At a time when newspapers are imploding, whole newspaper chains are going unsold on the market and the news media are casting about to understand how to serve their audiences in a rapidly changing communications environment, it might not seem the most prudent thing in the world to start up a news organization. But if there’s one trend that is counteracting the collapse of the traditional newspaper, it’s the interest in all things environmental.
Hence, the creation of Mother Nature Network, the brainchild of company president Joel Babbit, a veteran marketing executive. The Atlanta-based site, which just launched this month, was bank-rolled by more than $10 million in venture capital. The company has hired 17 full-time staffers â€” many downsized by CNN and other media companies â€” and relies on a network of college-age bloggers. The site could become the standard for green-themed Web sites, strictly by its news content and the sheer amount of information on the site.
With a very magazine-looking graphic design and layout, the site has an eye-catching animated banner that uses compelling photos and catchy writing to grab the reader’s attention and send her to the latest news, trend or celebrity “green” article. Following the news hole where current affairs articles are displayed, eight columnists cover the gamut from business and technology to family, food and lifestyle. A video department offers four short features on varied topics.
Suffice it to say for an environmental news junkie like me, there are whole hours’ worth of stuff to peruse on the site. It also offers a weekly e-mail newsletter, a refreshing change from the daily environmental newsletters I receive that are short, but also a bit light on hard news.
That is probably the single element that will distinguish Mother Nature Network from such sites as Treehuggers.com, the Daily Green and especially the Environmental Protection Agency’s online presence. As long as it can maintain the variety, volume and pertinence of its content, the site should be able to buck the trend of a shrinking, irrelevant news media.