Editor ﾕ Conservation Magazine
Her tiny magazine uses guerrilla journalism and good will to draw top talent.
Launched in 2001 through a professional organization called The Society for Conservation Biology, Conservation (formerly Conservation in Practice) set out “to make conservation smarter.” “If you’re in business, you can read The Economist or Harvard Business Review or some sophisticated trade magazine,” says editor Kathy Kohm. “We wanted something similar but smaller for conservation. The challenge is, how do you maintain high quality out of proportion to your size and budget?”
To accomplish that, the magazine, which has a three-person staff and accepts no advertising, has sought partnerships with groups such as The National Park Service but also well-known journalists. Conservation has formed a contributing editors group that includes outside talent such as Stewart Brand, founder of Whole Earth, Charles Alexander, former international editor at Time, and the former environmental editor of The Economist. Kohm has recruited writers from Scientific American, cartoonists from The New Yorker and The Atlantic, and even persuaded a Smithsonian writer to do a story on water rights for Conservation while on assignment in Nicaragua. In 2006, the magazine won the Gold SNAP award for general excellence for magazines with circulation of 20,000 and fewer.”We’re trying to cast our net more broadly and bring in people from other fields such as economics, anthropology and politics,” says Kohm. “We want to be more open and magazine-like, and less journal-like.”
The 10,000-circ magazine is attempting to broaden its audience in part by ramping up its Web site. Conservation launched Journal Watch Online, which provides daily summaries of new scientific papers. It is also positioning to become a classroom resource by developing educational tools that include questions and study resources around its articles that are available online. To build some buzz around the effort, the magazine gave away free subscriptions to the first 100 educators who signed up for the program.
Conservation is a lesson in resourcefulness for other publications. With a circulation of 10,000, an annual budget between $400,000 and $500,000, and a full-time staff of three, the magazine is gaining international acclaim from top writers and making an online push as an educational resource.