Positive News’ successfully crowdfunded co-ownership

One of the most established publications in the world of constructive journalism is now in the hands of co-owners. The £263,000 investment raised by the “community share offer,” is enabling Positive News to roll out a new business model. Acting Editor Danielle Batist tells us more.

by WAN-IFRA Staff | February 4, 2016

Positive News received investments from 1,525 people from 33 countries, ranging from 18 to 89 years old, during a 30-day #OwnTheMedia campaign in July 2015. The all-or-nothing fundraise relied on a minimum of £200,000 to meet the budget of the new business plan.

Batist was pleased to see a large number of crowdfunders investing in community shares of relatively low amounts; £172 on average with a £50,- minimum. Only a few shared big sums of up to £20,000.

Regardless of the amount invested, each co-owner has an equal vote in the publication’s activities, such as electing the directors, or the division of profits once Positive News becomes financially sustainable, which should be within the next three years.

Crowdfunding for journalism projects is on the rise according to a recent report from the Pew Research Center. At a time when publications are looking for new funding models, little victories like these need acknowledgement.

How did Positive News trigger their online following?
The publication’s core fanbase counted 3,500 members, gathered during the 22-years the publication was distributed as a print newspaper, but most of whom only shared physical, and no email addresses. For the crowdfund to succeed, Positive News’ online audience was crucial.

Even though their social media accounts did not benefit from dedicated marketing staff or budget, they gained more than 220,000 likes on Facebook and almost 19,000 Twitter followers. “These people showed interest, and we never actually asked them if they would be willing to pay for our journalism,” Batist said.

The term “positive news” is often frowned upon by journalists. “Of course, journalists -cynical as they are- immediately ring the alarm bells when they hear about positive news,” Batist told the World Editors Forum.

But the publication describes its approach as rigorous journalism that focuses on solutions, featuring stories on progress and possibilities, such as an exploration of how democracy could become more effective in the digital age, or environmental stories about supermarkets selling misshapen fruits and vegetables.

Readers don’t have a problem with the term, according to Batist. On the contrary, she explains that the publication has benefited a lot over the years of such an organic, clean wording that is easily found on the Internet. “Millions of people are looking for positive news online, it has generated an enormous amount of traffic,” she said.

“There is a growing demand for intelligent coverage of positive developments, and an opportunity for it in the shifting media landscape,” Seán Dagan Wood, Positive News Editor-in-chief.

One of the new co-owners, Louise Ann Knight, said she made the investment because it enables her to offer ideas as to how news can be delivered to people – in a way that empowers rather than undermines them. “The publication offers a much broader view of what is happening in the world. Most media marginalises a lot of news and presents what little they do share, in a negative light,” she told the World Editors Forum.

Positive News magazine relaunches today Thursday 4 February, 6.30pm at The Proud Archivist, Haggerston, London. 
The first big step in the new strategy is to relaunch the print product, as a well-designed, 84 page, quarterly magazine. “We wanted to move to a format in print where the quality of the design matches that of the content,” said Dagan Wood in a press release.

The higher perceived value allows increasing the cover price. The magazine will be subscription-based, and sold in independent shops. The website also got a fresh, new look, with further developments in progress to increase reader engagement online. Additional revenue should come from organising events, and branded partnerships.

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