Waylon and Dave in Tel Aviv, 2014.
Seen any ads you hate on elephant? Let us know, they’re from an ad network so we can’t choose but we can smush the bad ones.
A note from the Elephant Journal Chief Revenue Officer, Dave Rogers.
My mom sees a doctor who charges her well more than the going rate for a visit. Mom originally went to this doctor because her peers told her this guy is not only the best in his field, but also a super straight shooter who thinks the medical industry is broken and will tell you what he thinks regardless of how unconventional his wisdom might be. Mom said that’s her style.
After a few visits, my mom kept noticing that the waiting room—which was always heaving—had a significant percentage of folks, who to my mother’s highly trained socioeconomic judgement radar, were unlikely to be capable of paying this way-above-market rate. When my momma bear asked the doc, “what gives,” he replied: “you’re paying for them.”
That’s a bit how we roll at Elephant. Passionate everyday readers are subsidizing new readers for the sake of our society’s well-being and with the hopes that these folks like what they read and join the Elephant community.
Paying members are the majority of our revenue at Elephant and the vast majority of our operating costs pays writers/editors who generate and distribute the mindful messages to the masses. We don’t limit our content to those who can pay because that would be against our mission—to share the news about the mindful life to all sentient beings.
We’re getting pretty good at this spreading of mindfulness. Last month we reached 13.5 million uniques—more people than ever before. More people than any other publication trying to make the world more mindful. If you paid $1/month or more for a membership—you made this happen! You! We literally couldn’t have done it without you. You paid for your content and some multitude more of folks not as far down the path you’ve followed yet or perhaps without the means currently.
Memberships are our favorite source of revenue, but to fuel the growth we’ve had recently we need more revenue. Revenue to hire more writers and spread the good word further for the benefit of all sentient beings. Remember that we are truly independent media. Not beholden to any force but our readers. That means we don’t have a parent company to float us while revenue catches up to growth. We’ve never sold bad ads—most online media does so and makes millions. Last year we grossed about 1/50th (less than 500K) what our peers make. That’s because we want to walk our talk, and grow mindfully.
But, too, we want to get bigger to reach more people and make more change. The world needs good news, and sunshine on the shadows, urgently. More reach requires more revenue. We have four innovative initiatives that will allow us to generate more fuel:
> Mindful marketplace. A trusted place for you to buy directly from merchants who walk the talk.
> The Elephant Ecosystem. An easy way for you to financially-support the specific writers and stories that you like.
> E-books. Books are ethical, mission-consistent, and can be created and sold easily.
> The Elephant Academy: already up-and-running but gaining steam, we make about 1/3 to 1/5 what other online training schools make. That’s okay. We’re proud of what we do and our professors are active in the new media field, every day—they’re our editors.
> Elephant Gathering: a physical festival/conference.
These are ideas we love. Some of these ideas are big ideas, or in internet speak, products that will take several months or more to get to a meaningful amount of revenue.
To help these new products get birthed and keep expanding the reach of Elephant, we made a decision to run display ads from certain ad networks in addition to the ads from our buddies, like Bhakti Chai, Yoga Pod, Grokker, Crown Publishing, Happify and a few dozen other good folks every year. It was a hard decision to choose to add the ad networks. In the modern world of internet advertising, we aren’t allowed to efficiently pick-and-choose which companies’ ads appear on your reading. When NY Times and Beta Brands and Woolrich or Filson show up we smile, but when someone (like Waylon’s mom) eventually sees an ad that doesn’t seem like it should be on Elephant Journal and tells us about it, we cry a bit.
This is where we are at today. Readership growth has been dramatic and we are reaching nearly 20m+ site visitors…whoah…are curious to learn more about the mindful life. Advertising pays for a few editors’ monthly salaries and we feel that is currently and temporarily worth the cost of running ads that may not be aligned with our mission. That said, we retain the right to remove those ads (if you complain to us, please do) and criticize those businesses in our editorial.
It’s always a tough balance to pursue a mission and do it with as little compromise as possible. This is where we are at— maybe we are wrong, but we are honest-to-goodness trying our best.
Yours in the Vision of Enlightened Society,
Chief Revenue Officer