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Life Arts    H2'ed 5/29/11

Celebrating 15 Years of Independent, Ad-Free YES! Magazine

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My guest today is YES! Magazine co-founder and executive director, Sarah van Gelder. Welcome to OpEdNews, Sarah. Please tell our readers about YES! 

photo credit: YES! Magazine

Thanks, Joan. YES! is an independent media organization founded in 1996 in the belief that a better world is possible and that we the people have the power to drive profound change. At first, our main efforts centered on our quarterly print magazine. Today, we continue to publish YES! magazine (still 64 pages, still ad-free), but we also post daily fresh news and commentary from a YES! perspective on our website. And many of our articles are picked up and reposted on both progressive and mainstream websites.

The need for change today is even more urgent than when we were founded 15 years ago. Millions are unemployed, and our safety net is in tatters. The richest segment of our society has not only captured most of our nation's wealth, they are now systematically claiming the right to govern our nation in their own interest. We are facing the possibility of climate catastrophe, further economic decline, and bankrupt governments, but the status quo is stuck in old arguments and old paradigms that don't get us anywhere.

The purpose of YES! is to break through with the powerful ideas and practical actions that can inspire people to create a better world.

Of course, we don't sit around at the YES! office in Seattle and make up these ideas. We are journalists -- we uncover the stories and solutions that are already making a difference.

These stories are left out of the corporate media, which is stuck in an obsolete mindset that doesn't recognize the rapid evolution of our society. And these solutions may challenge the interests of their owners and advertisers. On the other hand, YES! is non-profit, subscriber-supported, and ad-free, so we have the independence to tell it like we see it.

How did you make the decision to be ad-free? Was that a hot debate? How has it affected the way the magazine is run?

Actually, being ad-free was an easy decision. We wanted to remain independent. And we believe the underlying messages of most advertising -- that you have to buy something to be happy, that we can buy our way to a sustainable world, that big corporations are our friends, and so on -- run counter to the message we want to send. That message is about where real happiness comes from (science and religion agree -- it's not from more stuff). And the meaning of a good life -- which comes from relationships with friends and family, and building community. And the real potential for sustainable ways of life, which comes from reuse, simplifying, doing it yourself, buying close to home, sharing, supporting local businesses that are less likely to have ad budgets. Seldom is buying something new the best option.

So there are lots of reasons we didn't want to carry advertising. 

The other thing is that we wanted to develop a different relationship with our readers. Instead of offering to sell their attention to the highest bidder, we wanted to create a relationship with readers based on our common purpose. We all care deeply about human and ecological well being, and readers know they can rely on us at YES! to find the best answers we can, without any influence from advertisers and corporate sponsors.

In turn, our readers support us. They give thousands of gift subscriptions to friends and family. They buy extra copies of YES! to give away, and they share our website with friends and family. And they made financial contributions, some small, some large. Nearly 1,000 are "Dedicated Friends," which means they give us a monthly contribution of five dollars to 25 dollars. 

So we've developed a business model that relies on the support of our readers (along with some foundation grants), which means we are accountable to readers, not corporations and special interests. This approach has served us well.

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Joan Brunwasser is a co-founder of Citizens for Election Reform (CER) which since 2005 existed for the sole purpose of raising the public awareness of the critical need for election reform. Our goal: to restore fair, accurate, transparent, secure elections where votes are cast in private and counted in public. Because the problems with electronic (computerized) voting systems include a lack of (more...)

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