As 2014 comes to a close and we prepare to celebrate Ensia’s second anniversary this coming February, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on the journey we’ve been on over these past couple of years.
In my role as Ensia’s director, I often meet with potential partners, supporters, thought leaders and others. More often than not, one of the first questions I’m asked is, “How big is your audience?”
Thanks to Ensia’s steady growth and increasing number of republishing partners, millions of people now view our content globally. While that’s important and something we’re committed to expanding, I’m much more interested in another question that may or may not be tied to the size of the audience: “What’s your impact?”
Which begs another question: How do we accurately measure impact across a changing media landscape? Clicks? Comments? Unique visitors? Social media followers?
Those all are important, but what I really want to know is, did we make a difference in the world?
Did any business leaders reassess their supply chain after reading about the emerging zero waste world or recycling opportunities for rare earth metals? Did utility managers question the price of water in their community after seeing our story on this undervalued resource? Did investors look to green bonds to boost their bottom line and benefit the environment? Did consumers change their shopping habits because of our stories on palm oil, the future of meat or food packaging? Did someone donate to a conservation organization in hopes of stemming the illegal wildlife trade after reading our interviews with Peter Knights of WildAid or Iris Ho with Humane Society International? Was a new partnership formed or conversation started after reading a compelling Voices commentary?
We’ve heard stories of these actions starting to take place, and that gives us hope that we’re on the right track. For example, we were able to connect a palm oil plantation manager in Colombia with researchers in Colorado who reported on fixing issues around methane emissions from palm oil plantations. The Canadian chapter of the Wildlife Conservation Society approached author Ed Struzik to deliver the keynote speech at its annual conference after reading his feature story on the changing Arctic. And commentaries such as the one we published on GMOs have led to a rich online discussion among people on both sides of the issues.
Sure, I could tell you about page views, unique visitors and media partners — all of which are important to our success. But at Ensia and at the Institute on the Environment, our home institution, making a difference in the world is what inspires our work. What it boils down to is this: One unique visitor is enough — if it’s the right visitor, and that visitor is inspired or empowered by a story to change the world.
As I wrote earlier this year, it only takes a moment or a simple statement to transform someone’s life — and improve the environment we all depend on.
In 2015 we’ll continue to publish high-quality, trusted journalism. We’ll also continue to look for underreported stories, ask provocative questions and shine a light on innovative solutions — all while exploring new ways to measure and track impact.
Our goal is to challenge you to think differently while offering a sense of hope. As you think back over this past year, we hope you recall a time when an Ensia story opened the door to a new insight or led you to take action on an issue. If so, we’d love to hear from you via email, Facebook or Twitter.
The challenges facing the world today are daunting, but what if we focused more on the people, places and projects working toward solutions and a more positive future? At this point we don’t have the luxury of sitting back and complaining. It’s time to get to work and have an impact.
Want to use your career to have a positive impact on the world? Take the first step by joining Ensia in Minneapolis this November 6- 8 for the annual Net Impact Conference. This year’s event will bring together 2,700 business and sustainability leaders from around the world. Conference attendees can choose from 100 interactive sessions in tracks ranging from environment and natural resources, sustainable food and agriculture, and corporate impact and career and professional development. Participants will also have ample time for networking and exploring the Twin Cities — Ensia’s hometown and one of the most beautiful and progressive cities in America. Register now — October 15, 2014
Ensia is excited to be a supporter of SXSW Eco taking place in Austin, Texas October 6–8. The first round of sessions was just announced and the topics range from biomimicy and smart grids to future cities and a Fitbit to save elephants. Featured speakers include author Christine Bader and environmental justice legend Robert Bullard — both interviewed recently by Ensia. And new this year, the exhibit and panel series Cleantech Global will “showcase the world’s most forward-thinking cities, places where sustainability and clean energy form the backbone of urban planning and economic development.” Register for SXSW Eco today and we’ll see you in Texas this fall! Photo byEd Schipul (Creative Commons | Flickr) — June 27, 2014
Ensia has been named an honoree in the Best Green Website category of the 18th Annual Webby Awards. Hailed as the “Internet’s highest honor” by the New York Times, the Webby Awards, presented by the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences, are the leading international awards recognizing excellence on the Internet. This year nearly 12,000 entries were received from all 50 U.S. states and over 60 countries worldwide. — April 9, 2014
When we launched Ensia magazine online and in print a year ago this week, we didn’t know exactly what to expect. Would there be an interest in hopeful, solutions-oriented stories in a world filled with environmental doom and gloom? Was there room for thoughtful, original articles and commentaries amidst the flood of click-bait headlines and cotton candy content?
You responded with a resounding “Yes!” and for that we want to say, “Thanks!”
In Ensia’s first year, hundreds of thousands of you from more than 160 countries around the world read our stories, viewed our multimedia and shared our content via social media. Perhaps most important of all, though, you engaged with one another through thoughtful comments and discussions on ensia.com, Twitter, Facebook and elsewhere. If we’ve started to play even a small role in sparking conversations that lead to solutions to our biggest environmental challenges, the late hours and caffeine-fueled editorial deadlines will be worth the effort.
Along the way, we’ve learned quite a bit. And you’ve helped keep us on our toes, too.
We were surprised by the stories that resonated with you: Who knew an article on climate change cuisine would be one of our most popular?
Your views and shares showed us there’s still a place in the world for in-depth reporting on important issues such as a new path for conservation, nature-inspired urban design, the need to reduce groundwater depletion and solar energy solutions for the developing world. Regarding that last piece, the head of a renewable energy company in India commented, “This is the primer that I’ll send to anyone who wants to understand the landscape for clean energy in developing countries.” Feedback like this really tells us we’re on to something.
Something we never expected was to be called upon frequently throughout the year as an advisor. Yet over the past year, we’ve been contacted by media and environmental organizations based in the U.S. and the U.K. looking to expand their focus on “solutions journalism.”
Through email and in person, you also told us that you appreciate Ensia’s commitment to both solid content and smart design. We try to appeal to both the head and the heart, the left and the right brain, and our efforts to do so appear to be paying off.
Ensia was also fortunate to receive a number of professional accolades this past year, including an Eddie editorial award from Folio magazine and a Judge’s Choice Award during AIGA’s (Re)design competition. We were particularly pleased with the comment from one of the AIGA judges, who noted, “By filling the vast void left by the corporate-owned media outlets for environmental reporting, Ensia highlights the myriad of environmental issues and solutions that are happening today… The design itself is clean, functional in modern media, and highly visual when other magazines and websites are text heavy.”
Of course, it hasn’t exactly been a cakewalk. We learned that publishing original, edited and diligently fact-checked content five times a week requires a lot of early mornings and late nights. We also learned that finding funding for an independent nonprofit magazine is a near full-time job — which makes us more thankful than ever for the support we’ve received from the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and private individuals who’ve stepped forward to help us grow Ensia. If you’re interested in contributing to future environmental reporting or helping us train the next generation of environmental communicators through the Ensia Mentor Program, we’d sure appreciate your support.
Ensia hosted several large, public events during the spring of 2013. We’re now assessing new opportunities in the events space. We strongly believe in the power of targeted, in-person interactions to move the conversation toward environmental solutions, so stay tuned for details in the year ahead.
As we strive to magnify Ensia’s reach and impact, developing meaningful, lasting partnerships with both nonprofit and for-profit media outlets remains a work in progress. We’ve started several exciting new media partnerships during the past year (with a few more high-profile connections to be announced in the months ahead), but reaching out beyond the “choir” to attract new audiences is a constant part of our day-to-day activities — and one of the most important things we can do if we’re really going to move the needle on these issues.
In closing, we’d love to hear from you. What are we doing right? How can we improve? What environmental issues do you think deserve to be in the spotlight over the coming year? You can engage with Ensia on Twitter or Facebook, or if you prefer, send me a message via email.
On behalf of everyone at Ensia, thank you once again for your support throughout our first year! We look forward to bringing you more stories of inspiring solutions to environmental challenges in the months and years to come.
Ensia has been nominated for a 2013 Katerva Award in the Behavioral Change category. Launched in 2011, the international Katerva Awards honor the most promising sustainability innovations. Nominees are determined by the Global Action Network — a community of 400 subject matter experts around the world. Winners will be announced in February. — January 14, 2014
As we near the end of Ensia’s first year, we hope you have found the solutions-focused stories, op-eds, infographics, videos and photo galleries illuminating, and that they have helped spark conversations and new ways of thinking about the biggest environmental issues we face today. While there are many great ways to stay in touch with Ensia, our weekly e-newsletter might be the easiest. Delivered every Thursday, the newsletter highlights the week’s top stories, ensuring that you never miss a thing. If you’re not already a subscriber, sign up. Bonus: It will only take you about 10 seconds.
Thank you for reading and supporting Ensia in 2013. We look forward to an even better year in 2014.
Photo by CeresB (Creative Commons | Flickr) — December 30, 2013
AIGA, one of the world’s largest professional organization’s for design, last night recognized Ensia with a Judge’s Choice Award in the 2013 (Re)design awards competition. The international competition “recognizes design that challenges us to (re)think the world and our choices” and is based on the philosophy that “through masterful storytelling, compelling visuals, and beautiful design, we have the power to shape the future and ignite change.” Other 2013 award recipients include projects done for Human Rights Campaign, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Children’s National Medical Center, Earthjustice and more. — October 11, 2013
Do you have a solutions-focused environmental story you’d like to share with Ensia’s global community? The new Ensia Mentor Program offers aspiring environmental communicators a chance to contribute by creating an article, video, image gallery, infographic or other work under the guidance of an experienced professional. — August 21, 2013
Ensia has been named a finalist in the 2013 AIGA (Re)Design Awards competition. The awards “celebrate the most influential designs that advocate for strong communities, sustainable environments and thriving economies while challenging us to (re)think the world and our choices..” Winners will be announced October 10. — August 6, 2013
What do conservation biologist M. Sanjayan, supermodel Amber Valletta and Reverend Lennox Yearwood Jr. have in common? They’ll all be converging in Austin, Texas, this fall for the third annual SXSW Eco. Once again, Ensia will be in attendance as an official supporter.
What should conference attendees expect? In true Austin fashion, a little bit of everything — with sessions running the gamut from reducing food waste in the U.S. to sustainable travel and future-proofing cities. (Personally, we’re really intrigued by the session titled “Creating an Irresistible Future” — who wouldn’t want that?)
In addition to three days of engaging breakout sessions and panel discussions, SXSW Eco will also feature a public space design competition, film screenings, a Big Data hackathon and the ever-popular Startup Showcase. Last year’s showcase winner — PlanetReuse, an online marketplace facilitating building material reuse nationwide — hit its Series A funding goals less than a month after the victory at SXSW Eco, so you know this is the place to see the technologies of tomorrow before they hit the big time.
SXSW Eco takes place October 7–9, 2013, in Austin, Texas. For discount tickets, enter the code “reg-eco-sec_j49vlsdkjv” on the registration page.
Photo by eschipul (Flickr | Creative Commons) — July 18, 2013
Communication Arts recently named Ensia the WEBPICK OF THE WEEK and commented, “With its clean, modern and responsive design the site stands out from its peers in the environmental news space.” We’re truly honored by this high praise coming from one of the standard bearers in the visual communications space. — May 3, 2013
As 60 million people move into cities each year in developing countries, Peter Williams will show why our planet’s rapid urbanization requires us to think in an entirely new way about design, development and disease. Using stunning visuals and personal stories, Williams will take the audience on a tour of the globe from Nigeria to India, Cameroon to Jamaica — and points in between — as he explores this 21st century challenge in a way that refuses to consider living conditions and human health separately, arguing instead for a systemic approach if we are to truly address these issues unique to our time. Get your tickets today. — March 29, 2013
Ready to be inspired? Buy your tickets now for Ensia Live, featuring futurist Jamais Cascio, sustainability expert Peggy Liu and global architect Peter Williams along with performances by Ribnic Circus, Twin Cities Women’s Choir and artist Gregory Euclide with percussionist S. Carey. — March 8, 2013
We couldn’t be more pleased to announce that the Institute on the Environment’s award-winning Momentum web, print and event platform has received a generous grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation to dramatically expand our content and reach. Along with the new growth comes a new name—Ensia—and reaffirmed mission: to connect people who can change the world with the ideas, information and inspiration they need to do so. Big thanks to the Moore Foundation for the funding and vote of confidence! — January 8, 2013
Ensia’s predecessor, Momentum, won six awards—including four Golds—in our division at the 2012 Minnesota Magazine and Publishing Association ceremony. Top prizes were garnered in the areas of overall design, single topic issue, editor’s letter and technical article. Momentum also received a silver for overall excellence and a bronze for feature design. — January 4, 2013
Where in the world can we find hope for a more sustainable future? Plenty of places, it turns out. In the Fall 2012 Momentum cover story, award-winning environmental journalist Hillary Rosner shines the spotlight on seven promising approaches to solving seven environmental grand challenges, from revitalizing ocean fisheries to shaping more sustainable cities. Also, explore new perspectives on hydropower, updates on an intriguing underground connection between Iceland and Kenya, a window on food waste, futurist Jamais Cascio’s take on jet packs and government, and more. — December 19, 2012