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Community Shares

New Internationalist magazine turns to crowdfunding to secure independence

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There can be little doubt that journalism and media is under a bit of an onslaught at the moment. The desire to deliver independent, trustworthy news runs deep, but can often be at odds with pressures from owners and advertisers. To that end, 44-year-old magazine New Internationalist is turning to its readers in a “community share offer” in a bid for sustained independence.

“To handle what’s coming we need knowledge — not click bait,” the magazine says, pointing out that it needs to hit its goal of around $610,000 to put itself on secure financial footing. In the process, it is selling off shares in the company for £1 (~$1.22) each. The company does point out that you’re unlikely to see a fiscal return on your investment, however.

New Internationalist is specifically issuing community shares, an equity structure aimed especially at raising capital for charities, community benefit societies and nonprofit organizations in the U.K.

“As a social investment, the main return is the outputs of the organization where you’ve put your money. So in our case, your return is a thriving New Internationalist publishing articles with a unique international perspective, eye-opening long-form investigations and stunning videos,” the campaign states. The magazine does suggest that it may eventually start returning money to investors, but if you’re looking for a 10x return in 10 years, you may want to look elsewhere. “We will consider withdrawals — and interest — once New Internationalist has built up uncommitted reserves of £500,000. According to our projections, this should happen by 2023.”

“The internet has shot our viewing figures into the millions,” says Vanessa Baird, co-editor of the publication, “but our business model has taken quite a battering, so we have to innovate to secure our future.”

Community shares for media publications is an interesting funding model. Well-loved magazines such as New Internationalist could tap its well-heeled readers for donations-cum-investments to stay independent in the face of fierce media competition and a slowly imploding advertising market for print publications.

The crowdfunding campaign features a star-studded lineup, including journalist George Monbiot, movie star Emma Thompson, musician Jarvis Cocker and others. The magazine’s message has driven the campaign to about 28 percent of its £500,000 ($610,000) goal already, with another month or so to go.The New Internationalist’s campaign is running on U.K. crowdfunding site Crowdfunder, and more information is available in the Fact and Heart FAQ.