Forest Fire: The Great Magazine Burn-off of 2008-9. Ascent, PC Magazine, Plenty, Christian Science Monitor, elephant journal, Alpinist, Backpacking Light, Nat Geo Adventure…who else?

Via Waylon Lewis
on Jan 7, 2009
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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.

Another one Bites the Dust: PLENTY to stop printing, go online?

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).

From Ecorazzi, by way of Gawker:

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,, GreenUpgrader, Good Magazine, Dwell, Cool Hunting, 5280 (for Coloradoans). Which ones do you like?


About Waylon Lewis

Waylon Lewis, founder of elephant magazine, now & 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. | His first book, Things I would like to do with You, is now available.


11 Responses to “Forest Fire: The Great Magazine Burn-off of 2008-9. Ascent, PC Magazine, Plenty, Christian Science Monitor, elephant journal, Alpinist, Backpacking Light, Nat Geo Adventure…who else?”

  1. what about the millions of people in the U.S. alone who don’t have access to the internet?

  2. admin says:

    Good question!

    I would say the internet is free, at libraries and in many municipaliities…even starting your own blog is free. Magazines and newspapers cost $$$$$$$$$ for poor folks, create pollution through production and shipping…like all things mindful nothing’s perfect, but thus far the internet seems pretty close.

    Journalism for the masses! My only real concern is to keep it un-censored, free, with some good ol’fashioned editorial standards or research and truth.

  3. Jayson says:

    Waylon, solid post. clearly you know the game. helps me understand it.

  4. […] says it looks like Plenty magazine is RIP, including its web site—the latest victim of the great, sad, green print burn-off I recently discussed. I say, thank god I never took on investors. See, Plenty had a ton of […]

  5. Jeff Johnson says:

    Great commentary – thanks for the video clips, all good finds. We agree at CTN, engagement is better on the web, style and substance are not limited to the thickness of a paper page.

    What bugs me is that people dont get that a relly well crafted web piece is often more time-intensive to do well than a print piece is, but having done both, i know the prevailing sentiment that webcontent is easier and quicker is woefully incomplete reasoning.

    When we interviewed Arianna Huffington, she said off-camera that the starup of her work caused her to have several collapses from exhaustion, and sleep issues that exascerbated it. A paraphrase of value there -“we get by with a lot of help from our friends and the internet lets that happen without having to be in the same room”

    IMHO trials and tribulations as they may be, its all good when good people are doing it.

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