What Happened to Rodale.com?

What Happened to Rodale.com?
Daniel Thompson

on November 22, 2019

Rodale.com was a publisher of books, magazines, and journals about health and lifestyle. Some of the popular magazines associated with the company include Men’s Health, The Bike Mag, Bicycling, Prevention, Runners World, Women’s Health, and Rodale’s Organic Life. The company was later sold to the Hearst Crown Publishing Group (Source). However, the website Rodale.com no longer works. We took the time to figure out what happened. We follow the site’s history and some of its notable projects like the launch of Rodale's Organic Life. The article concludes by looking at some resources that readers who enjoy an organic lifestyle and organic gardening can turn to.

The History of Rodale.com

Rodale Inc. was founded in 1930 by Jerome Irving Rodale, and his brother Joseph Rodale. The company’s headquarters were in Emmaus, Pennsylvania. Initially, the company owned a factory that manufactured commercial and residential electrical connectors. It is from a corner of this factory that Jerome started producing a comic magazine that took different names in its lifetime such as The Clown (which would later become The American Humorist) and You Can't Eat That (which later became Health Guide) (Source).

Introducing Organic Farming and Gardening

Rodale Inc. introduced Organic Farming and Gardening soon after the Great Depression. At the time of its launch, in 1942, people were more concerned about where their next meal would come from as opposed to the quality of the food that they were eating. However, Jerome was already worried about food production methods in the United States and the way people were looking after themselves in general. After reading the findings of a study conducted among natives in India by Sir Albert Howard, an English botanist, and pioneer of organic farming, Jerome bought a farm. He started applying the methods used by the natives in Howard's research, which involved returning all the vegetable and animal matter to the earth (Source).

Jerome fought relentlessly to ensure that organic agriculture became a way of life. This was despite the fact that conventional agriculture (also called industrial agriculture), a system that relies massively on pesticides and fertilizers, was in vogue in that epoch. He warned against the dangers of the global chemical revolution on people’s health and the environment in general. Maria Rodale, the Former CEO and Chairman of Rodale, and granddaughter of Jerome, notes that her grandfather goes into the history books as the father of regenerative agriculture, a method of farming which aims at improving soil fertility through natural methods (Source).

Rodale.com Leadership History

When Jerome died in 1971, his son, Robert Rodale, took over and became the CEO and Chairman. Through the Rodale Research Center, established by his father in 1947 (then called the Soil and Health Society), Robert continued the research efforts. The center’s main focus was on regenerative agriculture, a system of farming that seeks to enrich the soil, increase biodiversity, and improve the management of water. It aims to capture the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and reverse the degradation of the ozone layer (Source).

Since the 1990 death of Robert in a car accident in Moscow, the company has seen a significant transition of its leadership.

  • Ardath Harter Rodale, Robert’s wife, succeeded her husband.
  • Steven Pleshette Murphy took over as president and CEO in 2002.
  • Maria Rodale was named the company’s CEO and Chairman on 1 September 2009 (Source).

Introducing Rodale’s Organic Life

In the hands of Maria Rodale, Organic Gardening (the title having lost the word Farming somewhere along the way) was rebranded to Rodale’s Organic Life (Source). The Organic Life magazine majored in organic lifestyle rather than exclusively on agriculture. For instance, its first publication carried topics linked to organic farming, yoga, and walking.

Sale to Hearst

In 2017, Maria Rodale, announced that the company was for sale. (Source). The bid was won by Hearst Crown Company, owned by Penguin Random House. According to the Wall Street Journal, Hearst acquired Rodale.com for $225 million. The move was finalized on 9 January 2018 (Source).

After taking over, Hearst embarked on a retrenchment exercise where the majority of Rodale’s editorial staff were laid off. The company said that the action was aimed at improving the Hearst Company’s operations (Source).

What then Happened to Rodale.com

By April 2018, Rodale.com was redirecting to the Hearst.com website. By February 2019, the Rodale.com link was no longer working, returning the message, “This site can’t be reached.” There is not much information available from the Hearst Group about what happened to Rodale.com. We can only speculate that the site was simply abandoned. (Source)

Organic Gardening Related Resources

Apart from Hearst’s Organic Life, there are several other online resources for people interested in organic lifestyles and gardening. We have identified and summarized five below.

Organic Life: Is the Facebook page of Rodale’s Organic Life. The page, established in April 2015, claims to be the “destination for happy, healthy living that encourages a lifestyle that’s good for you and the planet.” The page also says that it offers tools that encourage a more thoughtful, sustainable, and joyful lifestyle.

Journey to Forever: Provides small-scale farmers with full free access to articles and tools covering sustainable farming. It also contains PDF versions of books on organic farming. Some of the books, on the site, were published by Rodale Inc. The website has links to information about city farming, biofuel, and trees, soil, and water, among others.

Mother Earth News: Teaches users how to produce fresh foods using natural and organic farming techniques. The website claims that its mission is "conserving our planet's natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources." It also promises to deliver tips on reducing heating bills, and growing, fresh and natural food, among other related topics.

GrowOrganic.com: Promises to deliver the optimal organic gardening supplies available. The site's owners undertake that they will connect farmers to products that are certified organic. In the case that the products are not certified, they say that they put such products through a rigorous process of ensuring that they meet planet-friendly standards.

Organic Gardener Magazine: Is a newsletter that gives users planting guides, farming book reviews, information sheets, a farming glossary, and access to other useful gardening links.

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