Brian Loffler is a member of the New Internationalist Co-op in Adelaide, South Australia, where he’s been involved since 1981. He works mostly on expanding the supporter network in Australia for the New Internationalist’s independent journalism and fair trade campaigns.
The New Internationalist is an independent monthly not-for-profit magazine that reports on action for global justice. The New Internationalist Co-op believes in putting people before profit, in climate justice, tax justice, equality, social responsibility and human rights for all. The Co-op also supports minority groups and producers by selling their fair trade and organic products in the shop.
newint.com.au @NI_Australia Crowdfund New Internationalist’s iPad App
Small is beautiful. Simple gets things done
I’m responsible for increasing the outreach of the New Internationalist in Australia, and I’m always open for new ideas as to how that can be done. I can be reached on [email protected]
Tell us a little bit about your idea and what made you decide to take the plunge and make it happen?
Over the 30 years that I’ve been involved with the New Internationalist magazine, I’ve seen a whole generation of people whose eyes have been opened to what’s really going on behind the news media headlines, and who’ve consequently made it their goal to work for a better world – more egalitarian and sustainable.
The next generation of activists needs that resource too, but increasingly people are turning away from print publications.
So the idea was to take our excellent digital magazine – http://digital.newint.com.au – and get it into Apple’s Newsstand service for iPad and iPhone. iPads are in such widespread use in education, so it’s an essential component of our outreach program to reach future activists and decision-makers.
Please explain your business model.
We’re a not-for-profit community service organisation. We stay afloat financially primarily by selling subscriptions to our magazine, both print and digital. In the late 1970s and early 1980s we attracted seed-money for establishment – mainly from overseas aid NGOs – but we’ve been self-sufficient ever since.
Our current crowd-funding campaign is unusual. It reflects the urgent need for us to transition faster from print to the multitude of digital platforms that are available.
What are you working on right now and what are you most excited about in the next three months?
We’ve started work on the iPad and iPhone Apps for incorporation in Apple’s Newsstand service and hope to have them in place early in 2014. That’s a hugely exciting venture and will be an enormous achievement for our small team (one working director + one casual specialist) of in-house developers.
How do you make ideas happen?
Once an idea is planted and assessed for viability, we’re in the lucky position of having a small team that can rapidly bring it to fruition. There’s no inter-departmental jockeying, no seniority competition, just pure and simple implementation. That’s greatly assisted by the nature of our company. We have a completely flat salary structure and the company is cooperatively managed by the working directors plus our one external financial adviser director. Small is beautiful. Simple gets things done.
What does your typical day look like?
If I was searching for a job that had variety, I have certainly found it. My daily tasks can lurch from copywriting eNewsletters to troubleshooting the in-house customer relationship system that I wrote, to user-computer updates, to uploading updates for our fair trade shop, to minutes of company directors’ meetings, to interacting with our 18,000 active supporters, to tweeting, to planning, to helping unload a new shipment of fair trade goods from Nepal. And then someone has to make our delicious fair trade coffee from Ethiopia for morning tea…
What challenges have you faced when starting or growing a business/organisation in Australia?
In thirty years I’ve ridden huge waves of change:
- I spearheaded the development of an active direct marketing program for social change in the early 1980s, at a time when direct marketing was looked down upon by the advertising profession.
- I’ve forged ahead with each new development of available technology to make it all work. When we first started, we bought a start-of-the-art computer. It had no hard disk, just two large floppy disk drives.
- But over the past eight years I’ve had to ride ahead of two new waves:
- The end of traditional direct marketing that was print-based – referred to as “marketing’s industrial revolution”.
- The introduction of an endless array of new digital marketing opportunities, and the inevitable challenge of sifting out the useful from the purely novel.
- The rapid transition from print to digital platforms for magazine publishing.
Taking one of these transitions at a time would be a challenge. Facing them all in the same few years is the equivalent of climbing Everest.
I talk about this more on my YouTube video.
What is one idea you are willing to give away for free?
Social media is great for generating more social media; interactive email is great for generating actual results.
What people/companies/organisations do you think are doing really cool stuff in your industry at the moment?
I admire the work of Campaign Monitor for their constantly innovative approach to email communication systems. I admire the work of Start Some Good for dedicating their platform to facilitate the growth of organisations that are working for a better world, instead of just helping wealthy multinationals profit by selling more widgets.
What role do you think business can play in affecting social change?
Business will only really be serious about tackling poverty, inequality and environmental sustainability when it is completely turned on its head. For as long as mainstream business is constructed with the sole aim of making a profit for shareholders, any efforts at social change from business will be tokenism, because profit-making will always take precedence over ethical choices.
I dream of the day when not-for-profit social enterprise will be the dominant form of business on the planet. Then there will be some hope of massive social change for the better.
Name 3 websites you would recommend to our readers.
Name 3 Australians we should follow on Twitter.
Are there opportunities for people to get involved with your idea (e.g. are you looking for funding, interns, marketing help)?
We urgently need financial support for our crowd-funding campaign to help end the media monopoly that’s distorting our democracy and mis-informing public discourse on hugely important issues such as climate change.
We’re aiming to build a community of Australian idea makers helping each other. If you could have one question answered about startups, marketing, social media, accounting, monetization, product development etc. What would it be?
Which social media channels have a proven track record for generating actual social action, rather than simply generating additional social media chatter?
What’s your favourite bar/café/restaurant?
Salaries are modest in most NGOs so eating out is not frequent for me. But for the occasional celebration The Star of Greece is a fine experience looking out over Port Willunga’s gorgeous beach. And for breakfast with friends, Troppo in Sturt Street, Adelaide is funky and fine.
We thought it would be cool to crowdsource an annual prize to award to the interviewee’s choice (each person interviewed gets one vote) winner for the year’s best interview. Are you willing to kick in a prize?
Being a not-for-profit NGO means that we are limited in our ability to kick in a prize. However, we do have some fine rewards for pledgers to our Start Some Good crowd-funding campaign. It’s well worth checking the rewards donated by the likes of Gotye and Rod Quantock.
HELP AUSTRALIAN IDEAS GO VIRAL