Self-Reliance Is the Tie That Binds, Part 1

Reader Contribution by Bryan Welch
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You are growing, and we are growing, too.

Last year — in fact, for the past 10 years — MOTHER EARTH NEWS has been the fastest-growing major magazine in the country. Thank you for supporting what we do. We’re proud to serve you for many different reasons.

A company called Mediamark Research & Intelligence (MRI) measures magazine audiences for the advertising industry. They confirm that, among the 211 largest magazine audiences in the country, none has grown faster than the MOTHER EARTH NEWS audience — that’s you — over the past 10 years. During that period, our total audience has quadrupled.

Overall, magazine audiences have been shrinking lately. But not at MOTHER EARTH NEWS.

Over the past six years, total magazine newsstand revenues across the country were down 37 percent. During the same period, our newsstand sales almost doubled. And your peer groups reading Mother Earth Living and Grit — MOTHER EARTH NEWS’ sister publications that are not yet among the 211 magazines MRI measures — have been growing even faster.

Why? Well, as much as we might like to give all the credit to good management, we actually think we’re growing because we have good audiences. Very good audiences — “good” in every sense of the word.

MOTHER EARTH NEWS and its siblings here at Ogden Publications are about doing good. When we try to describe our magazines, we often say they are about “conscientious lifestyles.” That’s another way of saying they are magazines for conscientious people.

More and more these days, we let you tell us what to put in our magazines. We send 10 to 50 email surveys to various groups of readers every week. (Join the MOTHER EARTH NEWS advisory group.) Based on the results of these surveys, we know that you love photos of heirloom tomatoes; you love gardens; you love barns and farmhouses; you are suspicious of the industrial food system; you enjoy growing your own food and making your own furniture; you believe natural remedies can heal most health problems (and you generally prefer those remedies); you are concerned about the future of our planet and our habitat; and you want very, very much to preserve a beautiful and abundant place where our grandchildren and our great-grandchildren can live.

Based on these common interests, we might all sound as though we’re cut from the same cloth. But MRI also considers your unique personality as an audience. Starting in 2013, they began asking members of magazine audiences how they would describe themselves, politically. It turns out that about 10 percent of you think of yourselves as politically “very liberal.” And about 21 percent of you think of yourselves as politically “very conservative.”

You feel more strongly about your beliefs on both ends of the political spectrum than average Americans do. Out of a random group of Americans, only 5 percent would call themselves “very liberal” and 12 percent would call themselves “very conservative.” That means MOTHER EARTH NEWS readers are about twice as likely as the average American to describe themselves as “very liberal” or “very conservative.”

Any engagement with the media these days would have you believe that average Americans are incredibly polarized — so that must mean you, as an audience, are in polarization overload, with little to bind you together. But that’s just not so.

Commonality in Conscientiousness

As editors, we generally don’t think about whether a reader is liberal or conservative. We’re looking for readers who are very conscientious — people interested in sustainability and self-reliance. And it turns out that people who are very conscientious tend to describe themselves as “very liberal” or “very conservative.” 

But your political differences apparently don’t extend to your feelings for gardens, tomatoes, farmhouses, pure food, a healthy human habitat or great-grandchildren.

Evidently, we all agree those are things that need to be preserved and nurtured. About the most important things, it seems you — and we — are aligned.

Not only were you the fastest-growing audience in the MRI study over the past decade, but you also spent more time reading each issue of MOTHER EARTH NEWS than any other magazine’s audience spent reading that publication’s pages — even when compared with magazines that are twice as thick or twice as wordy. 

In addition, you made MOTHER EARTH NEWS the magazine most likely to be a reader’s favorite out of all the large magazines in the country.

All of this is tremendously exciting for us, of course, and it’s encouraging in bigger ways, too. The diversity of MOTHER EARTH NEWS’ audience reflects a new direction for society.

For more of Bryan Welch’s ideas on MOTHER EARTH NEWS readers’ common interests, check out Self-Reliance Is the Tie That Binds, Part 2.

Top: Photo by Michelle Allnon: A shared desire to live sustainably brings increasingly large audiences to the MOTHER EARTH NEWS Fairs.

Bottom: Photo by Bryan Welch: The magazine attracts fans from diverse backgrounds.

Bryan Welchis the Publisher and Editorial Director of Ogden Publications, the parent company of MOTHER EARTH NEWS. Connect with him on.

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