Green publications catch everyone's eye

Mixed among the vegetarian journals and yoga newsletters, earth-friendly magazines have held a place on newsstands for years.

Mixed among the vegetarian journals and yoga newsletters, earth-friendly magazines have held a place on newsstands for years.

But with consumers' attentions now leaning green, these titles are appearing front and center, and it's not unusual for mainstream publications to dedicate space or entire issues to eco-themed content.

"Climate change is by far the biggest crisis facing humanity today," says Jim Motavalli, editor of 17-year-old bimonthly E, The Environmental Magazine. "Polls show that Americans still don't fully understand" its consequences for the planet and to individuals directly.

To address that, he says, one of E's "prime motivations" is reaching audiences not yet committed to making a difference. One way it's done so is through the syndication of its EarthTalk Q&A column, featured weekly in 1,540 newspapers, including, Motavalli says, "some that probably never had any environmental content before."

EarthTalk has whet people's appetite for more, adds publisher Doug Moss. The title has seen a hike in subscriptions, he says, and Web site traffic has rocketed to 800,000 visitors a month.

Even as more mainstream titles devote resources to the environmental beat, Moss and others are not concerned that the ubiquity of green content could marginalize special-interest publications.

"Sports are covered every day, ad nauseum, in magazines and papers," Moss says. "If only we could get people as interested in this."

Rebecca McPheters, president of New York-based media consultancy McPheters & Co., says that shouldn't be a challenge.

"I don't think there's [a] question that the market for green [titles] is rapidly increasing," she says. "The trend [will] only snowball."

It remains to be seen, though, how many publications the eco-friendly movement can support.

"What we're talking about here are a couple of levels of interest," says Wendy Priesnitz, editor of bimonthly Natural Life magazine since 1976. "There's a real solid level of interest in the subject, but also this faddish element to it."

While she doesn't anticipate a return to "the level of apathy we used to have" in regard to the environment, she says it could be difficult for a mainstream magazine to sustain it for the long-term.

Still, she says, "We've never been in a situation that the earth has been in such bad shape ... Younger people are paying attention now, asking questions - they're scared that's the world [they'll] inherit."

Priesnitz says the shift in demographics has helped boost Natural Life newsstand sales and has even refocused its editorial content.

"We used to talk to a very sophisticated knowledge base," she says, "a core group of people who had always lived that way." Now, it is "going back and teaching people how to do some basic things."

Priesnitz adds that Natural Life is set to launch Natural Child in January. It will focus on "green for young parents."

The best place for green-themed titles, however, may be online.

For Michael d'Estries, founder and editor of Web sites Groovy Green and Ecorazzi, a Web existence allows environmental messages to reach entirely different audiences than would print publications. It also provides an immediately interactive component.

Thanks to social aggregators like Digg and StumbleUpon, d'Estries says the sites' content "catches the eyes of people who would never have gone [there]. People can offer fresh perspectives... We're not just preaching to the choir."

D'Estries is thrilled with the current level of environmental awareness and mainstream-media dialogue, including special green issues, but predicts, "Like all good trends, it will eventually calm down and just become a part of life.

"Just every month will deal with sustainability, no one will even notice," he adds. "That's the best thing I can hope for."

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