Blockchain-based journalism startup raises $2.5 million, hires editor

Civil, which imagines a world of news consumers paying for their content with smart contracts, is starting to take shape.

The Financial Times newsroom in 2008. (Photo by Flickr user Andy Piper, use under a Creative Commons license)

Brooklyn-based blockchain startup Civil announced a capital raise of $2.5 million this week from ConsenSys, the East Williamsburg blockchain venture studio that recently raised a $50 million venture fund for startups working on the Ethereum platform. (ConsenSys said it would also commit $2.5 million in support services, thus the $5 million headline from CoinDesk.)

Recall, Civil envisions a world in which news consumers pay for the content they consume directly to the writers, via “smart contracts” over the blockchain. Writers would be solo practitioners or assemble themselves into newsrooms built around a specific coverage area.

“Initially the platform will focus on local, policy and investigative reporting,” according to the company. “Civil has dedicated one million dollars to fund the First Fleet, a diverse group of top-tier journalists creating their own newsrooms and publications.”


Civil hired Maria Bustillos to be editor-in-chief of the first of its newsrooms — this one called Popula, “an alternative news and culture publication.”

Other journalists of regard joined Bustillos at Popula, including Sasha Frere-Jones, previously of the New Yorker and, briefly, Genius.


Civil founder Matthew Iles has yet to respond to a request for comment but we did talk to him this summer, when he said he said he looked at the media and thought there was a reasonable chance it could go the way of Netflix or Spotify.

“In nearly every area of media, consumer taste has come back up to paying for content,” he said in August. “We’re beginning to see a correction to the mean. I think people realize that news is valuable and we’re starting to see consumer behavior shift.”

And so Iles thinks he can build the tools, the infrastructure, to bring a new media into existence. Now he’s got some capital, both financial and human, to build the tubes, trusses and girders of that idea.

Series: Brooklyn

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