Civil’s infrastructure, including its version of a crypto-currency, is based on Ethereum. When the platform launches in the spring, it will do an “initial coin offering” that will give its staff—including a number of journalists the company is in the process of signing up as contributors—an ownership stake. And Civil tokens will also be used to pay journalists who distribute their content through the platform.
Iles says he originally got a journalism degree and wanted to become a journalist, but then got pulled into the marketing industry. He and his wife created a digital marketing company they later sold, and he started looking for something else to do.
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“I had continued to follow the discussions around the state of journalism, and I was struck by how far off the mark everyone was as far as the next thing that was going to save journalism,” Iles says. “No one went to the root cause, which was that journalism needed a new business model. The leading digital advertising companies [Facebook and Google] were the distribution point, and they were just continuing the spiral journalism was going down.” As he learned more about Bitcoin, Iles says he became convinced that it provided the opportunity to reinvent journalism for the Internet era, and to wean the industry off what he believed was a toxic reliance on advertising, onto a crowdfunded model.
“I thought we’ve wrapped the world in beams of light with the Internet, and that structure should be a boon to journalism, and free and independent journalism for that matter,” says Iles. “I thought we needed to think more radically, that the existing business model couldn’t just be tweaked back into the service of journalism.”
Civil has raised a total of $5 million from a fund called Consensus Systems that specializes in crypto-currency investments, including a startup called Ujo that is focused on bringing blockchain to the music business.
Maria Bustillos, a writer whose work has appeared in The New Yorker and The New York Times, is one of those who has signed on to be part of the platform, where she will be running a Civil-based digital magazine called Popula. Among the writers she has lined up are Sasha Frere-Jones, a former writer for The New Yorker.
What is Bitcoin mining?
Bitcoin mining refers to the process through which new Bitcoins are created and given to computers helping to maintain the network. The computers involved in Bitcoin mining are in a sort of computational race to process new transactions coming onto the network. The winner — generally the person with the fastest computers — gets a chunk of new Bitcoins, 12.5 of them right now. (The reward is halved every four years.)
There is generally a new winner about every 10 minutes, and there will be until there are 21 million Bitcoins in the world. At that point, no new Bitcoins will be created. This cap is expected to be reached in 2140. So far, about 16 million Bitcoin have been distributed.
Every Bitcoin in existence was created through this method and initially given to a computer helping to maintain the records. Anyone can set his or her computer to mine Bitcoin, but these days only people with specialized hardware manage to win the race.