Media appearances

WSJ mention – September 8, 2006

Yesterday, my work got a mention in The Wall Street Journal. Emily Meehan’s “Not Letting Success Get to Your Head” piece opened with some background on Mongabay.

The excerpt:

High school reunions promise a treasure of surprises about former classmates, whether they invented a new type of digital movie camera, starred in a shampoo commercial or just got divorced for the third time. But there was no need for Rhett Butler to update many people at his 10-year high school reunion at Menlo-Atherton High School last month in Atherton, Calif.

Mr. Butler says many of his former classmates approached him to talk about an article they had read about the 28-year-old entrepreneur and his Web site,, in the San Francisco Chronicle. “I think I was alone in that category, there aren’t too many of my peers who currently get as much public attention,” Mr. Butler says. When Mr. Butler was in Paris earlier this year, a woman shouted at him from across the Champs-Élysées “Mongabay!,” and later told him how she recognized his face from the site.

Money, power, and influence aren’t typically associated with twentysomethings, and those who have early success often have a bad rap. Popular culture has provided us with few examples of humble young people and plenty of obnoxious hot-shots. It’s often assumed that those in leadership roles have won their status through family money, nepotism or both. But not every young success story has to feature an inflated ego.


Mr. Butler says he has been financially independent from his parents since he was 18 and now earns a “comfortable” living from selling ad space on his Web site that he estimates reaches an average audience of 600,000 unique visitors a month, based on internal tracking at the site. The site features environmental science writing and research by Mr. Butler culled in large part from his exploratory trips to various international ecosystems. Mr. Butler says the site, which is mainly a one-man show with few overhead costs, earns annual ad revenue in the six-figure range. He has no trouble covering the $1,250 rent on his apartment in Menlo Park, Calif. or financing his trips to places like China, Uganda and Peru.

Despite his increasingly high profile and sense of accomplishment, Mr. Butler says he doesn’t do anything fancy like order bottle service when he goes out or drive a sports car. “I’m very down to earth,” he says. “If I had a different personality it might be taken another way.”

By Rhett Ayers Butler

Rhett Ayers Butler is the Founder and CEO of Mongabay, a non-profit conservation and environmental science news platform. He started Mongabay in 1999 with the mission of raising interest in and appreciation of wild lands and wildlife.