Magazine readers are turning into magazine owners as British magazines restructure themselves into cooperative organizations.
Born out of necessity, but proven to be a success: British independent media are selling themselves to readers. By transforming into cooperatives they are raising tons of investment capital to make a new start.
The same question is asked in many newsrooms:
Our paper version is in danger and our digital platform generates lots of visitors. How can we convert that success into revenue?
The answer may be simple:
By changing your company’s structure and handing it over to your community!
When the London magazine “Positive News” achieved a 2015 crowdfundingcampaign named “Own the media”, they handed out shares in the company as a reward. Remarkably, the majority of these new shareholders had never actually paid to read the magazine. A reader writes:
I’ve never bought anything like this before, but what you are do is SO worth it!
For English media the “Community Benefit Society” is a popular way of organizing. It is a distinct type of cooperative that requires the organization to dedicate all activities to a specific focus group. Handing out “community shares” like Positive News seems suited, especially, to engage readers of independent media as it turns the readers into the most valuable asset of the media company. This generates the kind of trust and commitment that is needed in the current media landscape and turns the offering into a win-win situation.
Now, the next challenge is to find ways to involve these thousands of new owners into the daily realities of running a media organization.
Positive News is thinking about digital shareholder meetings and other ways to test new plans with digital tools. Starting a cooperative seems a step up from crowdfunding in building more sustainable community-based organisations. Most importantly, as Positive News states: Finally, there is hope for the future of paper publishing!