What’s Next for ECM

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Electric City Magazine is close to many people’s hearts.

It has been seven months since the Resonance Centre for Social Evolution purchased Electric City Magazine from its founders David Tough and Gabe Pollock.

At that time the magazine was very much fashioned by the stance towards life the two of them held. With their deep interest and devotion to the arts, the magazine cut a first-rate figure in the local arts and media landscape. The magazine had a scrappy, edgy, and independent feel. Its approach wasn’t quite contrarian, yet between David and Gabe, the magazine most certainly knew its own mind. The mag, and in particular David, took stands in pieces that defied pigeon holing. While decidedly progressive the articles hosted in the magazine would occasionally break loyalty ranks. The duo went so far as to poke at progressive sacred cows as well as offer supportive words for then-Mayor Bennett when they felt it was deserved and on an issue by issue basis.

Whether people know it or not, the magazine was so-called ‘breaking even’. But what that meant was that while David and Gabe were holding to the principle of paying their contributors, they themselves were volunteering their time. At our entry, Gabe in particular seems to have been doing heavy lifting on the content generation side.

There was, at the time, nominal advertising sales support. And there wasn’t a business manager either. With the current designer prepared to retire his commitment, we were able to bring the design and layout inside, which enabled us to continue to produce the print edition at lower cost. On the heels of that move, we established a monthly stipend to pay Gabe for his excellent work and time to bring the thing together.

We were committed to sustaining all the great stuff the magazine was doing while adding a few new things.

 

New Stuff

We rejigged the Patreon pages and rewards. We jacked up community engagement opportunities for patrons and all community members. We hosted six All Citizens Meetings at The Mount Community Centre, wrote about, videographed, photographed and podcasted them extensively. We initiated twice-weekly, online stories, including a wonderful collection of interviews on the Future of Peterborough, a weekly e-newsletter (which readers very quickly signed up for), and began contributing content ourselves on an unpaid basis.

Despite new offerings, some excellent community gatherings, wonderful feedback from readers on the articles including indications that there we were becoming a refreshing voice of hope in our community, our new Patreon appeals had little effect; a full third of our Patreon funding comes from a single out-of-town supporter connected to the Resonance Centre. And, by attrition and for other reasons our advertising revenue winnowed.



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Gratitudinals

A huge shout out of thanks goes to those of you who remained or became patrons. A special thank you goes to those advertisers who have supported the magazine through the years. An extra thanks goes out to those advertisers who have stayed with us along the way.

 

Where the Rest of the Money Came From

Meanwhile, the funds necessary to not only subsidize the continuation of all the traditional ECM work but to add all the great new stuff was being entirely, and increasingly, funded by paid work the Resonance Centre team has elsewhere and in other domains. Over the last two months, that work needed to be the focus lest the magazine lose its main funder.

Sustaining the whole effort became especially difficult in the past several months as key staff members were confronted with health considerations and one long-time colleague set off on different but great adventure.

ECM Cover Collage Nov 2018

Sabbaticals

Yvonne Hollandy, whose portfolio includes the layout of the print magazine, social media work, posting, and the collection, layout, and distribution of ECM weekly has just taken a well-deserved month off. Gabe Pollock is also enjoying a month away from his desk.

With all these things considered we are taking a break from the print edition while we regroup and reconsider our approach.

 

Trying Again

I have been in the news business since 1992. At the height of my career thus far I presided over a 17-person newsroom at Axiom News. Axiom News was seven years on the WorldBlu List of Most Democratic Workplaces. We blazed trails to create what is now known as Generative Journalism. We were at the leading edge of covering an emerging narrative of alternative social and economic architectures. Much of what was learned about the business and society remains critically relevant to this day.

Believe it or not that organization has been in Peterborough all along. There is a no more exciting place to be as in a newsroom with three offices across the country and publishing 160 stories a week through nearly 30 different news sites with deep democracy as a held intention.

Among many of the lessons learned there was that print is not the lead element for social change in a deliberately change-focussed news organization. Print is incredibly expensive and demanding and doesn’t alone yield the social results its much less expensive and more actively distributed online counterpart delivers. The better pattern is Post First, Print Later.

In the ECM ecology, online readership and engagement is at least five times the print circulation.

In the meantime, online is not the best place to read long articles. This one is already three times longer than the ideal online read and it is not over yet. Print does though, have an important and anchoring role to play.

 

What’s Next

So, what’s next is this. For now we will go quiet on the print front. Our next print edition will be early next year provided we can find the funding. And yes, we are working on it. Your help as patron, sponsor, partner, advertiser, or benefactor is always welcome.

ECM 2021 Headlines CollageIn the meantime, Ayesha Barmania has been commissioned for some podcast work and I will endeavour to provide columns and stories online.

The municipal elections results seemed very much to have placed a new set of glasses on the ends of all our noses. It appears much is possible now that wasn’t possible before. Perhaps this will be the guiding question of a series of media pieces to come.

In the long run, leanings are to refashion the print piece only a little bit. We will likely change the schedule. It will remain host to long-form features on arts and politics in our community. We will be, to use an old term, reverse publishing. Online will be the centre of narrative activity.  The print mag will carry long-form thoughtful articles possibly arranged around important themes. We will introduce ideas and initiatives about how communities are redefining democracy around the world and we might learn from them and apply here at home.

The tone and direction of the magazine will continue its evolution towards generative social change work with an emphasis on grassroots initiatives, active citizenship, civics, and civic society.

 

A Note To Advertisers

While our print edition is tucked away, those of you have also purchased online advertising are welcome to have your ads remain online free of charge until we reach out and check in with you. We thank you for your patronage and support to date.

 

Patrons

We are aware that the product we are now delivering may or may not be what you signed up for. That being said, we do hope you will find our efforts to your satisfaction and remain an important supporter of the precarious free press.

 

Lead photo by Yvonne Hollandy.

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We can chip away at telling the stories, like this one, of Another Peterborough on our own but we could really use your financial support.

If you would like to see more stories like this please consider funding us on Patreon.

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