The Business of Mongabay

Pursuing impact over pageviews

As noted before, shifting Mongabay from a for-profit to a nonprofit granted us the privilege to prioritize impact over chasing clicks. This move freed us to give away our stories and view other media outlets as potential partners rather than competitors. If our articles are republished, that helps us fulfill our mission by helping inform decision-making at the intersection of people and nature.

So how do we think about impact?

Generating change through journalism is often an indirect process that relies on diverse actors to think, believe, and behave differently. As such, we work to address known information gaps, account for complex social dynamics, and enable information to flow to intended audiences in order to: 

• promote an enabling environment for a wide range of actors, often working in isolation on the same set of issues;

• generate real on-the-ground impacts, and 

• scale reach and influence via publishing information that is free and open for reuse.

Conveying information in a compelling and effective format on a relevant time frame to key audiences that shape policy and influence global trends is a vital component of effectively combating the environmental crises we face. Thus, the primary impacts of our work are driven by the production and distribution of high-quality, empirically-based information in a way that engages key audiences that are often hard to reach yet are critically important to inform due to the impact their decisions have on the fate of the planet.

The majority of our users fall into several distinct groups, including practitioners, private-sector actors, government bodies, specialist NGOs and academia, media and interested members of the public.

Assuming that better-informed audiences are more likely to make better decisions and that they have the capacity and resources to act, our work can contribute toward a range of outcomes. 

How we measure impact 

Performance evaluation has always been at the core of our mission. We have an evaluation framework that includes a mix of quantitative and qualitative indicators to more comprehensively measure the results of our programs. Impact data is collected in a database for use in reports and case studies.

Quantitative indicators may include the number of stories produced, consumption of that content, social media engagement, and where content is republished and rebroadcast. 

Qualitative indicators that may be outcomes from our reporting include third party media coverage, greater engagement around best practices, adoption of new ideas, policy change, and direct action by relevant actors, among others. 

Mongabay leverages its network to gather this data. The process often prompts contributors to circle back with sources, which both provides intelligence on impacts as well as surfaces potential new story ideas for contributors to pursue.

Hopefully this is helpful to those in the media space thinking about how to measure impact.

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.