October 28, 2008

elephant journal goes Paperless; becomes elephantjournal.com

“elephant is Dead! Long Live elephant!” From the Holiday 2008 issue.

Want to support ele? Subscribe to our free, weekly e-newsletter.

Thanks to you, elephant grew 5 to 25 percent every issue but two over the last six years. Still, because we were unfunded, we were always just two mistakes away from going “poof.” That’s the life of an indie business—on the razor’s edge—without $aving$, you’ve got no insulation from reality.

A year ago, I had four full-time staff members, and another eight part-time. Then one quit, to (god knows why) work on a boat in the Mediterranean. Then, we couldn’t find the right manager for our talk shows, and lost money and time trying. Four months later, our longtime ad manager shoved off to greener shores, and a replacement never materialized.

Suddenly, I had to pull the plug on ele’s Spring issue—killing 25% of our annual income. Still, with only three issues in ‘08, we had enough momentum behind us to match our four ‘07 issues, income-wise. But then, icing on the cake, our new downtown eco-office’s landlord wanted to move back in, so I moved out (leaving half our eco furniture to my colleagues), but he reneged and my other landlord, out a tenant, kept my deposit.

Our very growth wound up creating too much work for our small but determined staff—so without an ad salesperson, and not wanting to take on investment or sell out, elephant depended upon the support of prominent green & spiritually-minded companies to survive. Some came forward—many, however, did not. For them, it made sense to advertise in more established publications.

And so, for the first time, I find myself in debt. I don’t like debt. My drive forward, formerly bull-headed, has stalled. For years I’ve traded income, travel, exercise, bbqs, relationships for working on my laptop in lovely downtown Boulder—and I’ve had the time of my life.

But it’s difficult to leverage old school print media. It’s clunky. And while we printed on unbleached ecopaper at a local printer, it’s time to say goodbye to the enormous energy required to grow and cut, ship and mill and reship, print and rereship the medium known as the magazine.

After six point two five years, elephant—the brand and infrastructure, distribution, advertising, editorial, web, events, e-newsletter—is worth something (a commensurate outfit sold for $15 million last year). But after railing about supporting independent, local business, I haven’t figured how to rationalize selling or taking on investment.

And soo—with thanks for your enthusiasm that made our fun run possible—this is our last issue. I hope it was of some benefit!

So what’s next?
More of the same. Much more. With the usual $500 in my account, paying myself $200/month more than my home/office’s mortgage, fried as KFC and beat as Kerouac…I’m ready to hit the keyboard running. Befitting an eco-minded publication, elephant is going paperless.

Over the past six months, some of you have noticed that we’ve put a good deal of our energy and attention into elephantjournaldotcom. Our traffic has spiked at a 75 degree angle. We have a chance to become a harder, better, faster, stronger, national media co while staying truly, fully, madly, deeply independent. Working to build a national talk show for a year, I suddenly find we already have one: on our web site. All we need is traffic.

Don’t get me wrong: emerging from the chrysalis of old elephant journal, baby elephantjournaldotcom will be fun—but, revenues-wise, we’ll be going from 60 mph to 10 mph. If I don’t lose my house in the next few months, I’ll be lucky or a genius (we know which).

If you want to help elephant, there’s two ways you can do so.

1] Subscribe to our free weekly e-newsletter. Commenting and starring our blogs, articles, interviews and videos, and buying our fair-labor, organic tanks and tee shirts is niiice, but not necessary.

2] If you’re a yoga studio or LOHAS/eco demographic business, sponsor a web ad or video. Prices start at $100-150/month for a square ad to $500/video.

Like grist.org, beliefnet.com, treehugger.com, we aim to get the good word out to our choir—the committed base of mindful citizens that makes up 33% of our vast nation. And, with a sense of humor and a willingness to learn, we hope to reach the masses, á la The Daily Show.

Going online means elephant will be able to attend Green Fests, Natural Products Expos, eco concerts and offer our ‘elevision’ talk show/ecofashion parties in LA and NYC. Our wonderful columnists: Frank Berliner, Peggy Markel, Mary Taylor, Susan Edwards, Dr. John Douillard and Brigitte Mars will continue to write for elephantjournaldotcom. And we’ll continue to video conversations with the likes of Alice Walker, Dr. Deepak Chopra, Paul Hawken, Seane Corn, Amy Goodman.

It’s a foolish gamble—giving up the progress of 6+ years. But, then, if our mission is to be of benefit to all sentient beings, the web might just be the vehicle we need.

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