Nautilus, under new ownership, commits to paying back writers

At the end of October, an investor group of superfans announced that they had joined together to acquire Nautilus, the nonprofit literary science magazine. The group of eight investors includes former Harvard president and United States treasury secretary Larry Summers as well as Nicholas White, the chief executive of news site the Daily Dot. The latter will be the new chief executive of the now for-profit magazine NautilusNext

Shortly after the announcement, a group of former Nautilus contributors publicized that the magazine still owed writers about $186,000. In partnership with the National Writers Union, they campaigned to be made whole as part of the acquisition.

“NautilusNext’s commitment not to take any profit out until contributors are paid back was part of the actual deal to acquire the magazine. That commitment was made long before the National Writers Union issued a press release about the acquisition on November 7th. We did it because it was the right thing to do, and the right way to set a new course for the magazine’s future.”

This week White told CJR, in a phone conversation, that NautilusNext would “commit to not taking one dollar in profit until those contributors are paid back.” The commitment, he said, “was part of the actual deal to acquire the magazine. That commitment was made long before the National Writers Union issued a press release about the acquisition on November 7th. We did it because it was the right thing to do, and the right way to set a new course for the magazine’s future.” Their relationship with writers is important, he said; Nautilus has traditionally been a home for unusual, writer-driven pieces. Here’s hoping that can continue. 

This post has been updated for clarity.

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Akintunde Ahmad is a CJR Delacorte Fellow. Follow him on Twitter @akintundeahmad.