Yesterday The Brick House Cooperative’s initial fundraiser surpassed $75,000, and that means that in late October, Popula will be sharing a fine new home at The Brick House with eight other independent publishers. It’s a deeply thrilling moment for us at Popula, though not at all what we imagined when we launched in 2018, as part of a different cooperative effort called Civil.
That first experiment in cooperative publishing failed, but we believe this one will succeed. Why? Because at The Brick House, readers and journalists are joining together directly, with no executives, advertisers or investors who might have agendas that conflict with our job: bringing you first quality media. Journalism, art, essays, and intelligent perspectives on academia, politics, religion and culture from around the world. Great writing, comics and podcasts, a different approach to local news—and this list describes just the nine founding publications of The Brick House. In time, as we grow, we will be inviting more publishers, with all kinds of new ideas, to come in with us.
Brick House Advisory Council member Paul Ford wrote of our ambitions so perfectly in a recent email. I am inordinately proud of having helped make Popula exactly as he describes it.
I believe with all of my heart that there need to be many, many more places where new or less established writers/artists/thinkers can work with editors, find their voices, and be heard. I read Popula.com (one of The Brick House sites) faithfully and I love it because it has introduced me to lots of new writers from everywhere in the world, people who don’t see the world in the same way I do (because they’re looking at a different part of the world). And usually without a news peg. It’s what I always hoped the Web would give me: Perspectives for the sake of having interesting perspectives so you could crawl out from inside your own brain.
And! At The Brick House, Popula and our colleagues will be joining forces and sharing subscribers, revenues and expenses fairly and equitably. The cooperative will help us to grow and develop a bigger, better Popula. This was my personal dream, when I first started thinking about what Popula could be, and what it might contribute to the world of journalism, around three years ago.
Fellow Brick House founding editor Tom Scocca wrote stirringly about the need for new projects like The Brick House at The Nation this week. He remembered The Awl, “a small site dedicated to giving readers and writers the chance to see and do things they couldn’t elsewhere. But,” he added, patiently listing the boom-and-bust dot-com monetization schemes that proved the ruin of so many publications, “that freedom and generosity still had ads behind it, and the ad money was gone, and so was The Awl… Independent publications are down to their last, most direct proposition: If you want this to exist, give us the money to pay for it.”
Our initial fundraiser ends in just a few hours, and if you like our plans, we hope you’ll contribute, and join us at The Brick House.
Like Paul said:
I don’t need to tell you that the fun digital world of yore in which creative people can be paid for trying new things or telling awkward truths has been mostly demolished. But I do believe that The Brick House will be the on-ramp for a lot of people finding their voices over the next decade. The whole organization is designed for that—very buttoned up legally and structurally, so that it will be really hard for Peter Thiel to sue it out of existence. Keep your fingers crossed.
We need lots of people to find their voices. So help if you can.