Three Fellows in the north of England are collaborating to showcase and share writing from around the world through a new short story platform for individuals and organisations. Drawing on a universal desire for a good story, underpinned by business acumen and award-winning creativity, ultimately, their aim is also inclusion, participation and better conversations.
In early 2015 serial social entrepreneur Todd Hannula, and creative agency head Ned Hoste were throwing ideas around and discussing what lit a fire under them personally and creatively. It’s a conversation many of us have had, but they struck a rich seam of empathy when they began discussing the need for storytelling that helps us better understand the world we live in.
Discussing the subject wider, both found a growing need to frame our individual and collective experiences through stories and a lack of available quality new writing. The paucity of good stories was largely the result of writers, as much as many working artists, not being paid for their endeavours and readers running the gauntlet of digital platforms shaped by an endless clamour of adverts, feeds, likes, comments and the darker forces of data harvesting.
The germ of their idea emerged as two-fold: to serve a community of talented short story writers around the globe and, in turn, an audience of curious readers who value stories with unique perspectives in a beautifully designed space free from adverts, data harvesting, and social distractions. Drawing in commuters, book clubs and travellers, the ambition quickly grew beyond simply creating a writing showcase, but came to encompass a space for those stories to be heard and performed, offering visual, audio and live material.
The third northern Fellow, author and copywriter Jacky Fitt, co-director with Ned Hoste at the Big Ideas Collective, joined Todd and Ned to help shape content and awareness building, as the international team of Editors climbed aboard.
The daCunha editorial team emerged from the artistic chaos of one of Medium’s (the US blogging platform) Slack group for writers in late 2015, a full two years before Medium itself would introduce a subscription service. The editors, with 100% control of story selection and the publishing process, are led by Veronica Montes, a San Francisco based author, and supported by editors and writers Lisa Renee (New York) and Grey Drane (California). Initially, the team wanted to prove to Medium that good short fiction was viable on the platform and readers would value and pay for it. They launched 'Made Up Words', an online magazine, in early 2016 and earned 5,000 subscribers in 90 days. This got Medium's attention; however, the team quickly realised that in order to offer talented authors a route to income and their growing ranks of readers a secure and inspiring environment, they were going to have to build it themselves.
daCunha.global was born on May 31, 2016. The stories are just the start.
Beginning with stories in text, daCunha’s Audio Originals are also now expanding with help from northern based professional voice artists combined with another important strand, the face-to-face gatherings, or Campfires. The Campfire gatherings have sparked interest at literary festivals, networking events and from businesses who understand how stories have a profound effect on connecting their staff, customers and suppliers.
Here’s Todd, on the three fundamentals of why daCunha, and why now:
We firmly believe that our future, a good future, will rely on people having more and better conversations. We publish stories that initiate and sustain meaningful conversations at home, work, and play between both friends and strangers. Offering ways to understand each other and make different connections.
In doing so we know it’s important to make the writing of stories a viable economic option for writers. Without a meaningful economic aspect, the stories we read and hear will, largely, only ever be the ones selected by those in power. We want to change that and share our replicable model with thousands of communities of writers and readers around the world.
We also believe society functions better when most people participate. This is why we are working with libraries to expand the reach of our stories to connect more people in meaningful and positive ways in an effort to tackle loneliness and isolation for a variety of communities. And libraries, with their scale and accessibility, are the perfect platform to ensure our community can be inclusive as possible.
Created and curated by humans for humans
Wearied by the ‘noise’ of digital platforms offering readers supposed ‘free’ access, the team at daCunha are intent on breaking free from the current tenets of monetizing digital content. As such, the business model is a subscription platform, designed to split revenue 50/50 between authors, or storytellers, and the operational team.
It is still early days, and while daCunha subscription levels are yet to achieve making payment to authors possible, accepted authors enjoy several benefits to help support their work. These include: an illustrated, well laid out text version of their work, a clean, free to use, professionally read, recorded and mixed audio version of their story, a public, fully SEOed author biography page with their personal links, pictures and event calendar. Also, coming soon, Author’s Arcade, which will offer writers the ability to sell their own works (books, art, and more) while they keep 100% of the proceeds.
Subscribers can access the full breadth of the growing body of text and audio works. They can take up and explore themes and create their own story ‘playlists’. Listen to high quality audio versions and get early access to collectors’ editions of hardback anthologies. Drawing on Ned’s publishing credentials and driven by the skilled editorial team, daCunha steps out of the digital world each year with the production of a hardcover print Anthology of works selected by the editors.
But, what perhaps grounds daCunha firmly in the world outside the internet are the unique Campfire with Friends events. Performed live, these may be private events in a home or as part of a business focus or festival. Expanded versions called Experiences, are enhanced with live music and food. Big or small, daCunha events start with a story and aim to start conversations between people from all walks of life.
Whether text, audio or gatherings, daCunha stories illuminate, connect and help foster meaningful conversations leading to a better understanding of our world.
Finally, and why daCunha? Here's Ned:
In the 16th century, Portuguese explorer Tristao da Cunha caught sight of a group of volcanic islands in the south Atlantic Ocean. As we all know, old-timey explorer types loved to christen their discoveries after themselves, and Mr. da Cunha was no exception. Though briefly known, during the 19th century, as the “Islands of Refreshment”, today, this almost unimaginably remote place is officially called Tristan daCunha. Population? Last we heard, 265.
We think it's fitting that we’ve named our bold venture after a tiny, faraway archipelago that appeals only to the most curious of people.