Visitors to the left-leaning blog Green Mountain Daily were greeted with a pop-up window this morning with the opening line: "GMD needs your help."
No, the site's existence isn't being threatened or held hostage by some corporate web-hosting service. Instead, GMD is urging its fans to donate money to the five-year-old blog as a way to support its ongoing work and potentially fuel its "big plans and ideas."
The pop-up plea kicks off a two-week contribution drive — no mention of tote bags or GMD mugs as thank you gifts for your contribution like they have over at Vermont Public Radio. In a note to readers, the GMD crew said they plan to use the drive to "not only support our ongoing work, but to gauge support for doing more."
In an email to Seven Days, GMD Publisher John Odum said the request for donations is an effort to make the site better and to provide some token compensation for the work of its community of bloggers. Odum said the decision to ask for money has less to do with him leaving his full-time job at the Vermont Natural Resources Council last year than it does with trying to make the site better, and expand its reach.
"I can't afford to put in the time to make it what it needs to be. Also, it kills me never to even be able to give the other front pagers some modest, if even token, compensation. There's a need to semi-professionalize to keep away stagnation," Odum noted. "But mainly, I have plans for two other related sites that will take time and some subcontracting to develop. There's also the recurring idea of a communications internship. Several things to make the site better, in other words, that are always stymied for lack of time and money. It seems like it was time to change that, or at least make the effort to."
In a profile last year, Odum broached the subject of expansion with Seven Days' Cathy Resmer in a profile of several new media operations in Vermont.
Will GMD ever become more than just a place for like-minded activists to share the latest buzz? “One day I like the idea of it getting bigger and bigger and bigger,” says Odum, “and another day I feel more my blog roots, like, ‘Who cares if it gets bigger?’ ... It’s certainly got enough of a branding identification now that if I wanted to, I might be able to take the plunge and professionalize it. But it’s the kind of thing I would never take the plunge on, given that I have a family. Maybe if I was still 20 years old, and I could live in a box on cat food for a month, I wouldn’t sweat it.”
At the time, Odum said the site brought in enough advertising dollars to pay for a delivery of fuel oil to his home.
But now GMD appears to be turning up the heat. In recent weeks, GMD front-page blogger Julie Waters has covered a health care rally at the State House and sat in on a conference call with U.S. Rep. Peter Welch.
A sign of things to come?
As noted in our update of stories from the past year, GMD survived the past year while other sites went off the grid — including Jon Margolis' VermontNewsGuy.com and Alden Pellett's Vermont Daily News.
Here's the complete note that greets GMD readers:
"GMD needs your help.
"For 5 years, Green Mountain Daily has been doing its thing - informing, enlivening, infuriating, enriching and even organizing. But maintaining this with volunteer labor, caffeine and pocket lint is getting harder. That's why, to keep doing what we've been doing, we're asking you for something we've never asked before.
"For the next 2 weeks, we'll be mounting a contribution drive. We have a lot of big plans and ideas, and we'll use this drive to not only support our ongoing work, but to gauge support for doing more. If you are one of the many readers who have come to lean on GMD and all its craziness, now's your change to step up and help us keep doing what we do - and make the changes we need to make to do it better."