Green Living Journal article page logo
northwestern and central Vermont

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Thank you for your interest in helping us spread Green Living. You're in the right place to learn more about us: what you see here on the website is much like what you'll find in our "dead tree" editions.

Check out the Frequently Asked Questions below, and visit the localized websites for our present territories by clicking one of the links at the bottom of each web page to get a sense of local advertisers.

Our publishing program is to license Green Living Journal for local publication. We provide branding, editorial content, a localized web presence, an online system for managing ad accounts and subscriptions, and administrative support as needed.

Our local publishers are independent business people who own their own businesses.

If you think a grassroots publication like Green Living Journal would work in your area, we suggest you check out the competition. If you do not find a publication serving the local community of "friends of the environment," get back in touch, and we will explore the next steps in starting a Green Living Journal in your market area.

Thank you for your interest and do not hesitate to be in touch with more questions.

Stephen Morris
Editor and Publisher

Frequently Asked Questions
about starting a local edition of
Green Living Journal

For informational purposes only
topics:     basic     operations     editorial     logistics

   • Basic Questions about Organizational Structure

What are your goals for Green Living Journal?
We'd like to see an edition in every major market region in America.
What defines a major market region?
Our very imprecise definition is approximately 100,000 people within a territory where people travel freely. Boundaries are often natural (rivers, mountains, and coastlines) and traffic patterns are easily definable. Size will vary greatly. It will obviously take a much greater area to meet these criteria in Wyoming than the San Francisco Bay Area. There is also a major factor of environmental consciousness. There may well be more environmentally sensitive people in Amherst, Wisconsin, for instance, than in Amherst, Mississippi. (Amherst, Massachusetts has been relying on their Green Living Journals for nearly two decades!) One way to get a sense of environmental reception is to check for the presence of Whole Foods or Wild Oats markets (or a comparable independent) in the region. They've done your homework for you.
How can someone become involved locally?
We are seeking local entrepreneurs who are committed to the cause of environmental protection. If you are the type of person who doesn't mind managing advertising and circulation, and who relates well to members of the environmental community, you might be a good candidate to become the publisher of a local edition of Green Living.
How is Green Living (GLJ) different from other green publications?
GLJ's current strength is its ability to serve small, local advertisers. We keep costs by getting our content for free. We obtain permissions to run previously published material (similar to the Utne Reader). It works and the business model is profitable. The approach works well in its home market, but we think it will be successful in other markets where there are supportive environmental communities. By design it is a grassroots effort.
Instead of numerous local editions, have you considered putting together a single national edition?
Yes, but that's not where the strength of our business model lies. The more national you become, the more you benefit from the economies of scale. We're after economies, too, but of small scale. We want to be the personification of "small is beautiful."
What kind of investment -- time and money -- is a local publisher looking at?

Editorial, accounting, and some of the design work are centralized functions. Advertising, printing, the remainder of the design work, and distribution are local. We estimate these functions to take one person roughly 30 hours a week, although more time may be required at the beginning to build the business.

It's too new a venture for us to quote a figure yet. The initial investment will be small, because there are not a lot of bricks and mortar required. (Although we are sensitive to the fact that the word "small" in financial terms can mean very different things to different people.) The exact amount of the investment is based on a formula tied to the value of the business as it grows, and is designed so that it will be fully repaid from the cash flow of the business after three years.

We want to keep the investment requirement modest and to provide flexible payment options so that energetic, mission-oriented people will be able to get started without mortgaging their homes. The most important requirements will be some appropriate office equipment, the resources to support yourself as the business gets established, and a sincere belief in the cause.

In round terms, each issue of the current Vermont edition of GLJ generates $20,000 in revenues. Fixed costs (printing, design, admin.) are about $8,000, leaving gross profits of $12,000. Of this, the lion's share will belong to the local publisher, with a small percentage paid to the central office.

How do you see the business organizational structure being set up for what you are planning?
Green Living is currently a business division of The Public Press LLC. We are researching organizing as a cooperative, but don't yet understand all the ramifications. Here is a really good link to learn about cooperatives out of U of Wisconsin's Center for Cooperatives:www.uwcc.wisc.edu/.
Should I consider setting up an LLC?
A sole proprietorship should be sufficient, but you should check with a local lawyer or accountant to be sure. We are setting up a business model that can be operated by one person to free you of the need to hire employees or meet the requirements of more complex business structures. If it turns out that the concept works and you want to have more editions of Green Living in other regions, a more formalized business structure is probably advisable.
What are the services and products that you supply in addition to your good name?
We are still actively evolving the package we offer our Local Publishers. Here is the list of assets we will offer and expect to offer soon:
  • An overarching business concept, including but not limited to editorial attitude
  • Accounting model and online list management system for keeping track of advertisers, subscribers, and distributors
  • Web site with regional pages, online display ads
  • A content stream to which you are, of course, invited to contribute
  • Quarterly template (content poured into a magazine template with plenty of space for plugging in ads.
  • Revenue sharing on national advertising; cooperative ad marketing with other publishers
  • Oversight and quality control of journals
  • An automated online classified advertising system
  • Periodic training, information sharing, and an annual conference
  • An operations "how-to" manual
What will the local publishers provide to the central office (eventually, we hope, a cooperative)?
  • One-time buy-in fee to establish business relationship
  • Annual membership fee to maintain their share of coop overhead
  • Quarterly flat-rate fee for services provided for each issue
  • Percentage of ad sales from each journal
Will I be financially independent from the mother company other than contractual arrangements?
That's the idea. The plan is to be as entrepreneurial and as decentralized as possible.
Is the planned coop to be a nonprofit, where after expenses, members receive a membership dividend?
Too early for us to answer that question.

   • Operations Questions

When is your deadline for ad materials to be received and for finishing the issue?
Ad materials are due one month prior to publication date. The date for getting the completed issue to the printer is three weeks after ads are received, but you will need to check with your local printer about their scheduling.
Are you publishing on Macs? What software do you use?
Our designers use Macs, but all other business functions are managed on PCs. Our information systems are managed by Michael Potts, who is based in Caspar, California, just north of Mendocino. The designers are presently using InDesign for the layout template.
Will billing and accounting be centralized?
Information will be centralized. We will also provide centralized billing, with the checks returned to your address. Shared data handling helps us prepare for a mix of local, regional, and national accounts.
How about production?
The editorial template's finalization and ad placement will need to be a local operation since the deadlines for all the issues will be simultaneous. An initial layout template with national ads and editorial already placed would be provided for each journal to fill in the remainder with their ads and local content. Local publishers with less experience will likely need to hire their own local freelance graphic designers for creating ads and finishing the layout. More experienced local publishers might be able to handle this themselves after initial startup with just a small amount of tech support.

   • Advertising & Editorial Policy Questions

What qualifies an advertiser to do business with Green Living Journal? Will there be a standard to which all journals adhere? For example, what happens if a big box store is allowed to advertise by one of the journals?

We are offering access to an audience, and that we have to make sure we don't unfairly discriminate in determining who can or cannot take advantage of this access. Other than this general guide, a local publisher will make their own determination what advertising they will or won't accept.

For our home edition, we follow a policy of self-selection. So long as an advertiser doesn't influence our editorial content, we let them advertise. So far, Wal-Mart hasn't come calling. Keep in mind that the strength of Green Living is its credibility with small, local businesses that share the publications' commitment to the environment. Businesses that don't share the values aren't usually interested in advertising, so they self-select out.

Who reads Green Living? What can I tell my advertisers about my audience?

We're glad you asked. We have a ready answer, one that impresses advertisers where we come from. Take a look at this webpage right here

Will someone in the coop infrastructure do quality control (QC) assurances to make sure that all the journals are attractively presented and meeting expectations with regard to minimum standards so that it protects the "investment" by the other
It seems very reasonable to have standards of QC, but we haven't yet defined or quality standards. Consistency is good, but uniformity is not our ultimate goal. Regional variation is desirable and much of local personality will come from the advertising. We don't want to be McDonalds, not even Wendy's.
Will we limit the number of national ad pages that each journal will have plenty of room for higher profit local ads?
The more local advertising, the better. We want to have a pricing structure that does not penalize the local publisher for carrying national advertising. Specific ad rates exist now only for local advertisers. The strength of Green Living is our local-ness, and every national ad dilutes that. This is not currently an issue, as national advertisers are not interested in us, but it is a subject to meter carefully.
Distribution numbers, ad sales, and the number of ad pages are apt to vary from region to region, especially during launches. Will each journal be able to change their print run, cut or add a signature, add or subtract editorial content or house ads to ac

At this early stage we haven't answered all these questions in a mutually acceptable fashion. There is going to be a natural tension between what the national and local publishers want. The national will want the maximum amount of control and the local will want the maximum flexibility and autonomy. Here's the perspective of one local publisher who is helping us articulate these issues and the subsequent resolutions:

"We can use the website to pre-publish articles so that the regional publishers can see what's coming, and have some input about which are the "featured" articles (teased on the cover) and which are alternates that may get pulled for a local article or more ads. I also think the central coop management has to be very protective of the "look and feel" of the individual editions—I envision a standard maximum percentage of ads, for example.

"At the same time, I hope the overall "definition" of a "good GLJ" used as a yardstick for evaluating quality can be very flexible, and allow an individual publisher to be very inventive and entrepreneurial in such matters as soliciting or commissioning local articles, adding signatures, changing the cover, printing fewer or more, trying coated stock, more color pages, whatever works. If the journal is too closely controlled, we are limited by our own vision, and to me one of the strengths of a coop is that individual members can try new stuff and, if successful, these innovations can be implemented more broadly. At the same time, we want enough uniformity so that, as you suggest, someone looking to relocate from one region to another will see the local GLJ and feel more at home.

"As for decreasing print runs, there are plenty of ways to productively give away free publications. For instance, I could easily go through several thousand copies by supplying the state highway welcome centers. I give them only a token amount, however, because their visitors are mostly tourists who don't usually benefit local advertisers. Events are another distribution valve that can be turned on and off. It should be the job of the local publisher to determine how best to circulate the publications.

For determining the initial print run, 16,000 copies is a good starting point. But it also makes sense for future print runs to look for the natural boundaries to regions, the local demographics, the number of outlets, how many of last quarter's journals were left over and adjust the print run to fit. This might be something that the central GLJ management suggests, but the actual print run numbers should probably be determined by the local publisher."

From the national perspective, the value of its offering is closely tied to the strength of its business model, and the more a local publisher strays from that, the more likely they will find themselves in uncharted waters.

Will the local publisher be given permission to whack a paragraph or two of content for fit?
We will have to develop specific guidelines. This can become a slippery slope. Certainly we will want our local publishers to be active contributors (either directly or by suggestion) to the national editorial. However, we get editorial content based on an agreement to present an author's ideas as he or she delivers them to us. We also have the right to rebut or amplify, for example by adding a sidebar. So policy here is likely to be add but don't change or subtract, and if an article offends or takes too much space, pluck it out whole.
How far in advance is your editorial content planned? For example, do you know what's coming two issues from now?

We will develop an annual editorial calendar, but what seems to be more important, according to our ad rep, is that our sections remain constant from issue to issue. Therefore, every issue has an article on green building; every issue has an article on socially responsible investing; every issue has an article on green education.

Ideally, we will eventually come up with expert editors for each of these sections, and that we will also do special issues devoted to our main subject areas (for example an annual "Green Living Guide to Social Investment". We're not there yet, but not so far away, either.

   • Logistical Questions about Distribution

How many miles is the diameter of your circle of distribution?
Although this varies between New England and Nevada, at most 100 to 150 miles.
What if my demographics are different than in Vermont?

The region seems to have several small concentrations of liberal-minded folks, separated by vast expanses of conservative areas. So, while I may define the area of the territory one way, the reality of who is living and doing business in each community may create the true definition of the territory.

Certainly the markets will be different, but there are a lot of similarities, too. We recommend that you begin by emulating the proven business model that closely parallels the current Green Living, then adjust as experience dictates.

How is the distribution handled?
The current edition is handled by a spiderwork network of a dozen individuals; half of who pick up at the central drop point in Brattleboro, and half of whom I deliver to personally. The local publisher should try to get out and about in the territory to some extent. They don't have to drop to all 300 accounts, but it's a great time to visit the largest accounts and to get in-person feedback on what is happening in the universe of green living. Obviously, this will vary from territory to territory and individual to individual.
Is it feasible for the local publishers to do all their own distribution?
I think it is feasible, but not necessary. There is definitely more than one way to skin this cat. You do not need to manage all distribution personally. I have found there is a steady supply of people who are willing to barter distribution services for a small ad. They really know the environmentally receptive nooks and crannies of their area, which enables the publication to effectively reach the community. Massage therapists, acupuncturists, and craftspeople often have time to devote to this part of the business.
What kind of a place distributes the most copies?
The Whole Foods market in Amherst goes through almost 2,000 copies and has a dedicated distributor who replenishes weekly. It's a win-win.
What is the smallest distribution point (number of copies)?
There are some drop points that get as few as 20.
How many pallets are used to deliver your 16,000 copies?
Would it be more economical to print my local edition here?
Yes, printing will be local, unless your region is contiguous to the current Vermont edition.
When I got the quote from my local printer, I specified recycled newsprint paper and soy inks. Will that be a standard for all the journals?
We will have guidelines and recommendations, but these things change. Recycled and soy used to be exotic; now they are almost standard. Non-chlorine, however, ratchets everything into a new cost category, and I don't think we want to mandate that.
What are the space requirements every journal needs for managing distribution in terms of a small storage unit/garage/other?
A single car garage can handle the requirement quite adequately. I use the warehouse of one of my advertisers who lets us use space for one week in return for a $40 ad credit.
How many copies are mailed for each issue of the Vermont edition?
Does your printer affix stick-on mailing labels and put them into the postal stream for you?
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