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If, as Bill Gates famously declared of the Internet, content is king, then people like Matt Crenshaw are its field marshals. The president of Atlanta-based digital news outlet Mother Nature Network spends his time parsing web traffic trends, search engine performance, and social media engagement to help MNN.com and its sister site, TreeHugger.com, capture a combined 10 million unique visitors per month.
God created the world in six days. Joel Babbit created Mother Nature Network in one. The concept of an environmental website aimed at mainstream audiences had been germinating in his mind for some time. And the hiring, designing, building—that would take months. But the real genesis of MNN, as it’s called, occurred between lunch and dinner, when the longtime advertising executive secured $10 million in startup funds from a handful of powerful friends on the brink of a global recession.