Should elephant continue?

Via Waylon Lewis
on Apr 28, 2013
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Should elephant continue?

elephant is not a business, after all. We’re a way of life. And if there’s no greed, there’s no need.

elephant is nearly 11 years old. Last year, Congressman Polis, the Oscar-winning Cove producers, famous yoga teachers & media peers celebrated our survival, and thrival.

Are we doing any good? What’s the point? Do we have potential? Should elephant continue?

We’re making good money. We’re at 1.4 million readers a month. We’re arguably the biggest daily, weekly, monthly source for yoga in the world. And we’re about more than yoga: we’re about a way of life: eco-responsibility, mindfulness in every action, social good, humor, meditation, cycling, conscious consumerism, family, adventure, the arts, real food and, most of all, living life fully in this, the present moment.

We want our readership to grow, so that we can better reach beyond the choir—beyond those who already agree with us. That sounds nice, but it’s tiring. A gay friend of mine (who I look up to, generally) took exception to my angle on this. I explained I wasn’t writing it for me, or him, or anyone liberal, Buddhist, living in Boulder, who already saw that sexuality and equality made for a beautiful duo. elephant stickers journal sticker

And that sort of trouble-making is at the heart of everything we do: we’re not here to get you to agree with us. We’re here to welcome views we disagree with, and create dialogue, respectful disagreement. We’re not here to form a cozy, self-congratulatory club, or to capture a demographic. We’re indie, mission-driven media for all. How many other publications can say that?

And yet I see Patagonia, Prana, Be Present, countless others put their advertising dollars elsewhere. That’s sad. We want to work (and play) with sponsors and partners who are mission-driven, and want the daily and weekly, not just monthly or quarterly interaction, not just attention of our readership. More importantly, we want to make money so that we can grow, and actually help the world, and ourselves along the way.

All this is to say that elephant is not a business, first. And that’s why we have the readership loyalty and support that we do. We want to succeed—not so that I can buy a second home or sell out to The Man—money is nice but, once we’ve got our needs attended to, it doesn’t further our happiness. Money, reinvested in elephant, will help us redesign, pay our writers to do quality journalism, and inspire other businesses to see that success and ethics are two sides of one coin.

elephant journalWe have a staff of six, now. In the past, we’ve been less of a staff and more of a team, even a family. But lately we seem to be uninspired, spoiled, defensive, looking elsewhere. Our site needs a redesign, badly. We have our problems, and the day to day can wear me down.

But our advertising, subscriptions and editorial remain strong. Personally, my desire to be of benefit remains unquenched. My appreciation for this life (and my hometown and community) grows with every day and season and year.

And so it is that we’ll press on: not because we’re a business concerned with our bottomline, but because we’re a mission, and our duty is yet unfulfilled, our path not yet finished.

So, if you’d like to support, there’s three (free) ways to do so: subscribe to our “Daily Wake Up Call” newsletter featuring an inspiring quote or photo. Subscribe to our youtube channel, where we’re talking (and laughing with) the best and the brightest about those issues that matter most. And write: don’t just read, interact. Be an active part of this sacred community. Finally, email us (with “apprentice” in the subject bar) about applying to join “elephant university”—where we train the next generation of social media and new journalism ethics-savvy writers, for free (after deposit is refunded).


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.


22 Responses to “Should elephant continue?”

  1. Nicole Weinberger says:

    Please stick around. I'm doing my part by writing and subscribing. 😉

  2. kathyothon says:

    i love this site, stick around please.

  3. tthomson11 says:

    You are one of the best news and energy out there –pls stay with us ; )

  4. Gloria says:

    If there is a shadow of a doubt about finishing or staying, I just quote what that song says: "Please don't go, please don't go!" 😉

  5. Katie says:

    I echo all the sentiments. I love what you guys do and honestly look forward to it daily! It's helped me get through a lot of tough times and I'm sure is a positive influence on everyone else that reads you. Please keep trucking!!

  6. Andy says:

    I definitely don't want you to go but agree that it needs some tightening up. You have too much content, and the overall quality of your output has been diluted by your "come one come all" approach to publishing. And I didn't think of it till you pointed it out, but I agree the site needs a redesign for easier navigation, better search, etc.

    Perhaps have a real hard think about who you are really trying to reach. Your schtick about reaching out beyond your community of yogis sounds good, but it kind of sounds like political spin. Look at the articles, look at the advertising. Why would any average Joe be interested in this site? Maybe embrace the fact that you are actually the premier yoga/spirituality site on the internet and really run with that? Just tossing out ideas here.

    Sorry to hear about some major brand advertisers leaving but this IS a business and they need performance out of their banner placements.

    You've got a hell of a platform here with a ton of readers. I think maybe with some fresh consultation/thinking you will be able to achieve new heights.

  7. inga troutman says:

    love you guys!!! am a member— want some of those elephant stickers!

  8. elephantjournal says:

    I'll respond to your thoughtful comment when I have more time–I'm in the middle of a conference. But thanks for the great comment.

    The design will help us display content. We will continue to be an available platform for all readers to write, as with Huffington Post–but unlike Huff Post we're independent and therefore it'll be easier to be mission-focused in what content we accept and share. We already have a strong team of editors who have raised the bar of what we accept and offer.

    As for political spin, it's anything but. We are a premier green/mindfulness site, and embrace that, hell yah, I agree. There's zero conflict between rallying the core or choir and reaching out to engage with those who don't already share our experience or views, so that we may learn from them as they learn about cycling, yoga, adventure, family. Ideas have power and our aim is nothing less than to be of benefit—and to do that we need to engage beyond our community and become relephant to the greater world.

    What I would say about ads, however, is we do offer performance, and then some. Far better than we did when we were print. Our problem is we don't 1) pay full time ad salespeople and 2) target alcohol and car ads, like some of our peers and 3) pitch mindful advertisers, like the above mentioned, who wind up working with those who are pitching them constantly.

  9. paperlattes says:

    I love you guys! I would be devastated if elephant stopped existing.

  10. Jeneen says:

    Of course you should continue! Your readers find you incredibly valuable and insightful!

  11. Rosie says:


  12. livicus says:

    You are a life line!! You keep me sane in a world where like minded people don't live near. Please don't go!!!!

  13. annette medina says:

    oh yes! STAY!

  14. Olina says:

    YES absolutely, I'm a member,please stay

  15. Rich says:

    Just a suggestion, check out how Vice Media goes about sponsored content. The short of it: A company pays Vice to produce a series of articles or videos about a topic that the company and Vice agree on (not necessarily directly focused on the company itself, but maybe a topic relating to both the company and Vice).

    "Spencer Baum, the chief strategic officer of Vice and the head of Virtue, its ad agency, told Widdicombe that "sponsorship" is a "dirty word" at Vice, because "being a sponsor is just slapping your logo on something and not being strategic about it." Widdicombe explains the Vice believes "sponsored content should represent something 'fresh'—a true creative collaboration between Vice and its advertiser.""

    I could see EJ and companies in the sustainability sector doing some interesting work. Just my 2c, take it as you will.

  16. Shirley says:

    I LOVE elephant journal and LOVE you guys!!! Please, don't go away! I wish I had talent for writing to give my contribution … If do you have potential? You are amazing! If you consider EJ a "work in progress" as I think we all are, it is an awesome one!

  17. Mel says:

    Completely and absolutely agree!

  18. Laura C. says:

    You're right. It is challenging to keep your advertisers if no one is calling them. The fact that Elephant reaches a targeted audience should make it a MORE DESIRABLE site. Either you commit and schedule a certain amount of time to communicate with your advertisers (active and prospective) even once a month (update them on audience numbers, content, even ideas on integrated concepts…) or you hire someone to do this. If you hire an experienced sales rep that is able to sell more advertising, they end up paying for themselves… You can also consider hiring a freelancer – i.e. someone that handles Elephant and other sites (non-competitive) – paid 100% commission… It's hard to provide you with real solutions without knowing more details. But there are definitely solutions for you. Please don't go away.

  19. Kelly says:

    Please Stay! I LOVE Elephant. I read it everyday!! I look forward to the daily wake up call. I even like the way it's layed out now – with the categories where you can find what you're looking for. Sorry to be so dramatic, but I'll be heartbroken if it goes away.

  20. Bracken says:

    I am not a member, but I really love and enjoy reading the few articles that I can ! (I can afford the $1 a month, but do not own a credit card, sad that this is the only way to pay)

  21. karlsaliter says:

    yes. we should.

  22. karlsaliter says:

    Part of the Acknowledgments section in my upcoming book: thought this might be a good time to share it.

    "Kate Fields Bartolotta and Waylon Lewis at Elephant Journal have been pivotal in helping me find my voice, and teaching me when not to use it so loudly. There is some very real magic happening at I pin the cause on these two quiet sages, and their 95-hour work weeks. Bravo, and gracias, amigos."