A team of former DNAInfo Chicago journalists will be launching a nonprofit ad-free neighborhood news website with the backing of a company that’s creating a blockchain-based journalism marketplace.
The Block Club site will use a subscription model where readers will pay to access stories on a monthly or annual basis, with some content available without a subscription.
Civil, the platform backing Block Club and hosting the website, is building software to allow all its newsrooms to accept subscription payments with cryptocurrency.
Readers will also be able to use traditional currencies to purchase subscriptions, which will be about $5 a month.
Block Club’s tentative plan is to go live in April when Civil launches its platform.
DNAInfo’s ad-based revenue model was not sustainable, but Shamus Toomey, former managing editor of DNAInfo Chicago and Block Club’s editor-in-chief, said he believes readers are willing to pay for neighborhood journalism.
After DNAInfo shuttered in November, Toomey said he and his colleagues received tons of messages from readers who said they would pay to read stories if only they had been asked.
“We’re building a model of paid subscriptions from our readers, and we do hope to go to foundations that support community journalism to seek any funding that is available,” Toomey said. “We aim to be pretty similar to DNAInfo in terms of tone and coverage…We’re not going to try to reinvent the wheel.”
Civil co-founder Matt Coolidge told the Sun-Times the company raised $5 million in capital last August – $1 million of which would go toward getting newsrooms on the company’s blockchain platform.
Civil is supporting news organizations in Los Angeles and New York. And a half-dozen more newsrooms will be announced in the coming months, Coolidge said.
DNAInfo veteran Jen Sabella is Block Club’s director of strategy and another DNAInfo alum, Stephanie Lulay, is managing editor.
The five staff reporters will be Kelly Bauer, Alisa Hauser, Lee Edwards, Mina Bloom, and Mauricio Pena. The company will also use freelancers.
Bloom, who covered Logan Square, Humboldt Park and Avondale for DNAInfo, said joining Block Club was a “no-brainer.”
“Just like DNAinfo, Block Club Chicago is fully committed to delivering fast, reliable and accurate neighborhood news. It’s a mission that truly resonates with me on both a professional and personal level,” she said in an email. “I cannot wait to get back to covering the news that matters most to Chicagoans with some of the most talented journalists this town has to offer.”
Toomey said he’s excited to work with many of his former colleagues again.
“They know their neighborhoods very well, they have followings already,” he said. “So I’m really excited about the line-up.”