Forest Fire: The Great Print Media Burn-off of 2008-9. Plenty, PC Mag, Christian Science Monitor, elephant journal, Alpinist, Backpacking Light, Nat Geo Adventure, I.D.… But remember: forest fires are natural, and cyclical. Once they burn down, the peaty dark cleared forest floor is the ideal breeding ground for new life.
Normally, when I go to read DWELL, one of the most fabulous, beautiful examples of what a magazine can and should be—tactile, well-edited, elegant, open, intelligent, fresh yet consistent, personal, green-trail-blazing—it’s kinda heavy, and my arm aches after an hour of holding it just outta the now-cool bath.
Last month, it must’ve weighed about half as much—advertisers were fleeing for the hills, even with this hot, successful title. And it’s not all my imagination.
And now I hear that one of the last eco titles, PLENTY, is getting off the paper bus (joining the swelling ranks: Alpinist, Backpacking Light, Christian Science Monitor, others) and going online exclusively. While I’ve already had to do so with elephant, which was sad but (even though, like Plenty, and unlike 99% of other mags, we printed on eco paper) a relief to my hypocrisyometer.
Why? Because, once you give up on the tactile pleasures of a physical paper publication, you realize that—as things stand—
…no 30,000 plus circulation magazine in America is even close to being eco-responsible. Not eco-dedicated titles like Plenty, Yoga Journal or Slow Food Journal…let alone the big titles like Vanity Fair, Sports Illustrated, TIME, People, US Weekly.
Why? Because for every magazine you print—even if they printed on eco paper, which they don’t—every magazine is shipped six times and then 60 to 80% are recycled—they’re never sold. Why? ‘Cause mag distributors aren’t paying for the copies—they only pay for what they sell, so they want to order lots of extra mags unless a particular issue (say, Jennifer Aniston naked on cover of GQ) sells fast of a particular slot.
We here at elephant hit that eco distribution ceiling twice in 6.5 years, and both times tried to find an eco-responsible way to distribute. As long as you stay small, you can go through great eco-responsible distributors like One Source, Small Changes…But if you want to get big and effect the cultural dialogue, you have to go through conventional distribution or create your own system (what we tried to do the first time, but having no infrastructure or investment, we couldn’t handle it).
Gawker is reporting that environmental magPlenty has laid off almost its entire staff after failing to secure a new round of funding. Back in September, it was floated around that Al Gore was interested in purchasing a stake in the company. Then, that rumor was debunked and Live Earth’s Kevin Wall was seeded as the man in discussions. Now, it appears that no savior can be found and layoffs are in effect.From Gawker,
Our tipster said the money from Gore or whoever didn’t come through, and that Plentyeditor and publisher Mark Spellun on Monday sacked everyone save for a skeleton crew of four or five people who will keep the website going…
So how do you, the reader, support the continued health of quality journalism in this painful, but ultimately wonderful transition? Subscribe to the web sites you love—it’s called RSS—it’s free, and it’ll give them, and us, the consistent traffic web sites need in order to attract advertisers who can’t find a good green magazine to advertise in, anymore.
I personally subscribe, free, to 20 RSS feeds, all of which deliver latest articles to my email, but not into my inbox—they stay separate, in their own folders, ignored by me unless I make an effort to go and check out the latest. I recommend: Treehugger, The New Yorker, New York Times (which is also my home page), Daily Dish by Andrew Sullivan of The Atlantic, Shambhala Sun Space, Notcot.org, GreenUpgrader, Good Magazine, Dwell, Cool Hunting, 5280 (for Coloradoans). Which ones do you like?