LAST MONTH: Discovery Communications has announced the acquisition of TreeHugger.com for what is believed to be $10 million. TreeHugger.com started as an environmentally focused blog in 2004 and grew to include forums, green guides and other related features. The site sits in the Top 20 blogs worldwide according to Technorati and is said to have 1.4 million unique visitors a month. Alexa ranks the site at 5,395. TreeHugger.com’s Graham Hill said in a post that the acquisition “will allow TreeHugger to go much further and faster than it would have been able to alone or with another partner… by teaming up with Discovery, we believe we can more effectively play a critical role in [our environmental] mission” TreeHugger.com will become part of Discovery’s Planet Green initiative. technocrunch
I’m still not quite sure what to make of this. There have been a number of green product brands who have taken on investment; Howies, Green & Blacks to enable them to reach a much wider audience. The thing is that treehugger is a blog where (as far as I know) many of the contributor writers are volunteers, and Discovery is a global TV distribution company. They are both very interested in covering green issues, attracting a large audience to this content and presumably the green advertiser and sponsors dollars. It’s just that treehugger used to be able to say what the fuck it liked (I’ve deliberately used that word, it’s not one I could use if this blog were owned by a mainstream print medium). It’s been very critical of commercial interests including biofuels, greenwashing ads and products, offsetting, big energy co’s and so on. Long may that continue? Of course there are plenty of strident mainstream publications too.
I do think we should have some entrepreneurial role models that are successful business, especially in the internet sector. And I value these being authentic independent voices rather than something put hastily together recently by one of the big portals. I just feel slightly awkward about my favourite blog being owned by such a big media giant. Hopefully they will have the great good sense to leave it as it is and not try to monetise it fast, make it less critical or close it if there’s a recession and green has a slump year. Overall I think its a great fit by the way. Discovery has a heritage of excellent science & nature documentaries and has now pressed on into a green channel. I’d not hesitate for a second in working with them personally if it were my internet venture (they dont have any skeletons in the cupboard that i know of). And they will want to keep the treehugger audience, so will probably insulate it well from interfereing influence. But it isnt green to the core. American Chopper et al. Maybe Treehugger can change them? I’m just stumped on this. My professional self says its great to have a green start-up doing big deals and attracting talent, attention, further investment to the sector. My marketing self says it’s a great opportunity to reach, influence and inform a much larger audience, running into the billions. But my green self…?
Posted by J Grant