Chehalis man develops Chronicle newspaper rack that accepts Bitcoin

CryptoChronicle: You can now use cryptocurrency to buy an edition of The Chronicle


Thanks to the ingenuity of a Chehalis man, readers of The Chronicle can now use Bitcoin to pick up a copy of the latest edition.

The rack is currently located at the Cenex station at 153 NW State Ave. in Chehalis. After two weeks in service, 10 newspapers have been purchased from the machine, with at least half of those being bought by its maker.

The person responsible for the advance in newspaper technology is David Plotz, who manages the Lewis County Public Utility District as his day job but built the crypto Chronicle delivery mechanism on his own time.

“I was often frustrated to not have correct change to purchase a Chronicle at storefronts or gas stations and empathized with local businesses like The Chronicle losing revenue in these situations,” Plotz wrote in a description of the process he used to create the rack. “One day in 2022, I began working on an idea on how to use a payment method that did not require internet, electricity and removed fee-charging intermediaries.”

Plotz grew up in Chehalis, graduated from W.F. West High School and earned degrees in finance and accounting from Washington State University. He’s a certified public accountant and a chartered financial analyst.

Leaning on that background and expertise, he spread the word about his project in the developer community, which eventually resulted in a man named Axel Hamburch reaching out to let him know he had the necessary code to make the process work.

“I dove into bringing the equipment together with the code, the electromechanical switches and wiring to make the newspaper box,” Plotz said.

Once he saw it could work, he contacted Chronicle Publisher Chad Taylor in late 2022. 

“Chad was excited enough to deliver me two newspaper racks to my workshop for building the prototypes where I had fun for a few months working on the first prototype, and the second prototype is in the works,” Plotz recalled.

Plotz said he set three constraints for himself.

“The process had to be quick, the cost had to be low or zero and the location needed to be flexible in case there is no electricity or internet connection,” Plotz said.


How it works

The Bitcoin payment touch screen activates upon lifting the cover or pushing a button. Upon activation, the customer touches the screen and an invoice is displayed in the form of a QR code for payment. The customer pays the invoice using their own Bitcoin lightning wallet. Upon confirmation, the customer receives a secret four-digit PIN, which is entered into the screen.  With the correct PIN entered the newspaper box unlocks — just like it does when eight quarters are inserted — and the customer can remove the newspaper. The customer can take as long as they want for transacting, but the usual experience is around 30 seconds.

Questions and answers

Q: Is Bitcoin fast and inexpensive to use?

A: The Chronicle Bitcoin rack accepts Bitcoin using Bitcoin’s functionality known as “Layer 2” or “Lightning,” which allows for instant Bitcoin settlement and effectively zero cost to transact, Plotz said.

Q: Why Bitcoin? Why not use credit cards?

A: People do not need a bank account to use Bitcoin so it can be more accessible to everyone, Plotz said. Also, there are no payment processor intermediaries, so transaction fees are minimized.


In his own words:

Plotz provided the following background on how he developed the knowledge and interest to create a Chronicle newspaper rack that accepts Bitcoin:

My former finance job took me from New York to Tokyo when Bitcoin’s exchange rate in 2012 was $12. I learned as much as possible about the technology by being in Japan and being among others who developed many beneficial systems that use Bitcoin at core. The two-plus decades in investment banking gave me some unique insights as to how things could be improved, and when I left banking in 2018, I launched a Bitcoin advisory and auditing services company to improve opportunities for businesses (for example, consulting for Japan for UNHCR when the United Nations began accepting Bitcoin donations). Many businesses feel the same issues we locally face with regards to money, inflation and its impact in the world. The Securities Exchange Commission recently gave the green light for U.S. funds to issue Bitcoin Exchange Traded Funds to Blackrock, Fidelity, Invesco and VanEck, among others. What this means is Bitcoin is becoming legitimized as a store of value and important to the future of finance around the world. Larry Fink, CEO of Blackrock, in January 2023 said Bitcoin is “step one in the technological revolution in the financial markets.” I still look at opportunities with a skeptic’s eye, and similar to the proverb then-President Ronald Reagan lifted from the Soviets in the 80s, “Trust but verify.” Bitcoin also has a mantra of “Don’t trust, verify” to reinforce the idea to think for yourself.