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Mother Nature Network celebrates one year birthday

By Maria Saporta

It’s been exactly a year since the environmental website — Mother Nature Network www.mnn.com — was launched.

Founder Joel Babbit celebrated MNN’s one-year anniversary on Jan. 6 by talking to a group of Central Atlanta Progress meeting at the Il Mulino restaurant in the lobby of the 191 Tower — a building that has been integral to the website’s inception and operation.

What a year it’s been.

“We have about one million people coming to our site each month from 200 different countries,” Babbit said.

The major ratings firm for websites — Alexa — follows 6,200 websites in the environmental space. Of those, Mother Nature Network is the seventh most popular, and it is the No. 1 for-profit environmental website.

The other top six sites are all government owned or non-profits.

See below for Alexa’s list of the top 20 environmental sites.

Babbit said one of Mother Nature Network’s goals is to make environmental information accessible to the general public by providing easily understandable information rather than data that’s overly scientific or bureaucratic.

Mother Nature Network also is trying to localize environmental news by offering state-by-state information.

“We have over 100 college students serving as correspondents across the country,” Babbit said.

In describing the role that the 191 building has played in the website’s creation, Babbit recounted having lunch more than a year ago with then Cousins CEO Tom Bell. At the time, Babbit was the top regional executive with Gray marketing and advertising firm, which had been lured to the Cousins-owned 191 building.

Over lunch, Babbit told Bell about an idea he had to start an environmental website. Bell asked him how much it would cost. Babbit threw out a number (I think it was close to $10 million). Bell said he was good for 20 percent. Then that afternoon, Bell and Babbit told retired Georgia-Pacific CEO about the project, and Correll pledged 20 percent.

That night, Babbit was having dinner with wine and spirits distributor Doug Hertz and told him about his unusual day. Hertz said he was good for 20 percent. The next day, Babbit called environmentalist Chuck Leavell (a tree farmer who also plays keyboards with the Rolling Stones), and he was good for 20 percent. And then Babbit put in his share.

So within a day, the idea was launched and funded. Babbit turned in his notice at Gray and then moved into some available space in the 191 building.

Mother Nature Network also has decided to go the sponsorship route rather than selling advertising on the site. The annual sponsors include: AT&T, Brown-Forman, the Coca-Cola Co., Clorox, Dell, Georgia-Pacific, Norfolk Southern, MillercCoors, Pfizer, Premiere Global Services, Proctor & Gamble and the Southern Co.

Given the past year’s results, Babbit has every reason to celebrate Mother Nature Network’s one-year anniversary.

Alexa’s top 20 sites in this category:

1. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) www.noaa.gov
Offers interactive mapping tools that allow users to locate NOS products in any area in the United States and its territories through a metadata catalog.

2. Care2.com www.care2.com
Connects activists from around the world, with member profiles, news stories and blogs to facilitate social networking, petition and donation drives and email.

3. Guardian Environment www.guardian.co.uk/environment
Home of the Guardian, Observer and Guardian Weekly newspapers plus special-interest web sites. Each includes news, comment and features plus breaking news, multimedia, ongoing special reports and free archives.

4. The National Park Service www.nps.gov
Charged with the trust of preserving the natural resources of America.

5. Environmental Protection Agency www.epa.gov
Committed to protecting the natural environment.

6. Environmental Graffiti www.environmentalgraffiti.com
Provides an eclectic mix of the most bizarre, funny and interesting environmental news on the planet.

7. Mother Nature Network www.mnn.com
Eco-guide offering original programs, articles, blogs, videos and how-to guides along with breaking news stories.

8. Planet Green www.planetgreen.discovery.com
Eco-lifestyle television network covering sustainable fashion, food, health, home & garden, transportation, and travel topics.

9. TheDailyGreen www.thedailygreen.com
Site geared toward people who are looking to be more environmentally-responsible. Includes news items, a dictionary of environmentalist terms, articles, and tips on greening a home and one’s diet.

10. Grist Magazine www.grist.org/
Provides environmental news topics with humor. Updated every weekday. A project of Earth Day Network.

11. NASA: Earth Observatory www.earthobservatory.nasa.gov
Explore the causes and effects of climatic and environmental change through the use of real satellite data.

12. LIME.com www.lime.com
LIME has fresh ideas & news on living a greener, healthier more balanced lifestyle.

13. Wildlife Service www.fws.gov
Working to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people.

14. Environmental Working Group www.ewg.org
EWG is a nonprofit environmental research organization based in Washington, D.C. and a leading content provider for public interest groups and concerned citizens who are campaigning to protect the environment.

15. United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) www.unep.org
Promotes environmental understanding, and increases public knowledge about environmental factors and problems of future generations.

16. RealClimate www.realclimate.org
Commentary on climate science news by working climate scientists, with discussion.

17. Ideal Bite www.idealbite.com
In just 10 months, more than 45,000 subscribers and more than a 50 leading eco brand advertisers and market research clients have turned to Ideal Bite. Subscribers come for free, daily advice on saving money and finding environmentally friendly products and services, while the clients come looking to access this coveted market: the Light Green consumer.

18. United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)

Official site for UN Climate Secretariat: Kyoto protocol, COP4 in Buenos Aires, world emissions data.

19. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) www.niehs.nih.gov/
Conducts basic research on environmental health and environment-related diseases. Links to information on programs, grants, research, events, contracts, employment, training, outreach events, public information.

20. The Rainforest Site www.therainforestsite.com/
Protect a piece of Rain Forest for free.

Maria Saporta

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.


1 Comment

  1. Cheryl B. January 8, 2010 3:07 pm

    Maria, Thank you for posting this — what a wealth of informative blog sites.

    I just returned to Atlanta — miss you at the AJC, however, glad to have found you at ABC.Report


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