June 13, 2010

Do you want mindful, independent media to go big?

It’s up to you.

State of the elephant.

On June 17, it was three months since I secured a loan intended to help us to hire staff, become a professionally-run, sustainable business, and to accelerate our growth.

In that time we did three things, as a business:

1. We staffed up. With an editor, I’ve been able to invite and digest maybe twice as many great columnists who are offering unique, original, quality content that—delightfully for both myself and I’m sure some readers, isn’t by me..! With an operations manager, ad manager and executive assistant rolled into one—that would be Lindsey Block, the sole representative who’s survived since our days as a print magazine with offices and a staff, including part-time photographers and videographers, of 12—we’ve been able to magnetize more advertisers, and do number 2., below. With an ad salesperson…well, I wasn’t able to find an ad salesperson with experience in the LOHAS/yoga/green demographic. Still looking. They don’t have to live in Boulder, though that’s a plus, of course. I also hired a (very) part time editor’s assistant, to work with and train our six interns who help post content and do some original writing of their own.

2. We’ve debuted our Grassroots Member Network. For $108/month, you get your business or personal name in lights. For $108/year, you get your name, business or fave non-profit in a modest font size. Hundreds of those who love elephant and want to see it continue have signed up.

And just last week, we debuted a $1/month plan for those who may not love elephant, but read an awful lot of it. A box pops up on the second page you click, and it’ll never pop up again (until you clear your cache), whether you accept or reject its entreaty to support our journalism.

3. We’ve grown our readership from 140,000 unique visitors a month to 200,000 unique visitors over the past three months.

Above: The last approx six months.

Above and below: The last thirty days (measure by the day, below).

Problem: our Grassroots Network has been only modestly successful. Many of those who want to see us continue, and have retweeted or shared our many supplications for support have been unable, themselves, in tough economic times—or have been insufficiently inspired themselves—to take out their wallet and get their name on every page of our site in return for $9/month. That’s to be expected. Our monthly net is now about $2,000, just enough to support one modestly paid not-quite-part-time staff person. It’s not yet enough to pay for three staff persons, not including myself (I get paid from ads, most of which are donated, discounted or for trade, still. Only a few recent ads up top, like Naropa, J.Crow or New Belgium, are paying fair amounts).

So, for all those who’ve asked what happens to elephant after June 17—I’ve sworn to move on to more profitable enterprises, personally, given that I haven’t paid myself much of anything for nearly two years, now—well, let’s just say that if we don’t get more support, elephant can limp on. If we don’t have any staff beyond Lindsey. Given our growth and success on Facebook and twitter, I’m confident that we can achieve 1,500,000 unique views/month by the end of December, 2010. If I have no editorial help, I think elephant could still make 800,000 unique monthly visitors.

So the question is, am I personally willing to continue to live on my laptop, lose my home, and march on without much of a paycheck? How much do I believe in elephant’s ability to grow and become a force of “mindful,” independent, quality journalism in the 21st century? How much do I believe in elephant?

How much do you?

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