My high school commencement was the best commencement I ever attended. The main address, which was given by a trustee, congratulated us only a little before challenging us to think beyond partying, giving us a real mission to take with us that afternoon. The education we'd received, the trustee said, wasn't just a luxury; it was an obligation. Our job was now to get to work and make good use of what we'd learned in the world...
By being of service, by sharing what we'd learned and by contributing to the betterment of our community where ever we lived. It was an idealistic message and one that was aimed partially, I am sure, at an audience of private boarding school graduates, with the idea of saving many of us from becoming overly self centered in the years ahead.
But it was also probably intended to lodge deeply in our tiny brains and remind us, when the time was right, that true success and happiness would only be achieved if the notion of "being of service" was somewhere in the mix (reading about Craig Newmark today in the NYTimes, reminded me of this and how much I admire what he has done).
With all of this in mind Apartment Therapy was started as a design service in 2001 and as a blog in 2004. And it's mission has always been to be of service:
To help people make their homes more beautiful, organized and healthy by connecting them to a wealth of resources, ideas and community.*
I credit this, along with the growth of blogs and people's interest in good design in general, with the success of our blogs, which have grown at a rapid rate for the past four years, with the most grown coming in the past six months. Here's our stats:
2004: 700 visits a day/ 1 blogger
2007: 568,000 monthly unique visitors/ 30 bloggers
2008: 1.5 million monthly unique visitors/ 45 bloggers
As of this spring, I am proud that I now get to work each day with a tight band of smart, cool bloggers from Asia to Europe, who are all devoted to the same mission of helping people with their homes, through daily blogging, coming to you for FREE every day.
WHAT WE DID IN 2007
To do all of this, last year saw a lot of work on our part. Among other things we:
- Added three new sites: Ohdeedoh, Unplggd & Re-Nest
- Launched AT Offline Design Meetups monthly in New York and Chicago
- Re-designed, re-branded and re-launched everything at the end of November
- Launched a daily and a weekly email at AT and The Kitchn
- Hired the first full time staff of six people last December
- Published our second book this spring, featuring 40 homes featuring AT readers.
Hiring our core team full time was particularly important because with all the growth on all sides, we needed a better and tighter organization to keep our bloggers connected, improve the technology and sell advertising to pay for it all. This work is now ongoing and perpetual, and along with more readers, has come greater and greater responsibility with things such as giveaways, photo copyright, contest rules and the monitoring of comments.
One particular area, though, should be mentioned, as it concerns us standing up for you and the principle of "being of service" with upset store owners and the comments that annoy them. We have always told and continue to tell any stores that complain about reader comments that we do not take down posts or comments by readers without the reader's permission (BTW we get surprisingly few complaints). The only exception is when a comment goes beyond being critical, and is vicious or hateful (or in one case, uses the first and last name of a store attendant. We can't edit comments, otherwise we'd just take the name out).
We recently had to go to the State Supreme Court to defend ourselves in a lawsuit by one unhappy store because we refused to take down what we deemed as a totally reasonable, though critical, comment thread by our readers. We're still waiting for a decision, but I'm confident that the case will be dismissed as their case was weak and without precedent, and the judge was openly amused at their complaint. Online, free speech (though not malicious or hateful speech) is still protected.
THE YEAR AHEAD
This year, we're working to complete the foundation of our really big audacious goal, which is creating a network of sites that will become the best, most useful shelter destination on the web. To do this, we're going to beef up our four smaller categories to match Apartment Therapy (slowly), improve our technology and introduce two new concepts: AT Community and Marketplace.
The former will be a build out on your personal pages and will allow you to keep track of and organize your home along with all the ideas, products and inspirations that you want to bookmark.
The latter will be an area where we allow small home businesses to generate their own pages with text and photographs, so that they can be found - even if we've never blogged them. The Marketplace will be exactly that, a virtual marketplace for your home. It will have a big search box at the top and lots of tags so that if you don't find it in our editorial, you can find it in Marketplace. Like the "marketplace" advertising feature in the back of shelter magazines, but far more interactive, this will allow all the small businesses that can't afford the lush graphic ads to have a virtual storefront in our community and allow our editors to troll from new ideas without being hammered by solicitous emails.
Oh, yes, and we'll be selling more ads, but don't worry, we'll be always aiming to do it in ways that complement (and pay for) the mission, not cut against it.
This is what we're aiming for in 2008.
Finally, I want to again thank all of you, our readers for joining us here online (no matter when you arrived) and particularly those that have shared their homes, questions and generous tips and feedback over the years. I can't wait to see more of your homes and meet more of you.
And it's commencement season yet again.
It's a good time to think about the future and what what we can do to improve our small home and the bigger Home in which we all live.
Particularly now, in an era where there is so much noise, so much jabber and so many competing self interests, it is more important than ever.
Here at AT we're trying to do our part each day and hope that we not only help and inspire you at home, but that some of our idealism rubs off on you as well.
Our domain is only the home, but that's were every day starts and ends.
* FULL MISSION
Helping people make their homes more beautiful, organized and healthy by connecting them to a wealth of resources, ideas and community online.
What We Believe
A calm, healthy, beautiful home is a necessary foundation for happiness and success in the world.
Creating this home doesn’t require large amounts of money or space. It requires inspiration, connection to resources and motivation to do something about it.
The basic elements of good home design can be learned and achieved by all.
Simplicity and luxury are not mutually exclusive.
To connect people to the resources they need to improve their homes, while reducing their reliance on stuff.