January 9, 2010

Free elephant? Vote:

elephantjournal.com 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.

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.

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 elephantjournal.com?

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

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