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December 23, 2012 Elephant

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CEO's Year-end Report to the Board: (You).

We don't have a board. We're independent. We had a few tentative offers to sell out, and I (barely) refused them—indie media is a dying breed, and I cherish it.

We were a print magazine for six years, growing & making good money toward the end, with a staff and an office and all that. We then jumped online when we failed to find a way to grow in an eco-responsible manner. Many of you have heard the story before.

This was our first year online when we made money. I'm reporting to you, because we don't have a board, so you are in effect our board. While we became fully sustainable, this year, and are able to pay a strong, fun, caring staff, we've struggled where it counts most. We've grown 300% a year. This year, because of Facebook's monetization changes, we couldn't keep up with the big boys, so while we succeeded in growing overall we lost readership via Facebook, formerly 60% of our traffic. So we were forced to get more accessible and fun, which I like, but at the expense of quality, nerdy editorial, the kind that our readers tend to ignore, but complain about when they find it missing. And despite our increased accessibility (a good thing), and despite paying for a passionate, skilled, caring staff, we're struggling to come out at 1,000,000 readers this month.

Too many times, this year, there were articles of juvenile spirituality by yoga newbies who sounded as if they'd gotten drunk surfing Rumi quotes on Pinterest. Too many times, this year, I blogged fun videos that I love (while connecting them to our mission, "the mindful life") instead of doing an original interview, which takes energy. After 10 years, I'm exhausted. Too many times recently, we've blogged up sexual posts without a point to them. I'm fine with sex—so are you—in fact, I'm a fan. But everything we touch we have to bring back to waking up, to compassion, to mindfulness, to some sense of humor about ourselves. What are we offering? What's the point of all this? It better not just be noise. God knows there's easier ways to make a right livelihood than new media, and god knows the world doesn't need more blahblahblah.

So, I'm disappointed. That said, we're learning and adjusting. I'm reading mindful business books, trying to refind my entrepreneurial inspiration now that I'm no longer fired up merely by "making it big." We're going to be paying writers for quality and for sharing their posts, this year. We're going to be featuring our quality posts up top on our home page, not just our Popular posts. For those writers who are consistent, even if they're not Popular, we're going to feature them in a new section on our front page. We're training a new team of apprentices from all over the world to learn social and new media and journalism ethics. At a million readers a month, making decent money (though not 1/40th, I've calculated, as our less advertising-choosey peers—yes, we have a lot of ads, but they're "mindful," "indie" ads for the most part—not alcohol and auto ads).

So all this is to say: Dear Board, we took care of business this year. We now have a passionate team. We have rich history, and a well-known brand. This year will be about quality. About growing to 10 million, and beginning to reach beyond the choir. Help us to do so. Invite a friend to subscribe to our free weekly newsletter, with free articles (no paygate). Or write an article. Share a photo, or a video, or a poem. We may not have the kind of money that the many corporate "spiritual" or "yoga" or "green" brands do...but we have you. Because our readers are our writers, and I, the founder, am only giving my years to this in hopes that, together, we can be of benefit, and have some fun doing so.

Yours,

Waylon Lewis

Waylon Lewis
editor-in-chief, host
Click here to follow @waylonlewis of elephant on instagram.
elephantjournal.com, Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis

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