Join the New Internationalist co-owner community
What has prompted the Save Our Stories campaign?
The pandemic has pushed us into a precarious position. We know we’re not alone in this; there have been big job losses in journalism this year, including redundancies at BuzzFeed and Huffington Post. Some publications have shut down altogether, or had to scale back their activities. We’ve managed to keep going, but we will need a boost from our supporters to make it through.
Recent world events have shown how desperately we need media that puts integrity and facts above bigotry and sensationalism – and the millions of readers we have online and in print show us that there’s a demand for it. So that makes us more determined. We’ve got some exciting ideas for how to get back on track, and now is the time to invest in that plan.
How did Covid-19 affect New Internationalist’s business?
Of course, as a truly independent magazine publishing deeply researched articles, it has never been an easy financial ride. And New Internationalist has had mixed fortunes this past decade. But things had been looking up for the magazine. After our re-design in 2018, UK subscriptions started to increase and we felt optimistic that things were moving in the right direction.
The pandemic has affected us in different ways. When the first lockdown kicked in, sales of the magazine on the newsstand plummeted. And we lost advertising income too. But the main impact for us was not being able to have a conversation with people face-to-face. We do a lot of our marketing of subscriptions at festivals, and on university campuses, so Covid has hit New Internationalist in a different way from other publications. We haven’t been able to meet people this way for over a year, so this dip in revenue will be playing out for years to come.
New Internationalist is nearly 50. The world has changed a lot in that time – how has NI stayed relevant?
New Internationalist has been standing with social and environmental justice struggles since before I was born. When I flick through back issues, I’m always struck by what a rich legacy there is and I feel proud to work here.
I think there’s absolutely still a place for our kind of journalism today.
Our readers tell us that our combination of international analysis and first-hand accounts can’t be found anywhere else. And of course the topics we cover have not gone away – we’ve been raising the alarm on climate change since 1990. But we’ve also seen oppressive regimes fall – the end of apartheid in South Africa, for example. We see how change happens over time.
How do you see the role of New Internationalist in driving that real-world change?
We’ve learned a lot about the impact of our journalism in recent years. The results of a survey we did last year were dynamite. Our readers – told us that what they read in New Internationalist gets them on the streets, engaged in politics and speaking to others. Readers told us they have been inspired to become campaigners, adopt ethical lifestyles or rethink their views on things like LGBTQI+ rights. It’s so powerful.
You are asking people to buy ‘community shares’ in New Internationalist. How does this work?
A community share offer is basically a way for people to get together to protect or grow something they care about – whether it be bringing more affordable housing to their city, making sure their favourite whisky distillery stays in business or supporting excellent journalism.
Community shares are ‘withdrawable capital’, which you can’t sell on. Rather than profit being the primary motivating factor, it’s about the positive change that investor capital makes possible.
They have become more popular in recent years – since 2012, $213 million has been raised this way in the UK.
We’ve invited readers on board as co-owners before, in 2017. The investment of the 3,600 readers who joined us then has meant we’ve been able to make some amazing changes for the better – creating a harder-hitting, more beautiful magazine and investing in our Ethical Shop social enterprise.
Bringing more people into the co-operative has also brought a wealth of ideas. Last year we took the lead from co-owners and tried new ways to produce journalism, with more direct involvement from local communities, as well as approaches to making our work more accessible to community groups across Britain.
Why is New Internationalist choosing to raise money this way?
It’s not just about the money – though things are tough right now. We could have just done a regular fundraising campaign, but the difference with a share offer is that when you invest you become a member of our stakeholder co-operative, with a say over what we do. As we are one of the oldest workers’ co-ops in Britain, it makes sense to do it this way and stay true to our roots.
We feel quite different from the company we were in 2017 – we went from a small staff team to thousands of co-owners. Democracy has deepened via our Common Council, annual meetings and newsletter – and we feel ready to bring new members on board.
It’s worth remembering that three billionaire families control over two-thirds of UK national newspaper circulation. New Internationalist is owned by thousands of our readers – that’s our strength.
So now we’re inviting more people to join the reader-owner family.
How do you plan to invest the money?
We want plug the Covid gap and future-proof New Internationalist. I’m excited about our plans. Thanks to the last share offer, we’re in a much better position to make more of an impact with what we do and we’ve got concerete ideas of how to make that happen.
Covid-19 showed up our reliance on face-to-face marketing so we want to improve how we sell the magazine online. We also want to take better care of our customers by managing subscriptions ourselves, instead of using an external company. We’re predicting that these changes will boost subscription numbers to the amount we need to be self-sustaining.
We’ve also got big plans for our Ethical Shop. The pandemic has seen a massive increase in online shopping, as well as consumers searching for less harmful products. We want to build our customer base to help make our whole organization more sustainable.
To do all these things we need to raise £350,000 by 1 June 2021.
Alright then – how do I become a co-owner?
It’s easy – just head to saveourstories.info to invest, find out more and read our full business plan – or give us a ring on +44 20 3695 0903.
This article is from
the May-June 2021 issue
of New Internationalist.
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