elephant declines generous investment offers, remains independent media, takes loan, has 2.5 months. Reader Link model.

Via Waylon Lewis
on Mar 25, 2010
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elephant tote bag organic locally printed

elephant has a three-month runway.

elephant “sticks to its guns”

we’d rather go broke or bust than lose independence

Rejects four offers for investment, including one awesome one

Takes 3-month loan

To launch new model for independent media and paying our writers in one week


Over the last few months we’ve received four offers of investment, one I was interested in. The offers were significant, and would have enabled me to become a nice upper-middle class boy overnight, save my house, buy one Tesla in a different color for each day of the week and snort organic coke ’til the cows come home. I decided against three of the offers easily, and against one of them two weeks ago (a week later, I heard from them that they, too, were going to invest elsewhere). They wanted more control than I was comfortable with.

So, two weeks ago, I accepted a generous if modest three-month loan from a mentor of mine. This gives elephant, literally, three months of life, and enables us to remain independent. At which point we will

1) have staffed up and continued our remarkable success editorially—our traffic is now at 175,000 unique readers a month, we won the national Shorty Award for twitter content in #green, and our Facebook Page is 33% bigger than, say, the awesome well-established and national Dwell Magazine. Also, I was nominated as one of four ambassadors for Treehugger’s Best of Green. Treehugger is the biggest green media co in the world.

2) well, you know.

My plan, at this point, is

1) to sell what ads we can to like-minded sponsors. Given the Great Recession, and our move to online (which is where all advertising dollars are flowing, but still for the first year we had next to no traffic, so we lost 115 / 120 of our steady advertisers), advertising is not yet fully supporting elephant. This has been the broke-est year of my life, and that’s saying something, given my momma’s income when I was a child.

2) to launch our reader-link-sponsor model. Links will appear on just about every page of our entire site in three tiers. First tier link sponsors will get their logo, link for $108/week. Second tier sponsors will get their name and link for $108/month in a smaller font, with more sponsors in their group. Third tier sponsors will be our readers—you will get your name and link in a standard 12 pt font on every page of the site for $108/year ($9/month).

This link-sponsor model may be the future of journalism: if you love independent media, you can show it, and get recognized for showing it. Links are good for your google results. If you don’t have a web site, you can donate your link to your favorite non-profit cause or business. Links will enable elephant to become free of dependence on our advertisers—making our editorial truly, fully independent and worthwhile. Reader Sponsors of elephant will have access to lots of eco/yoga/Buddhist etc goodies of your choice, including our organic cotton grocery/gym totes that read “I’m an investor in elephantjournal.com”

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, link sponsors will enable me to begin to pay our consistent writers based on performance, and raise our quality of editorial.

This model will launch in one week. If it works, elephant will walk on. If it doesn’t…well, we’ll focus on making it work.

elephant twitter green


About Waylon Lewis

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


29 Responses to “elephant declines generous investment offers, remains independent media, takes loan, has 2.5 months. Reader Link model.”

  1. john cargile says:

    Good luck Waylon.

  2. tamara says:

    Awesome. Love that you are keeping your vision pure. Your instincts are correct – if you sell out what you have been creating will at some point down the road be lost. There is reason why you have such a significant following. Your readers love elephant journal due to the integrity and authenticity of the site. You are creating a unique sense of community that is extremely valuable.

    I have complete faith that you will get what you need to stay alive, save your house and even fly off to some hotspots to vaycay soon enough… You have a lot of people behind you.
    xo Tamara (@superspiritgirl)

  3. looking forward to getting together tonight to talk about this more

  4. Bill Capsalis says:

    There is no try – there is only do. What do you need from us?

  5. Erin King says:

    Well. at least no one can ever say Waylon doesn't have cojones. Looking forward to helping keep the dream alive!

  6. Best of luck Waylon. I can scrounge $108 I'm sure….

  7. We're behind you 1000%. (1000 not a typo.)

    I believe the most important thing EVERYONE, including writers, commenters and readers alike can do is to routinely spew out Tweets and Facebook messages every time they see something that tickles their fancy on Elephant.

    This has a very powerful cumulative effect (like compound interests), costs nothing, builds more and more committed readership, and supports both your advertising and link subscription models by building measurable volume.

    Tweet and Facebook (is there a verb for "facebooking"?) like crazy and urge all your friends who like Elephant to do the same.

    Bob Weisenberg

  8. Might help to get this promoting going if Ele installed a widget that displayed the tweets under each post. This might be a feature in Intense Debate–not sure. I think Disqus has this as an option.

  9. Too bad–we could have been snorting organic coke off the hood of your new orange Tesla. But seriously–way to keep up the independence in a time where selling out and then falling apart is the norm for conscious businesses.

    I hate to say it (because I hate it), but I think one thing Ele needs is more ad density. Ads need to me more intrusive and/or informative. Little sidebar boxes are nice for the reader because they get out of the way of the content, but suck for the advertiser because they get out of the way of the content. Treehugger has similar boxes, but also big, engaging flash banners and squares. If you're going to stick to your independent values, you may need to compromise on annoying your readers with in-your-face ads–in addition to the new program you mentioned in this article.

  10. Brooks Hall says:

    This is exciting news! Thanks, Waylon, for stickin' to your guns!

  11. Elize says:

    Thanks indeed- so happy to know ele's vision is holding true!

  12. shakti says:

    I actually agree w Mr McDuffee. the guys with the bucks want as much bang for their buck as anyone. It's sad but true. At least this way no matter how annoying, the editorial content isn't compromised. Bonne chance!

  13. […] will be sold only to “investors” in elephant, via our web site, farmers markets, other web sites like econsciousmarket.com (featured on dozens […]

  14. Editorial content is compromised by advertising. It's why almost no media does critical product reviews, for example.

  15. Generous offer! Since we work at home, "Hotelephant" doesn't do roommates…and I already have a cleaning trade with http://www.elephantjournal.com/2009/09/what-bould… but there's pullenty of opportunities in Boulder, come on out, I can intro you around to many.

  16. IcchiJnanaKriya says:

    If your goal is to survive and its money you need then..

    Take the money~ and keep majority %~

    This will also serve you, your vision and your readership.
    In my humble opinion

    Open up your equity to your readers and sponsors. $1k units
    Keep 51%
    51% of something is better than 100% of nothing.

    elephants dont have ego's!


  17. Not about ego. Or survival. It's about our mission. You can own 51% but the term sheet is what defines control and editorial integrity. You want to see Pepsi ads on elephant? Me, neither. You want to protect media that has the teeth to say what it thinks, serve as watch dog not just lapdog of corporations? Me, too.

    There's a way to survive, and thrive, and remain true, and want to wake up working for this vision in the morning. I don't want to work for The Man, and even the best-intentioned investors demand their money back, plus—which would mean we'd get to sell out within a few years. Did I say "get to"? I meant, "have to."

    I'm no fool. If there was a way to take the money and continue to walk to beat of our own drummer, ie say what we think, I'd do it. I'd get to save my house, for one thing. Travel. Stop stressing. But I get to walk a harder, hopefully more worthwhile path for now.

  18. Good point there, Way.

  19. shakti says:

    and btw–please excuse my numerous typos–i'm an editor–but on the internet i drop my guard…sorry hehehe 🙂

  20. Social media is helping us alllll to upend this paradigm you're referring to—integrity vs. $ucce$$. We can do both. That will be among the contributions of this generation.

    On twitter, for example, elephant is as powerful as any green company on earth. Just search "Shorty Awards" on this site, we were named #1. In reality, we don't have staff or offices or anything, hardly. Same with Facebook.

    Whole Foods, among the most popular tweeters on planet earth, told me and others on a panel recently that they didn't have success until they dropped their "marketing/PR voice" and empowered a single woman to speak in her own, authentic, personal voice.

  21. Remy C. says:

    Be cool if we could sign up with facebook or twitter… i've never seen organic coke… i've seen organic pepsi… anyway… waylon, how much for a little square box a month to pr rock the reactors on your website? can you email me your rates?

  22. MissCory says:

    "our Facebook Page is 33% bigger than, say, the awesome well-established and national Dwell Magazine" and organic coke for the win! i (heart) elephant!!!

  23. Count Sir Richard's in for $108 my friend.

  24. benton says:

    nice waylon- i see it all working wonderfully for the Elephant and you

    keep it up mang – benton

  25. Sally Duros says:

    How about Kachingle? I just put it on my blog at http://www.sallyduros.com

  26. Waylon,

    I second the suggestion of Sally Duros 🙂

    Kachingle is designed to help fund sites like yours! We are just starting, but please try us out. We already have over 100 sites participating and hundreds of Kachinglers.

    Cynthia Typaldos
    Founder, Kachingle

  27. […] may well be the most important article I’ll have published in my 7.5 years of publishing elephant, first as a magazine, now as a new media web […]

  28. […] journal has forsworn thoughts of investment and is tired of spending all our time chasing ads (that don’t pay enough, anyway) instead of […]