Free elephant? Vote:

Via elephant journal
on Jan 8, 2010
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free elephant is at the end of its rope. And that’s a good thing.

This is probably the most important post in terms of elephant’s future that I’ve posted over the last six months or so. elephant leaders and readers, please consider sharing this with your friends and asking for them to vote, get us feedback. Tweet, post this to your Wall, let’s really try and find out how the “mindful” national community realllly feels (don’t be nice, be honest!).

By rope, I mean money. I got depressed two days ago. Just the day before, I’d seen an article of mine get featured on the front page of The Huffington Post (only third time I’d ever achieved such) and our site had topped 100,000 unique readers over the last month for the first time since leaving old print magazine format for new greener media shores, one year ago. 100,000 traffic had been a goal of mine for a long time, so I couldn’t understand why I was so down.

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Today, I ran into Bill Sutton, a longtime Buddhist friend and local food activist, and I got it: we’d finally made our year-long traffic goal. We were officially a success (if a modest one, we have far, far to grow). We’d been named to nearly 20 top 10 social media lists for green, yoga, Dharma.

And yet…Evol Burritos hadn’t returned our sponsorship request query. Neither has longtime supporter prAna, one of our biggest proudest partners over the past 7.5 years as a magazine, and now talk show and web site. Whole Foods has never advertised. Neither has Izze, or Method, or Chipotle. Patagonia, perhaps my favorite company on the planet, has barely ever expressed interest in elephant or our readers. Gaiam, the green/yoga giant in our Boulder backyard? Nearly zilch.

That said, we’ve grown fast, and steadily both. Our last few issues of elephant magazine had over 120 advertisers in there. Our readers are passionate, active, altruistic, ready to pay a little more for a company’s offering that walks the eco-responsible, mindful talk.

Still, our biggest supporters have always been (with the exception of New Belgium, god bless ’em) small grassroots companies. Friends who happened to run big green businesses or little yoga studios. And our readers.

Bill Sutton told me he was a supporter of the Sierra Club. That they sent him a tote bag, which he liked. But that most importantly, their appeal to him said “free of corporate or politically-minded sponsors, we have 100% freedom to tell it like it is.” Where do I sign up, Bill said. That’s worth paying for. I laughed. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve struggled, artfully, to say what I thought about a less-than-eco product from a business that advertised with elephant.

The Sun’s web site is reader-supported. Others? WSJ has mix of paid and free articles.

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So here goes: for every $1,000 in monthly reader support, we could free ourselves of four small ads or one larger one. If we succeed in raising around $9,000 a month, we could pay our ad manager (who would become a reader sponsor coordinator), design, video, talk show/event, and editorial staff. Even more importantly, we’d free ourselves up to focus on more and better and more original editorial content, articles, videos, blog, coverage of events and issues outside of Boulder, Colorado. We could quickly move from 100,000 readers a month to 1000,000, and really begin to speak truth to power, and begin to effect the larger cultural dialogue in a way I only very occasionally now am able to do (as with the occasional Huffington Post articles).

So the question is: would you (even a small percentage of you who love elephant, not just like) pay something to see elephant become truly, fully, madly deeply independent. And, more basically, to survive? ‘Cause advertisers aren’t doing it—and, maybe, we shouldn’t be dependent on them.

Would you pay to free

After such a week, a year, a blog…I don’t know about you, but I need a little Pema:


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.


56 Responses to “Free elephant? Vote:”

  1. Thanks, Erin! We've tried many times to offer this, in fact it's on offer now under 'friends.' Problem: with almost no staff, it's just not worth our severely limited wo/man hours. Most of this sort of listing business has been sucked up by Craigslist, and franchises like ReDirect Guide, or the others you mention which are far larger businesses. Thanks, though, for the input!

  2. Thanks, dnono! This blog itself caused consternation with two of our advertisers (that I know of, could be more). They're very, very sensitive, and understandably so. For years I've coated any criticism in our reviews with so much chocolate niceness that the criticism is rendered ineffectual—when we say hey, Nau and Patagonia etc etc, why make your otherwise wonderful ecofashion halfway across the world in factories where folks don't get paid much, we cushion such questions with niceness and nothing changes. Being truly, fully, madly deeply independent will enable our criticism to be un-coated, yet still fair and reasonable and open.

  3. Wow, Tracy, an honor to have any role in your life, you oughta write something anytime for us, would be an honor back!

    We're thinking of offering $5/month payable in one annual chunk of $60, or $10/month payable annually, and then offering $40-100 in truly eco goodies to every single subscriber, as well as your name on as like a plaque, and that name can be a link, which typically costs $50 – 100 or whatever anyways.

    If even some of you care to give, we should be okay—and our time will be freed to focus on improving our editorial, videos, with more original and more quality offerings that will enable us to fulfill our mission: to be of benefit, in a fun yet fundamentally serious manner.

  4. erin says:

    who is this jeff o person? i like

  5. Thanks for the clarification, Mike. That's very helpful. I'm sure you're right about the choices. Now it's just a simple matter of coming up with the right blockbuster new idea. (Yuck-yuck)

    Now, what about my last question? Do you have some special setting on Intense Debate that allows you to send long comments? It always makes me break them up as soon as they get to be more than 3-4 paragraphs.

    (I will always see your comments, no matter how late, because I alway subscribe to "all new comments".)

    Thanks for responding.

    Bob Weisenberg

  6. Update, moving to paid model, similar to one of options in the poll.