Are you free to say and write anything you want? Right now at Popula, the answer continues to be Yes. Anything we think is worth your time, or fun or interesting to read or think about, we can publish. And a key protection of that freedom is that Popula has never taken money from any investors or advertisers, who might use it as leverage to assert control over what we write—and we mean to keep it that way.
That’s why Popula is a founding member of The Brick House, a new publishing cooperative currently raising funds on Kickstarter for an October launch. Along with veteran journalists and artists from New York to Lagos to Austin to Taipei, we’re experimenting with sharing our subscribers, revenues and expenses to create a kaleidoscopic new reading experience that includes comics, politics, philology, activism, criticism, essays, spirituality, humor and more.
Ben Smith at the New York Times wrote about The Brick House, I wrote about it at the Columbia Journalism Review, and Daniel Kuhn at Coindesk talked about it with us as well, with a lot more interviews to come. There is a lot of interest in this project! We’ve been contacted by many journalists wishing to join us, as well. If fundraising is successful, we’ll be adding more outlets soon.
Under the hood, the Brick House has a novel business structure whereby the company’s equity is not for sale, ever. Instead, each member organization owns one share, which costs one dollar, and all anybody can do with that voting share is sell it back to the company for one dollar. An operating agreement governs the sharing of revenues and expenses, and the board of directors is composed of cooperative members making sure our intentions are carried out.
We thought about how to do this for about forever, because the under-the-hood stuff is so important (all praise and gratitude to Trevor Alixopulos, who did much of the early research and drafting, and to George Carr, our genius pro bono lawyer and valued friend). What the cooperative’s underlying structure means is that we’ve made it very difficult for outside entities to buy or otherwise seize control of our company. That’s why it’s called The Brick House: it’s designed to remain safe against any wolves who may turn up with stout lungs and bad intentions.
So it’s basically nine independent publishers, on our own, building a readership for truly independent work. The Brick House means the best work we can create, with no strings attached: journalism that doesn’t rely on getting traffic for advertisers, or money for executives, or on anything at all except satisfying our readers. This is an insanely cool thing we are making, and we hope you will support it. And even just think about it a lot, and what all these things mean for the quality and reliability of information you can access.
We’ll continue with the wildly omnivorous humanistic editorial approach you know and love here at Popula. But please note, since our original seed funding ran out a little over a year ago, this publication has operated on the slenderest of shoestrings. For Popula to continue, we need to attract enough subscribers to keep paying writers and keep the lights on. So please back The Brick House as much as you are able, and send friends to support us if you can.
p.s. If you’re a current Popula subscriber—firstly ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥, and thank you—if our fundraising succeeds, we will be automatically transferring your subscription over to the new site in late October. Please stay tuned for details on that. And thank you! Thank you, thank you.