The U.K.-based New Internationalist Publishing, which has been an employee-owned cooperative for decades, earlier this month launched a crowdfunding campaign that allows contributors to be brought on as partial owners in the business. The endeavor has, to date, raised more than $446,000 from more than 1,600 investors. Among those who have contributed to the campaign are a few bold-faced names, such as actress Emma Thompson, novelist A.L. Kennedy, political columnist George Monbiot, and musician Jarvis Cocker.
Investors are asked to pay a minimum of $60 to purchase “community shares” in the company, which publishes fiction with social justice themes, nonfiction books on current affairs and a magazine about social and environmental issues. The 35-day crowdfunding campaign, which has a goal of $610,000, is called “Buy Into a Better Story;" it began on March 1 and ends on April 6.
“These shares are different from ordinary shares,” sales and marketing manager Dan Raymond-Barker explained, “They can’t be transferred or sold. Investors have one vote, no matter how much they invest and, as co-owners, become stewards of New Internationalist’s mission into the future.”
According to Raymond-Barker, the celebrity contributors were informed early on about the campaign and asked to participate "in whatever way they felt comfortable." These stars were also contacted because each has a relationship with the publisher. Thompson subscribes to the magazine; Monbiot has written columns for it; and Kennedy and Cocker have supported the house. Cocker, Raymond-Barker noted, "has even given us shout-outs during [performances]."
Investors will have voting rights over the charter governing the press’ editorial policy, and will also be invited to join New Internationalist’s new advisory board. The company projects that at a future date it will be able to pay interest and even, Raymond-Barker said, “consider repayment of capital.”
New Internationalist, which currently publishes about 20 titles each year, is confident it will hit its $610,000 goal and, with the money, hopes to, among other things, launch new imprints.
Founded in 1973 as a magazine that reported on global issues, New Internationalist expanded into publishing books in 1982. Now it also operates a mail-order division selling its books and magazines. Headquartered in Oxford, the company also has a Canadian office and distribution in the U.S. through Consortium.
“We've been a workers' co-op for many years, so co-operative principles are in our DNA,” Raymond-Barker said, “It feels like a natural progression to go one step further and be co-owned by our readers and supporters. Having a multi-stakeholder co-op with ourselves as worker-members and ordinary people all over the world as investor-members seems like the best way to develop and thrive into the future.”