A pair of entrepreneurs from New Jersey have launched a blockchain based news network called Decentralized News Network (DNN). Samit Singh, CEO, and Dondrey Taylor, CTO, were mining Ethereum for more than a year when they got the idea several months ago to create a decentralized news network. Like many Americans, they were displeased with the way the country’s media covered the U.S. presidential election.
The idea is to have a decentralized news platform that incentivizes writers to submit articles to be reviewed by fact checkers. The fact checkers will validate or reject the articles based on DNN’s editorial guidelines before publishing them. Both the writers and fact checkers will be rewarded with digital tokens.
“It’s completely free to readers,” Singh said, in conversation with CCN. “You can read for free, but you can only read it passively. The reader needs tokens to take actions like suggesting ideas be written about or to comment on a story. It is a subscription, but there’s no recurring monthly bill.”
Singh and Taylor think this will result in better reporting.
“The site has users who specialize in areas to use the platform to create articles that are neutral,” Taylor said. “We will have reviewers on the platform who will keep our articles within journalistic guidelines. Most importantly, we plan to put together an advisory board containing experienced journalists.”
“A very small amount of a token would go back to us, accumulating over time,” Taylor said. “We invest it back into the network in the form of additional token rewards for new users that come on. It becomes this self-sustaining thing where cash is flowing in and cash is flowing out, but you don’t really need to turn a profit because the business can viably exist on its own without any external money.”
Singh and Taylor were especially displeased by the way the media covered President Trump’s firing of FBI Director Jim Comey.
“We looked at how other news sites work,” Singh said. “In terms of format, we’re leaning towards dividing stories into three clean and concise sections. What’s the issue? What do we know about the issue? And, why is this issue important?”
The “what” would be the first section. The second section would deal with all the facts as covered by other reputable outlets, and the third section would be where writers would explain why the story is important to the public.
“That’s how a topic like the Comey firing could be addressed,” Singh said. “The reader gets the story in a very concise way and all the sources the writer has used for inspiration. In the third section, the writer can drill down into the issue to explain why it should be covered.”
“The cool thing is it’s written in an encyclopedic format about what’s known about the issue, attributed to certain reliable sources,” Singh said. “At the same time, the writer’s biases are clearly distinguished in the third section about why this issue is important. We’ve talked to people who are well versed in journalism and they like the format.”
“Our focus has shifted from a philosophically neutral position to just making sure that everything is referenced to a reliable published source,” Singh said. “Now that opens up a new question, a new can of worms. What if this ‘reliable source’ is misleading? What if a writer cites something from the New York Times and the New York Times eventually backtracks, saying they made a mistake? Then what?”
“We watched how each of the major U.S. news platforms covered Donald Trump,” Singh said. “It was fascinating. We’d open up CNN and there was this huge headline of how badly Trump was doing and then we’d go to another publication and they wouldn’t mention any of the bad things. It was just really interesting. We would ask ourselves, you know, ‘Do they have a certain agenda?’”
Singh and Taylor believe that an Ethereum-based platform that isn’t based on any particular entity would be more fact based than the traditional news media.
“That’s when the idea formed and it kind of took about three months to figure out how to build it,” Singh said. “We had to really start studying the workings of Ethereum’s blockchain. That’s where it all started.”
Incentivizing writers and fact checkers would not be possible without the blockchain, Singh said.
“The technology makes it possible to — I know it sounds crazy — but we’re kind of inherently deriving value from people’s’ engagement and rewarding everyone on the network for their contributions,” he said. “It’s as if you were a writer posting on Medium, a popular blog site, and getting paid for your work.”
Taylor compared DNN to Steemit, a decentralized social media platform that rewards users for delivering commentary, images, videos, and articles to the site.
“The creator of a post gets rewarded if there are likes for that post,” Taylor said. “Where we’re different, we’re strictly focused on news and our review process. On Steemit, as long as you have their tokens, you can post whatever you want. We have this whole review layer. That’s what differentiates us.”
Since DNN is a tokenized platform on the blockchain, the revenue is internal.
“It doesn’t come from external ad dollars, subscriptions or partnerships,” Taylor said, comparing DNN to traditional news media. “It comes directly from writers and reviewers engaging on the network. This is what impacts the value of the tokens that get distributed to users. Each time an action is completed and the smart contract is updated, more tokens are minted.”
“It becomes a self-sustaining entity, independent of external pressures like reader popularity or profit margins,” Singh explained. “All media organizations need lots of readers to be sustainable. But technically, for DNN, we don’t even need that as long as actions are carried out on the network, value is inherently created for the people who put in the effort for an article to be published.”
Singh said DNN is focusing on political news since it is the hottest sector in the news business. “We think it would be smart to start in a niche and then expand to other topics,” he said. “It’s not like we’re opposed to doing other types of news.”
Singh and Taylor are funding the project with Ether. They plan to launch an ICO to raise additional funds.
By mid-April, there were about 187 web sign-ups. That number has approached 500 as of the end of last week.