Mother Nature Network to merge with Discovery’s treehugger.com; new entity to be based in Atlanta

By Maria Saporta

Atlanta-based Mother Nature Network and Discovery Communications have agreed to merge their environmental websites — www.mnn.com and www.treehugger.com to form a new entity that will be jointly owned by both.

Joel Babbit, co-founder and CEO of Mother Nature Network, sent out an email late Wednesday night saying: “Several months ago, Discovery Communications and MNN began discussing a plan which would dramatically change the landscape of our industry and provide a tremendous increased in the scope and potential of our business. It gives me great pleasure to tell you that the agreement to move forward with that plan was finalized earlier this week.”

“The new entity will be based in Atlanta and will stay under the MNN banner with Joel in charge,” according to MNN spokesman Dan Beeson.

Babbit’s email also included a press release announcing details of the merger.

According to the release, the agreement brings together the two most visited websites in the world for environmental news and information, with more than seven million combined monthly visitors and a user base that spans 200 countries.

“This merger goes beyond simply having a bigger audience, it’s about having a much bigger opportunity,” said Babbit, who will serve as CEO of the combined companies. “Sustainability is only one aspect of a broader responsible lifestyle and we want to cover the entire spectrum. We are extremely excited to join forces with Discovery Communications and TreeHugger to make this opportunity a reality.”

Founded in 2004 with the mission of bringing green living to the masses, TreeHugger serves as an all-inclusive resource for green news, solutions, and product information. TreeHugger publishes an up-to-the-minute blog, weekly and daily newsletters, twice-monthly radio interviews, and manages engaged Twitter and Facebook communities. Discovery Communications acquired TreeHugger in 2007.

“TreeHugger and Mother Nature Network are the unequivocal digital leaders in the eco-lifestyle space, and their merger will greatly enhance the platforms’ reach, impact and depth and breadth of content,” added JB Perrette, Chief Digital Officer, Discovery Communications. “Placing TreeHugger under Joel’s strong leadership and in a more exclusively eco-lifestyle focused venture enhances its value and long-term growth. Discovery Communications looks forward to continuing its commitment in the green space – in keeping with our long-standing corporate values – as a proud co-owner in the new venture.”

Mother Nature Network was launched in 2009 and provides content that extends beyond traditional environmental issues to encompass a broad range of responsible living topics.

It was co-founded by Babbit, a former advertising executive, and conservationist Chuck Leavell, who has held the keyboard chair in the Rolling Stones for 30 years. CNN became an equity partner in 2011. Designed for a mainstream audience – information is presented in a way that is engaging and easy-to-understand. MNN has been particularly recognized for its non-traditional sponsorship model, an approach that has attracted many of the world’s leading brands. Unlike the vast majority of websites, MNN does not sell standard advertising, offering instead exclusive, yearlong sponsorships for each of its content categories, such as transportation, safety, energy, family activities, and travel.

The ability to extend that model across a larger audience is already attracting significant interest, with Walmart’s announcement that it will be partnering with the company on a new content channel which will profile individuals, organizations, businesses, and products that are making a positive impact on the environment.

“To say we are excited by this event is an understatement,” Babbit said in the release. “It is a true ‘game changer’ and one which brings enormous new value and opportunity to MNN and our partners.”

Babbit went on to say that the past several months have been extraordinary – starting with the addition of Walmart, Delta, Diageo, UPS, and Underwriters Laboratories as sponsors. They join our other outstanding partners which include AFLAC, Allstate, AT&T, The Coca-Cola Company, CSX, Georgia-Pacific, Mercedes, MillerCoors, PGi, SC Johnson, Scotts, Southern Company, and Zep. The quality of these companies and our being ranked as having among the highest sponsor renewal rates in the industry are two of our most meaningful accomplishments.

MNN also continues to make significant strides on the traffic front. We are on track to reach 47 million visits and 130 million page views in 2012 – an increase of 20 percent for each over the prior year. As always – we are continually making design, content, and navigation improvements to the site – with a number of very exciting initiatives being launched later this year. In short, there has never been a more exciting or active period in our history. We are grateful for your continued support and look forward to sharing more great news in the months ahead.

Mother Nature Network currently is headquartered in the 191 Peachtree Tower in downtown Atlanta.

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