Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Briarpatch fundraising campaign looks to Cuban agriculture for inspiration

Briarpatch magazine is taking a leaf from the home-grown development of Cuban agriculture following the collapse of its patron, the Soviet Union, and developing a "deeper roots" campaign to build sustainable funding. 
In an open letter to readers, editor Dave Oswald Mitchell says the relatively small circulation leftish magazine is looking at a funding shortfall of $30,000 in 2010/11, the result, in part, of being denied Canada Magazine Fund funding for two years and with uncertainty about future funding under the Canada Periodical Fund. 
Oswald's letter asks for supporters to take part in a "media funding revolution" that depends more on reader rather than government support. 
Like Cuba before the Special Period, Briarpatch has become overly reliant on unsustainable infusions of imported energy (not Soviet oil in our case, but, rather, government grants). Cuba addressed its crisis by embracing grassroots, organic, urban agriculture. (Visit powerofcommunity.org to learn more.)...
Our plan is ambitious but achievable. And we want it to serve as a model of the grassroots media of the future: organically funded, intellectually nutritious, aesthetically delicious and all-’round good for a growing body politic.
Mitchell says that the magazine now has more than 150 readers who make modest monthly donations  (averaging $20 a month) and Briarpatch intends to double this with the sustaining subscription campaign. 
Of course Briarpatch is not alone in increasingly turning to readers for support in addition to buying single copies and subscriptions. Many smaller, specialized arts, literary and cultural titles rely on that extra stream of revenue, particularly since they have not been able to make up the difference with advertising. Their diffuse and particular audiences  don't tend to be very alluring for national advertisers. And it's exacerbated by the recent decision to restrict government funding to magazines with less than 5,000 per year paid circulation.  

What's unusual in this Briarpatch campaign is the analogy to the "food security movement" and community-supported agriculture.

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