elephant should be free.

Via on Jan 5, 2011

You can’t afford to read this article about our paygate.

You get three articles for free, every day—not including our Front Page, http://www.elephantjournal.com, which doesn’t count as a click. 95% of our readers read less than three articles a day. Going over your quota? Pay $1/month (12/yr)…or come back tomorrow and read another three for free, not including the Front Page. Since launching this a month ago we’ve been able to cut half our ads (which we don’t get much for, anyway) and focus on improving our content—and our readership traffic has actually grown. Please leave any comments, they help us improve.

elephant could be free. And out of business. Or cheap. And huge.

Over the past month, elephantjournal.com has launched our paygate—not a paywall, which blocks readers from reading unless you pay—but a cheap, weak “paygate” that only comes up after you read two or three articles in one day—something only 5% of our most dedicated readers do. It’s been an overwhelming success, and most readers are happy with it. We’ve broken even and are now ready to hire an editor and become a real media power both in terms of size and quality. But a few readers, understandably, are not used to paying for anything online—and want us to continue to give the store away for free. So I thought it worthwhile to share this dialogue, below. ~ ed.

Comment from one reader, a friend: “…u lost me forever when I couldn’t read a story unless I paid.  Of course I know u and I am coming back but…”

Free is Nice. But we take it for granted. And, usually, it’s not quality—it’s advertorial, not researched, spammy, cheap, sex-obsessed.

I posted this on our 32,000 strong Facebook page, this morning, and Leah (below) left a thoughtful response. Four folks “liked” her comment, so I figured her concern, and my response, were worth sharing more widely.

  • Leah: it’s a gamble to open it thought, as without paying we can only see two articles a day now.. not sure if i want to use my quota on something that has a vague title…by giving info for free you empower the people to make changes.. limiting us, doesn’t help those who care spread knowledge. No credit card equals no viewing. =0(
  • elephantjournal.com: Leah, media has never been free to produce. We’ve given it out for free for two years, really eight years overall including the magazine. We can’t talk sustainability unless we are sustainable. ~ W
  • PS: It’s just $1 buck a month. You can send check in if you like for the year (email us for address), if you don’t do Inspire Commerce (indie, mindful) or Paypal.

  • PPS: it’s always worth it to gamble on the future of “a girl.”
  • One final PS: I’ve noticed that by giving away most of our articles–95% of our readers only read 3 articles or less a day—and charging $1/month to those readers who want to read more, and probably value elephant content enough to pay such …a modest sum—our subscribers value elephant more.
  • And that which we value, we read more fully and appreciate—and share. Since our paygate went live, our readership has actually increased. And for the first time in two years online, we broke even last month. If we keep going, we may be able to hire an editor—making our content better quality, with fewer typos and factual inaccuracies–which will in turn enable us to be more shareable, and do more good. So I hope you’ll consider subscribing if you’d like–or, come back tomorrow, you get another two or three articles for free. ~ Waylon

I’d invite all of you who bother to read this far to comment: do you hate our charging for what we do to those who read us the most? Or are you happy that, like other businesses, we charge for our services? Leading questions, I know—but please do feel empowered to be honest, it helps. ~ W

About elephant journal

elephant journal is dedicated to "bringing together those working (and playing) to create enlightened society." We're about anything that helps us to live a good life that's also good for others, and our planet. >>> Founded as a print magazine in 2002, we went national in 2005 and then (because mainstream magazine distribution is wildly inefficient from an eco-responsible point of view) transitioned online in 2009. >>> elephant's been named to 30 top new media lists, and was voted #1 in the US on twitter's Shorty Awards for #green content...two years running. >>> Get involved: > Subscribe to our free Best of the Week e-newsletter. > Follow us on Twitter Fan us on Facebook. > Write: send article or query. > Advertise. > Pay for what you read, help indie journalism survive and thrive. Questions? info elephantjournal com

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41 Responses to “elephant should be free.”

  1. I'm loving this job so much it can hardly be viewed as any kind of sacrifice. But I do hope that anyone hesitating about $1 per month will be at least a little influenced by the fact that I'm working full time and more for Elephant for no compensation at all.

    As I get my feet on the ground here, I hope the impact of my time will become obvious and the $1 per month will seem like even more a deal than it already is! (And I'm not the only one. Elephant has other unpaid volunteers putting in a lot of hours to make it all work for you. I'm only at liberty to talk about myself.)

    Stick around and join the club for $1 per month. We're going to do great things together.

    Bob W.
    Yoga Editor

  2. Elissa says:

    Totally happy with the charging. If that's what it takes to keep this going then no problem by me. And anyway I think when there is an exchange of some sort you value what you get much more.

  3. Ben Ralston Ben Ralston says:

    Jacquie O’Neill ‎$1 a month is fantastic value for such quality content – people pay way more than that for the weekly gossip mags that are full of lies and negativity. For some strange reason people think writers and artists should work for free – try suggesting that to a plumber or a banker, lol :-)

    52 minutes ago · Like ·

    Sharon Walker so who gets the money? Do the writers/bloggers? If so, I have no problem with $1 a month…some great stories on EJ.com. Pls let us know.

    32 minutes ago · Like ·

    Annie Ory I can tell you. It’s about charging for something that used to be free. It’s always been hard. AND, it’s about paying for content that, while sometimes interesting, is also sometimes boring, silly and misleading. But mostly, it’s that most of us feel that Elephant Journal is a conversation and people don’t want to be paid to have a conversation.

    The other day you posted an “editorial” type piece about hot yoga. The writer didn’t check the spelling of the name of the famous person involved and didn’t ANY facts regarding actual energy consumption. He simply wrote about his “feeling” that it was wasteful and that his way was better.

    Two posters, me included, corrected some of his misconceptions. What shocks me is that you PAY these people. Elephant Journal is not high quality journalism. If it was, I’d pay. It’s high quality blogging, but bloggers get paid by selling advertising. That’s the deal. If you want to PAY writers, then hire professional writers who produce high quality material.

    I like reading Elephant, but not enough to pay. If I had to pay for it, I’d just not read it, my life wouldn’t necessarily be impacted. There ARE other yoga specific blogs with lots of info and insight and they’re free…

    25 minutes ago · Like ·

    Zac Morris this drives me crazy!… i have suggested this site to many of my friends and some have become paying elephantjournal fans like myself because it is what were about and we find it very informative and entertaining and we enjoy talking about what we’ve read. then there’s the one friend who says she won’t pay to read something on the net but loves reading elephant as long as it’s free… this is a woman who buys an over priced cup of coffee and a scone every weekday before coming to class and never finishes either one and dumps them into the trash… WOW! now shes not a bad person or cheap she’s just a little confused and i believe those people out there who are going through the same thing should spend the “TWELVE BUCKS” sit down with their $6. coffees and enjoy elephantjournal.com without trying to figure out which two articles your going to read for FREE!

    11 minutes ago · Like ·

    elephantjournal.com Jacquie – Thank you!!!

    Sharon – I think the first people to profit are the people who do all the work to create EJ… because at the end of the day, the writers are getting good publicity and exposure… but if enough people pay the 12 bucks then hopefully everyone wins, including you, as the content improves…

    Annie – no, none of the writers are paid so far. Waylon has said that if enough people contribute (via the paygate) then he can start paying writers, hire an editor, and then you’ll see less poor quality writing. Personally, I think 12 bucks a year is a total, absolute bargain, because for each poor article, there are dozens of gems.

    Zac – Spot on!

    … Ben Ralston

  4. Lynn Hasselberger Lynn Hasselberger says:

    I love–and am honored to write–for elephant. I'm also paying the monthly fee because I enjoy so many of the other articles. I wish I had time to just hang out and read elephant all day long! Waylon has put his blood sweat and tears into this amazing community and, well, if you don't like it enough to fork out a few cents a day, then you'll probably miss out on some great stuff today, a month from now, years to come (and possibly yesterday). Thanks to all who put their time into elephant and to all of the readers who support it.

    Cheers!
    Lynn Hasselberger

  5. Genevieve says:

    I'm quite pleased with paying only 1$ a month! I value Elephant's articles enough that it didn't take me long to decide to cough up the 12$… I can be a bit of a tight-wad 😉

  6. Yogini says:

    As someone who can't even afford donation yoga classes except once in a while (and, being as I live in New York City, I don't drop just a Washington or a Lincoln in the box), I am interested enough to pay. But when I'm ready. And if you raise your prices before that time, I will never pay … so, please, let's keep inflation or rising costs or any (more) excuses out of it ….

  7. Yogini says:

    Oh, and also don't lose that Colorado connection … that is a major factor also … I've family and history there, though hardly ever in Boulder itself …

  8. elephantjournal says:

    From a business colleague–

    Hey man,

    Just a quick personal note; I think the Ele paygate was genius, and paid happily, and am psyched to see it working so well for you guys.

    Cheers and Happy New Year.

    J

  9. Julie AS says:

    I think charging a `paygate`is a great idea, IMHO. For those of us who don`t pay, well we can still have access to 2 or 3 articles a day. I think that`s more than fare. Growing `pains` are never entirely painless… BUT we gotta keep growing…
    FYI… I do not live in Boulder… or in Colorado… or even in the USA. So, your `words`are reaching people elsewhere who are just as interested…

  10. Julie AS says:

    Woops… meant more than "fair" above.

  11. elephantjournal says:

    Donna Wolff Freeman ‎$1 a month is less than the cost of 1 yoga class: #elej is a steal, and you don't have to recycle the mag when ur are done

  12. elephantjournal says:

    I've loved every moment of the paygate thus far and it's so inspiring to see all the support behind elephant! ~ Lindsey B.

  13. […] were people who gave their lives so that I might have that breakfast! This country is dedicated to freedom, and many people died so that the system that allows me the right to eat what I want could […]

  14. elephantjournal says:

    Tracy H: Love EJ & firmly believe in paying people for their hard work & valuable services.

  15. Sophie's Person says:

    Well, here’s my take on it. I’m a FB follower. I’m pretty new to you and have been enjoying it-and as a former Boulderite, love hearing what’s going on there, but part of how I am evaluating you is how you feed my “bandwidth”, if you will.

    I see many, many, many ele posts per day. Some are repeats, some have identical content under different headers, some go to “articles” that are barely three sentences long. A couple of them are really great. For all that posting, it is not always easy to find the gems from the reruns, space wasters or retreads.

    It’s the beginning of a year, I’m looking at shedding things that do not provide me what I am looking for. So, I’m asking myself, does elephant provide me enough value to equal all those FB column inches they take daily? Especially knowing that I can only view limited content on the site itself? Is elephant journal obscuring by an excessive flurry of posts my noticing other content that is solidly valuable every post? Is this how they respect me as a reader? Is this what I want to reward with my subscription dollars? Jury’s still out, but I do find myself counting the ele posts-I don’t think that’s the best sign. On the other hand, I’ve actually posted a comment on your site-not something I often do….at the least, it may help you understand why I may stop following you at all.

  16. AlpineLily says:

    EJ has sponsors that pay for ad space, so I would like accountability as to where MY money will go to if it still won't used for paying writers?
    Huffington Post is free! And they also seem to actually have their articles edited and fact-checked too, which many articles on EJ (whilst they are entertaining) don't seem to be…they are just "feelings" "opinions" and in some cases are not all that well written.
    In fact, most of the posts are just some pictures and a couple of caption-like sentences…..not even actual articles!
    I enjoy EJ because it is (as someone mentioned earlier) a fun way to find out the thoughts of others in the local community in a more casual, conversational tone, however I can't justify paying when the writers still won't be getting the money. It makes me wonder whose pockets are actually getting filled by the sponsors and my (potential) payments.

  17. Lauren Hanna lauren hanna says:

    I don't mind paying – you are right in that I DO appreciate things more when I put a little money into them. And I'm very picky about what I use my credit card for – so I'm considering Elephant Journal an investment in my overall well-being.

    Besides, I'm planning on having you hire me as your editor. So I'll need to be paid. Just saying.

  18. Alice2112 says:

    Most magazine subscriptions are more than $1/month, and we actually get much MORE from elephant. Think of it as an interactive magazine subscription. Elephant is turning into one of the most amazing online communities I have ever seen. Some really important dialogues (not to mention fun stuff!) going on here. There are lots of subscription level options to suit your budget. DON'T MISS OUT.

  19. sarasvati3 says:

    I don't mind paying at all! I just paid for a year subscription and I'm thrilled that I did it! EJ has such interesting articles and as someone who volunteers in fair trade circles, paying writers for their work is, to put it simply, a fair trade!

  20. […] April 2011, the 33rd day of a devastatingly conspicuous one-man protest, the highly controversial elephant journal pay-gate is no more. It’s all thanks to Bill […]

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  22. Ashley says:

    This is one of my top favorite websites. I subscribed December (2012) after a week of three articles a day. It was not enough, I wanted more :) A few weeks ago I renewed my subscription for another year. I read between 5-15 articles a day from here. Awesome writers from awesome backgrounds sharing their experiences, wisdom and love for the greater good on a broad range of topics… what more could I ask for?! i am happy to pay and contribute to a groovy network of cool peeps who keep it real. As a wanderer, yogini, bodyworker, traveller, etc… you guys cover every unsaid thought, current/soon to be had/past experiences I have, issues in the realms I am submerged in etc… and that’s why you will keep me as an entertained and grateful subscriber. Thank you for creating this site and for everyone who works so hard to maintain it and everyone who writes the articles. You all rock.

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