‘Weirdo’ publication gets new owners, publishers as it enters third year
The Tri-Cities’ self-proclaimed “local liberal rag” has new owners and publishers dedicated to keeping the scrappy two-year-old independent paper in print.
Adam Brault, owner of &yet, and Sarah Bray, &yet’s chief of strategy, bought Tumbleweird — an eclectic alternative community zine (that’s short for “magazine”) in October.
The 10-year-old Richland-based &yet is a design and software consultancy company.
The new publishers say Tumbleweird is a “passion project” they’d like to help make sustainable.
“I strongly believe that Tumbleweird can play a role in the future of our community. It’s already played a huge role in our community’s present. It’s created a blooming haven for marginalized people and folks well outside the status quo to see and believe that there are people like us here: idealists, artists, LGBTQ, liberals, socialists, feminists, urbanists, environmentalists, immigrants of all stripes, atheists, agnostics, musicians, creatives and people with ideas and perspectives that don’t fit neatly inside beige strip malls,” Brault wrote in the December issue.
The 32-page December issue features stories about an Eastern Washington therapist using Dungeons & Dragons to help, and the anatomy of a tarot deck; music, podcast, board game and book reviews; a sex advice column; and lots of artwork.
Logan Kaufman, former co-owner of Adventures Underground in Richland, launched the free monthly newspaper two years ago. He enlisted his friend Henry Oliver, who took over layout design. Ted Miller, who was an early writer, helped guide editorial content.
But the work was entirely volunteer driven, ultimately taking a toll on those involved.
“For the first year I did almost everything, except layout, then I burned out. Henry took over at that point and I did the grunt work, like delivering the paper,” Kaufman said.
Brault said Kaufman was logging 16-hour days each month and paying out of pocket for print costs. “Most community volunteer projects have a shelf life of three to 18 months. People get burned out,” he said.
In September, Sara and Brendan Quinn of Pasco joined the Tumbleweird team as editor-in-chief and managing editor, respectively. But the publication still needed help making it financially sustainable.
“When I took over, what I did right away was try to talk to people that have different points of view,” said Sara Quinn. “I want people who don’t have a platform and artists who haven’t shown their work, people doing creative things.”
Miller reached out to Brault — who acted as sponsor and advocate for the publication from the beginning — in hopes of convincing him to buy the paper.
After deliberations, she and Brault both jumped into the project. Brault is using his experience hosting popular crowdsource events like TriConf, a knowledge sharing event bringing together people doing interesting and unique things in the community, to propel the next evolution of Tumbleweird.
In November, Tumbleweird solicited online feedback from community members, readers and contributors on what Tumbleweird means for them and for the Tri-Cities. Then they allowed those same people to vote on which of those ideas best aligned with what Tumbleweird is and could be.
“There is real potential for it to be something that this community desperately needs. That potential is exciting, not only to keep it around in the form that it’s been, but also to evolve it,” Bray said.
Bray said they’ve been working to distill the feedback into a clear vision.
Their proposed tagline is, “Positively weird. Never timid.” Their proposed purpose statement is, “Tumbleweird exists to bring together a more diverse, creative and progressive community than Eastern Washington gets credit for, in order to connect, highlight and spur on the betterment of our area.”
They want to keep the edgy feel of the publication, but they hope to improve on the methods that make it possible to publish every month in a way that is financially viable.
Kaufman said he’s ecstatic about the future possibilities and the new ownership, given the community’s reception to the publication. When they launched it, he pledged to do 24 issues.
“The fact that it got the reception it did from interesting weirdos wanting more, it was so refreshing,” he said. “As it got bigger, we realized that we didn’t have the skillset to make this what it could be, but we knew it had a lot of potential and it would be the right project for someone, and I really think it’s perfect for them.”
Tumbleweird prints 3,000 issues a month, which get distributed to 78 businesses. Each e-edition gets downloaded about 1,000 times, on average.
“My next step is figuring out the people we need and their roles and responsibilities,” Bray said. “Right now, Sara (Quinn) and Brendan are doing everything. We want to figure out how we can share some of that responsibility.”
The new owners plan to streamline ad sales and launch a Patreon campaign. The crowdfunding-style platform allows fans to become financial patrons of artists and content creators.
They hope ad sales will cover overhead costs associated with running and publishing the paper, and the Patreon donations pay for contributor submissions.
Currently, it’s an all-volunteer operation.
According to its Patreon page, Tumbleweird’s financial goal is to collect $2,000 monthly to cover the cost of printing and start paying contributors. Currently, 34 patrons have pledged a total of $300.
“We’re going to take a phased approach to that and as we hit those goals, we’ll increase the number of contributions we pay for and how much we can pay,” Brault said.
They’ll also be introducing sections in the publication to provide structure to some of the content that already appears organically. There will be sections for activism, art, business, entertainment, events, life, local, national, people and projects.
“People can have a better idea what to contribute and for readers to have an idea what they’re picking up the publication for,” Bray said.
The new editor is excited about Tumbleweird’s evolution.
“I love that (Bray and Brault) went to the community to see what they want their paper to be. Honestly, working with them has been really wonderful,” Sara Quinn said.
Brault said Tumbleweird offers a unique advertising product for local businesses hoping to reach a reader base not connected with other mainstream publications. Without much sales effort, Kaufman said between four to 10 businesses advertise in the paper every month.
“There’s a lot of work to be done on that front but we know that people want to advertise in Tumbleweird,” Brault said. “There is a lot of value in what has been built with Tumbleweird.”
For more information, visit tumbleweird.org.
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