No, I will not be attending Sounds True’s 25th Anniversary Party.

Via on Jun 13, 2010

twitter.com/elephantjournal: No, I would not like 2go2 ur biz’s anniversary party, even if I miss out on small talk w wannavips + free munchies.

It’s a funny thing about community—you have to walk your talk. Smiles have to be backed up by kindness. You have to support one another.

For years we reviewed Sounds True titles—after all, they were mostly right up our alley, despite a few rather new agey titles, 99% of the content was quality stuff. I went way back with the founder, Tami Simon—even happened to intro her to the man who would become her teacher, Dr. Reggie Ray. In my capacity as a sangha member and budding Buddhist businessperson, I’d figured his ability to communicate esoteric Buddhist teachings in an accessible, immediate, experiential manner would make him a breakout recording star.

But Sounds True never supported elephant—they placed exactly one ad, a deep-dish-discounted ad that was entirely thanks to one of Tami’s colleagues, and won her grudging approval. And so though we were “friends,” colleagues and continued to review their work, and though they were like elephant located in Boulder, and our demographics were joined at the hip…well let’s just say the love never did flow both ways.

To be fair, it’s like that with many businesses—like Whole Foods, or Method or Seventh Generation or Patagonia or Gaiam—leading business in your demographic pay PR hounds to beg us for reviews and press, but rarely if ever support the media they love to use so well.

So, over the years, as our love for Sounds True died a slow sad death, and we stopped reviewing their titles (never as a part of a formal decision, the pipes of love just stopped flowing), the relationship withered completely, and died.

So, no, sorry I’ll pass on your party. I’m sure I missed hobknobbing with lots of spiritual VIPs and yummy fruity desserts. But, I do send congrats. Keep it up.

[galleria]

About Waylon Lewis

Waylon Lewis, founder of elephant magazine, now elephantjournal.com & host of Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis, is a 1st generation American Buddhist “Dharma Brat." Voted #1 in U.S. on twitter for #green two years running, Changemaker & Eco Ambassador by Treehugger, Green Hero by Discovery’s Planet Green, Best (!) Shameless Self-Promoter at Westword's Web Awards, Prominent Buddhist by Shambhala Sun, & 100 Most Influential People in Health & Fitness 2011 by "Greatist", Waylon is a mediocre climber, lazy yogi, 365-day bicycle commuter & best friend to Redford (his rescue hound). His aim: to bring the good news re: "the mindful life" beyond the choir & to all those who didn't know they gave a care. elephantjournal.com | facebook.com/elephantjournal | twitter.com/elephantjournal | facebook.com/waylonhlewis | twitter.com/waylonlewis | Google+ For more: publisherelephantjournalcom

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40 Responses to “No, I will not be attending Sounds True’s 25th Anniversary Party.”

  1. jennyjenjen says:

    This issue needs to be covered more — that is, the issue of very big companies who dominate in providing services or products as a natural / eco-friendly alternative who really blow it on giving back to those who support and cultivate their profits.

  2. MetroOwl says:

    While it is sadly true that businesses too infrequently advertise with the media (mainly print and web) whose audience could be/are among their best customers, and while it would be wonderful if all like-minded businesses supported one another in all ways possible, coverage and advertising should never hinge on one another. Truly independent media cover things because they're worth sharing with readers, not because the respective company bought a pricey ad package.

    • I agree, MetroOwl. But truly independent media, practically-speaking, is not independent if it depends on ads. Which elephant, as a print magazine, did. And it's even harder online, where readers read for free.

      That said, I've given ST numerous shout-outs this year, mainly in conjunction with their excellent videos with Pema Chodron. And I am happy to continue to do so. That the relationship died is sad, and that I will not work hard to repair it is a result of our having fulfilled our half of the bargain for years, with no support back.

      • MetroOwl says:

        As a working journalist struggling to produce content with an ever-shrinking staff (thanks to an ever-shrinking budget), I understand all too well where you are coming from. Just thought I'd throw that out there. I hope, as a fan of Ele, that you get all the support and mutual-back-scratching you need. :-)

  3. via http://www.facebook.com/elephantjournal

    A.
    You're right about ST

    But a party is to celebrate any of us who reach a major milestone. It is each of us who must applaud each of us. I was not invited and I have known Tami since 1992… I would go and reboot your relationship with whomever is open. Forgiveness must be a 5th noble truth. And your job is not to add upset to anyone. Live the example. So what the ad budget did not include local media buys. It is the millions of customers of st that matter.

    Nice works even if you are thinking you absolutly know what that means. Give up all mixing of Y O U with your need for revenue It is not personal. If it was personal they would call your advertisers and whisper…

    elephantjournal.com
    I never get that…"it's not personal." I go out of my way, consistently, to try and help friends and businesses I believe in. And if I fail to, I ought to do so more. It makes a real difference—community is what makes it possible for elephant or any of us to succeed.

    My job may indeed be to add upset. There is very little frank communication left in this world, for all the thousands upon thousands of words uttered every day. It isn't fun or neat to be frank–it's messy and difficult—but I think it's important.

    That said, thanks for the advice, brother.

  4. mary says:

    Sounds like you may have a bit much on your plate right now, some perspective seems to be missing,because this is unnecessary, whining never makes anyone look good.
    ST is a big international business, yours and their demographic dont match up.
    Go to the party,congratulate them on their success,dont grudge, dont shut your mind down.

    • I'm not trying to "look good." I'm trying to be transparent, open about difficult things. Interesting you view that as whining—perhaps, raised by a single mom, I don't view tough or macho as being something to look up to.

      In any case, honesty, messy as it might be, does I hope help elephant a bit more interesting–agree or disagree. Look at all the thoughtful comments!

      elephant is international, as well, and the same demographic–and we reach well beyond the yoga/Buddhist niche, as well.

  5. el carg says:

    Sounds pretty true that I'll stop buying Sounds True products and start taking the content for free via downloads, library rentals and borrowing from friends. Let them make their cash from the Target crowd they covet.

  6. joshua says:

    Yawza, where to start, first it is a bad stance for independent media to
    hinge coverage with advertising, many companies simply can't afford to
    advertise, companies have budgets, and those budgets need to be adhered to
    in order to survive, in addition consumer skepticism and a resistance to
    advertising are apparent in today’s marketplace. According to Insight
    Express, “consumer trust in advertising has plunged 41% over the past three
    years and only 10% of consumers say they ‘trust’ ads today.”

    In the varied world of today’s media, the consumer is increasingly in
    control. A 2005 study by Yankelovich, Inc. revealed that nearly 70% of
    consumers were actively looking for ways to block, opt-out, or eliminate
    advertising.

    Burt's bee's didn't even attempt to advertise until they hit $200 million in
    revenue, and that only lasted 1 year. Pangea gets a lot of media play,
    because of our products performance and CSR, sexy packaging etc. Vanity fair
    has written about us 3 times….just this year, you think we can afford an
    ad in that pub? Not even close.

    Now all that being said, I believe the future is ad(less) the future is
    about communication and strategic partnerships. Pangea can't advertise so I
    write for you, and these articles will go out to our 60k + list, hence you
    get more traffic, last year we executed a promo with Allure and they
    harvested 87k new subscribers and we sampled them with Pangea…we've never
    advertised with them.

    Remember that party we had at ABC carpet and home in NYC? You were there,
    along with 54 editors….it was about Breast cancer awareness….not ad
    sales.

    Not attending their party is not helping Elephant in any way, in fact your
    business is about networking, and there are going to be a lot of people
    there you need to be talking to, now instead any business owner reading this
    post is most likely never going to advertise.

    As an un official advisor, I would recommend that you really think about
    this post, it does not represent the website that I would like to support,
    yet I do.

    I'm happy to meet at anytime to chat about this, but I've always supported
    you….but support comes in many forms….

    Joshua Scott Onysko

    • gwenbell says:

      I'm with Joshua. Print up the wrist bands!

        • gwenbell says:

          I support Josh's points here. Especially: "I believe the future is ad(less) the future is
          about communication and strategic partnerships." Where's the irony?

          • Sounds like a nice hip techy line to say at conferences. I've said much the same thing myself.

            That said, genuinely worthwhile journalism, that's researched and original, and not just an echo-chamber, requires support. I'm not saying that's what elephant does–we're a glorified blog, with the exception of maybe 10 articles a month that are researched by our great columnists.

            We've done a lot to create a new business model for new media over the past few months–we'll see if that can take the place of that which has supported the fourth estate for hundreds of years—advertising and sponsorships.

          • No response? Not surprised. Nothing much follows catchy lines like: "I believe the future is ad(less) the future is
            about communication and strategic partnerships."

            No ads. No communication, and no strategic partnerships. No…love.

    • Dialogue is healthy! Josh asked me whether he ought to post this, choosing instead to email it to me personally. I replied, post it. I love what he has to say, our dialogue I think raises this post out of
      pettiness and into real issues.! Here's our talk back and forth:

      After JOSHUA posted the above, I REPLIED:

      What I'm not hearing in your post is one word about 1) the fact
      that we did review dozens of titles over 6 years without any support
      back, and are still happy to review stuff and 2) I haven't heard one word
      about how you expect elephant to be sustainable. Traffic is not the
      same thing as support—traffic is, from a financial point of view, a
      means to an end: support. Sustainability. Obviously, mission-wise,
      readership, dialogue, communication is the whole point of what we
      do.
      elephant is not Allure. elephant is not Vanity Fair. We depend upon
      advertising. Until that's no longer the case, the lack of support
      from our peers is hurtful. Not just emotionally—literally.

      JOSH REPLIED:
      Yes I get it, but how is your subscription [grassroots network drive] going? Also who sells
      your adds
      and what do they cost? Are they market driven? Who's doing the
      pitches?

      I REPLIED:
      Subscriptions are voluntary, so not going great. That said, considering they're love-inspired, they're going great! If that makes sense. I'm losing off two of three staff right now, since our sustainability deadline is upon us. So our rapid growth and responsiveness will slow down, somewhat. Still, we'll rock it and be at close to a million unique visitors/month in a year's time.

      I sell ads. All the info is on http://www.elephantjournal.com/advertise price-wise.

      I would agree that readers don't love ads…in mainstream venues. But in venues like elephant, niche pubs, I often hear the opposite from readers: bc they trust ele, they look to ads curiously. Plus, we don't do pop ups!

      Also, as far as networking, I hear you, but…you and I are networked to heaven and back. I will miss the free munchies, though.

      Yours,

      Way

      Josh then went on to inquire about ad rates. Happy ending?

  7. Scott says:

    If there is one potential advertiser at that party, you have missed an opportunity.

    • Great point, and it will be a missed opportunity, as will the chance to wish Tami congrats, which I do sincerely mean despite the lack of sponsorship from Sounds True. They've accomplished a lot, and are being of some real benefit.

      At this point, as evidenced most perfectly by Sounds True, soliciting commonsense advertisers hasn't done much good. Many of our peers aren't generally advertising much of anywhere. We get some advertising inquires, thankfully, more and more as our traffic grows, and that's what I'm focusing on with my limited time.

  8. Steve says:

    Dear Elephant Journal,

    I am both surprised and not at all surprised to read this. Since ST started years ago, they have always done impeccable work – so big time congrats on that score. In my experience they are extremely competitive – which is probably why they have prospered over the years.

    After a sabbatical from audio publishing our new label http://www.betterlisten.com is up and running and has a similar editorial approach to Sounds True.

    I know how difficult it is to be an independent publisher in 2010 – so keep up the great work. I have been following Elephant Journal over the last year or two and have been impressed with your solid work.

    We should send you some review copies, and explore advertising and partnership possibilities. :)

    Good Luck!

    BetterListen!

  9. jaycruise says:

    Dear Mr. Lewis: i have enjoyed your magazine for a long time. I must admit I'm not that familiar with Sounds True, but I can't help but wonder what's really going on here. Have you stopped to consider that fact that Sounds True, a for-profit business, has some sort of model for determining whether a particular advertising/ marketing adventure is in its best interest? I don't want to put words in your mouth, but are you suggesting that a company take on a venture it deems will be unprofitable just because they happen to live in the same geographical neck of the woods as another company? I'm sorry if I'm missing something here. I usually feel in line with you, but here I'm just not quite understanding, clearly. You have chosen to be in the business you're in; Sounds True has similarly chosen. Just because you have chosen a business which needs advertising to survive, how is this other company the bad guy here just because they choose not to "support" you in this way? I doubt Sounds True forced you to review their products; I assume you did so because you felt the content of their products would be of interest to your readership? I wonder if Sounds True would have deemed you as "unsupportive" and not willing to attend an elephant event if you happened to choose not to review one of their products, for your own internal reasons? Not sure why, this just seems kinda whiny and off to me… I do respect you and your magazine. Not trying to be overly personal here… Thank you.

    • Whiny and off is what happens right before a publication goes out of business because the very profitable businesses that depend on "mindful" media choose ad networks etc instead of strategic alliances. I'm not denying I sound hurt or wounded or am confused, even wrong. All I know is we've supported their worthy work for eight years, with next to nothing back.

  10. Steve says:

    Dear Jay,

    I totally hear what you are saying and from a pure business approach what you are saying is totally valid.

    In Brooklyn we have a not particularly Buddhist saying “Do The Right Thing” . If someone is in your community and there is a synergy – you support that person or business. At least that is how I was raised to look at the world.

    I am convinced there is an appropriate balance between profitability and doing the right thing.

    Thanks

    • Amen. And I can't help but think that working with elephant would, at the least, be a break-even proposition. We have a strong social media presence, and are passionate advocates for those we believe in.

  11. jaycruise says:

    Thanks, Steve, I appreciate your perspective. And I too was raised in this way… and am all for it. But it can be a bit subtle. After looking a bit more into this company Sounds True, it seems their vision and mission is to "disseminate spiritual wisdom". It seems to me that by making wise business decisions, they will have a much better chance to be successful in sharing these wisdom teachings with the world, potentially benefiting thousands, if not dozens of thousands of lives of individuals. And then when these individuals are benefited, many more thousands around them will be as well. So I'm not sure it's just as simple as to suggest that this company is not attempting to balance profitability and "doing the right thing" simply because they chose not to take an ad with another company. In their case, perhaps "doing the right thing," by making a savvy business decision, will actual result in a much wider and greater benefit to others. I guess it's just the black and white nature of the dialogue so far that has me curious.

    Namely, invest in my company, the way I think you should, or you are imbalanced along the lines of profitability and doing the right thing. But do you have any real idea the internal discussions or dialogues going on with a particular company, about their decision making process, especially with companies who are seeking to make a wide impact on the lives of potentially hundreds of thousands of persons? Leaving this particular company Sounds True out of it as I don't know that much about them… more just a curiosity.

    And also, Mr. Lewis seems like a very creative person. Have you, Mr. Lewis, pursued other avenues of partnership with this company (or others) other than a straight advertising model? Or do you view this as the only way to work with others (which is fine; again, just curious)? If you really do have the same sorts of audience, seems there are many different kinds of ways you could work with various like-minded companies, if this model seems to be not serving the whole or working out for you and others at this time.

    I'm curious about all this as i am somewhat in a similar situation in my own business, and find myself asking these types of questions.

    Thank you,
    Jay

    • I'd be open to any ideas. I've emailed them probably once or twice a year over the years, and despite the avid support of one staffer over there, very little has come back in terms of interest in working with elephant–in any manner.

      Also, on your first paragraph, I'd again remind you that working with elephant could be a great business decision. I don't try and form partnerships, sell ads, work with businesses that ele couldn't benefit.

  12. Bonnie says:

    Waylon,
    I actually appreciate your candor and transparency. As a mental health therapist I’ve been in simular situations of being expected to be “the bigger person”. I can’t tell you how many times I have done free seminars at 2 local non-profits, training their staff. You would think the love would be returned and I would get a thank you in one of their newsletters. Nope just a list of thank yous to their donors and other important people. Because I’m in the healing profession I felt the pressure to not complain. I did do those traings for free but show me some love. And I did complain outloud to one of the agencies in that if they wanted to keep getting my help I better see a banner thanking me. The other agency can’t seem to understand why I’m too busy to come help them.
    Long story short. We maybe working on spirtual enlightenment but that doesn’t mean that their isn’t exploitation that occurs. Be it consciously or not. Once you brought it to their attention they could, and still can, go out of their way to say thank you. Maybe not by buying advertising but even a thank you on their website. Their are many ways they can build bridges and keep the love flowing.
    I strongly believe that even buddhists get to say “ouch”. How can you embrace our suffering if everyone is telling you you have no right to suffer?
    Anyway, I learned alot today. Thank you for sharing and making it okay to say ouch.

  13. All in all, I like her. Yes, I think she is dramatic at times, but it seems like everyday communication includes a little showmanship to convery your message. I’ll tell you, she seems to have a great style! I like her!

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  21. Paul says:

    To an outsider that found this post through a Google search on ST, this posts sounds very petty.
    So you're a little hurt by an advertising strategy of another company. I can't really see that justifying snubbing all the amazing work that they've done over the last 25 years.
    Frankly I'm also a little surprised that a publication like yours will only review products from a company that advertises with it. It makes you wonder about the impartiality of the reviews.
    Apart from anything else you also seem to be shooting yourself in the foot by missing out on a great networking opportunity.

  22. Dharma says:

    Very well-written post here, Waylon! Healthy relationships require *both* parties giving to the relationship for the relationship to work. Otherwise, one side is *using* the other side to benefit themselves, which is not only patently unfair, it's completely unhealthy for both parties. If ST wants to have a *healthy* relationship with elephant, they will figure out some way to help pay for the costs associated with the good reviews they used to get from elephant. Otherwise, maybe ST is now a part of elephant's past. Which is fine but ST could at least have officially broken up with elephant instead of leaving elephant wondering about the status of their former relationship.

  23. crumpet says:

    As a customer of Sounds True, Im not buying all this. Where I come from a business is only as good as its service.
    So far on five separate purchases there has been a problem with the payment and the downloads – the process is longwinded and stressful and the customer service is underwhelming…

    I also find the constant pushing of merchandise, tacky and intrusive. Karma points or some such…ick!

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