleagues at Stableg’s ZigZag podcast, Manoush Zamorodi and Jen Poyant, have done a fantastic job of explaining the specifics of the sale in a wonderfully fun way. We look forward to embarking on this adventure together with them, and with you.
Thank you for reading and thinking about this. Please contact us at email@example.com if you’d like to know more.