The Reality of Life, With Plants
I launched this website over two years ago. It was always my hope that it would grow to sustain me financially as well as creatively. How the financial side would work was only a vague concept for me at that early stage. I was completely and utterly tied up in the creative journey and the building of The Planthunter.
Then it launched, and I soon realised the leap I had made. It was huge. I had no real idea of how to manage the day-to-day running of the site, let alone come up with any kind of sound financial strategy. I assumed at that point that I would just keep on working in my other job as a landscape designer, and do The Planthunter on the side until it started making money. How wrong I was. Running a site like this is not something I’ve managed to undertake on the side. It’s an obsession and entirely all consuming.
Here’s a secret: There’s no money behind The Planthunter. There’s no publisher, and no generous investors. It’s been built with passion, the generosity of many, and scraps of money as it rolls in. Until recently there’s been no we, just me.
The second part of this secret is that although it may look rather fun and even a bit glamorous from the outside, pouring your heart into a project like this means living on less for a number of years until maybe, just maybe, it provides some kind of financial return.
I absolutely love what I do. Every single day I am astounded by the stories I read, the people I meet, and the way that somehow I’ve managed to pull all the things I love into something that people are responding to in a positive manner. The Planthunter is my absolute passion. I’ve realised, though, that unless some amazing sugar daddy/mummy comes along and bankrolls The Planthunter (if you’re out there, please make yourself known!), it needs to support itself financially or it will stop existing. It’s as simple as that.
It wasn’t until I started reading the results of the reader survey we did in November 2015 that I fully realised the support that exists for TPH. I was blown away by the responses. One of the underlying themes that emerged was how people love The Planthunter because it’s not focused on things, money, trends. It’s a unique, timeless space amid the noisy, cluttered digital world. This is wonderful. And not something I ever want to change. It got me thinking, though, about the balance that’s required in order to maintain the essence of the site, AND make a living. So I decided to write this piece as a way of sharing my ideas for the future of The Planthunter.
My first priority is that The Planthunter remains free. I’m trying to change the world in my own small way and I strongly believe the content we’re producing on The Planthunter NEEDS to be seen, shared and thought about by as many people as possible. To achieve this, we work with select advertisers in a number of ways to generate income to support the production of content.
We started offering banner advertising around 18 months ago. These spaces are limited, and designed to sit cleanly within our site design. We’ve purposely kept them larger than usual advertisements, which allows us to charge a little more for them, but feature only a select handful.
This month we’ve launched The Planthunter Directory, a curated collection of brands we reckon are great. We’re really excited about this: we think it’ll be a rich resource for you, our readers, to discover interesting plants, pots, and associated green products and services, as well as a cost effective way for small makers and brands to gain exposure.
And then there’s the sponsored content. This is where we work with selected brands to tell stories relevant to both our audience and their brand. We only work with folk who get our integrity and commitment to editorial quality, and who understand that their interests won’t affect the opinion/direction of the editorial in any way. Any content we produce which is supported by a brand will be clearly marked. Always. You will know who has supported it, and we will invite you to support the brands who support us to create free content.
The ways we generate revenue will grow and evolve as we learn, test, and also grow.
The one thing you can be certain won’t change, though, is our commitment to producing high quality, unique, and engaging editorial content. That’s that. No compromise on content, never ever.
And finally, one last secret: I spent most of 2014 fighting the urge to run away to the trees. Somehow, The Planthunter had grown an audience, and I was terrified. ‘What do I write about? What if they decide they hate TPH? How do I keep them happy?’ I’ve built up my confidence since then, and my urge to run has diminished markedly. What has developed in its place is a deeper understanding of the publisher/audience relationship.
All strong, successful, and long lasting unions require respect, transparency, and plants. That’s why I’m sharing my thoughts about the future of The Planthunter, and the ways we’re working to make it financially sustainable. Because our future is as much about you as it is about me. And without you, I wouldn’t be writing this. I’d have a real job.