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September 16, 2013 4:34 PM   Subscribe

A Young Man's Adventures in Women's Publishing (SLNew Yorker, previously)
posted by box (62 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
Interview With a Male CEO of a Women's Magazine, Part I (hat tip to The Hairpin).
posted by muddgirl at 4:50 PM on September 16, 2013


Despite having run a sports Web site, he does not look like an athlete.
posted by dng at 4:54 PM on September 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


I am a dude,” he said. “I don’t have a lot of overlapping interests with most women my age."

Ah, women. That age-old mystery. How could one ever possibly hope to know them? They are an unknowable Other like a pre-writing civilisation. They could be into anything! Remarkably, the quote continues:

"I’m really into history. I’m really into markets and finance.”

Well, not anything. I mean, girls don't like history and markets and finance. Hang on, I've got some more points to make here, but Mary Beard, Condi Rice and Janet Yellen have just arrived at my door and they look angry about something.
posted by The River Ivel at 5:05 PM on September 16, 2013 [41 favorites]


This douchebag summed up in two images: 1, 2.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 5:07 PM on September 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


Despite having run a sports Web site, he does not look like an athlete.

Yeah, that was an odd comment, especially since the article later mentions ESPN.com. Has the author never looked at the author photos on ESPN.com or watched Sportscenter?

Quite a bit of the article follows the New Yorker's standard hit-piece paradigm of giving the subject plenty of rope to hang themselves with. See the quotes mentioned by The River Ivel.
posted by LionIndex at 5:07 PM on September 16, 2013


Not exactly glittering prose, but, when it comes to covering local sports, Goldberg said, “we don’t need every writer to be David Brooks.”

Oh my.
posted by enn at 5:11 PM on September 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


"Loser-generated content" is my new favorite phrase.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 5:12 PM on September 16, 2013 [9 favorites]


The Onion: Man Finally Put In Charge Of Struggling Feminist Movement
posted by 2bucksplus at 5:14 PM on September 16, 2013 [7 favorites]


“Men, to the best of my knowledge, don’t even read,” Goldberg said. “When’s the last time you heard a man say, ‘I’ve been reading this great book, you’d really like it’? My girlfriend always tells me about these books she’s reading, and I don’t even see her reading the book! Where does this book live?”

I can't even begin to understand any of this.
posted by dng at 5:15 PM on September 16, 2013 [19 favorites]


Nonetheless, the New Yorker is owned by Conde Nast publishing, founded by Conde Nast, who was male. Although he's long gone, I'm sure the Board of Directors includes some men, if not a majority. Conde Nast also publishes: W, Vogue, Glamour, Allure, and Self. So, if Goldberg's just putting up the cash to publish and letting the editors direct content for the most part, such that his obliviousness isn't reflected in the final product, I don't see how this is all that different.
posted by LionIndex at 5:16 PM on September 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have two questions: He really couldn't find any women to work on his web development team? How much does he and the web dev team make out of that $6.5m seed and how much do these lady editors make? (We know the interns make jack.)
posted by dame at 5:23 PM on September 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


Don't worry guys, he's still going to end up with lots more money then you or I will ever see no matter what.


Whew.
posted by The Whelk at 5:27 PM on September 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


Previously

That thread just closed. Do we need to get a hate-on again already?
posted by 0 at 5:32 PM on September 16, 2013


You don't have to.
posted by cjorgensen at 5:33 PM on September 16, 2013


But I agree with you too.
posted by cjorgensen at 5:34 PM on September 16, 2013



Yeah, that was an odd comment, especially since the article later mentions ESPN.com. Has the author never looked at the author photos on ESPN.com or watched Sportscenter?


I read on Gawker that this article is secretly sarcastic
posted by Bwithh at 5:45 PM on September 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


“It’s also a type of old-fashioned dress accessory. I did not know that. I know now.”

How were you unaware of this?
posted by Going To Maine at 5:48 PM on September 16, 2013


Books are a major category on Bustle. “Men, to the best of my knowledge, don’t even read,” Goldberg said. “When’s the last time you heard a man say, ‘I’ve been reading this great book, you’d really like it’? My girlfriend always tells me about these books she’s reading, and I don’t even see her reading the book! Where does this book live?”

Despite being an academic of the English professor persuasion, I cannot even begin to make sense of this utterance. It's, like, a signifier with absolutely no relationship to the (male) signified. Five seconds contemplating bestseller lists should have brought the existence of male readers to his attention.
posted by thomas j wise at 5:52 PM on September 16, 2013 [6 favorites]


“It’s also a type of old-fashioned dress accessory. I did not know that. I know now.”

How were you unaware of this?


That's the sort of esoteric knowledge you'd only ever discover in a book.
posted by dng at 5:52 PM on September 16, 2013 [11 favorites]


I read this article earlier and was struck by how silly the earlier Tweet-furor was over this dude. He's a publisher who runs a women's website (with what appears to be exclusively female editorial talent that have full control over what goes up on the site). He's paying his interns (not much, of course, but better than his competitors). He's given equity stakes to his editors, and he's built up a large venture capital war chest so that he'd have the cash to pay high-quality editorial talent while he monetizes.

I really am not seeing what's so terrible about this guy, other than his previous website - which he admits is horrible - and a few tone-deaf statements about women that are seemingly unrelated to the editorial quality or lack thereof of his website.

"I’m really into history. I’m really into markets and finance.”

I don't know about history, but a cursory look at employment in the financial world reveals that it is, indeed, a very male pursuit. (Note that this is a positive statement, not a normative one.)

“Men, to the best of my knowledge, don’t even read,” Goldberg said. “When’s the last time you heard a man say, ‘I’ve been reading this great book, you’d really like it’? My girlfriend always tells me about these books she’s reading, and I don’t even see her reading the book! Where does this book live?”

He's being a bit hyperbolic, and he sounds like a bad 90's standup, but indeed, women read books at much greater rates than men, at least in the US.
posted by downing street memo at 5:56 PM on September 16, 2013 [7 favorites]


He's also the editor of a women's website who says things like this in front of a journalist:
“Four! We have four veggie burgers for a company of twenty women!”

On paper, there's no real reason why Bustle should fail, and this whole kerfuffle could end up being kind of like the Internet's outrage over Lego making new kits aimed at girls. However, it seems like this particular guy tends to talk about women in a way that can easily be read as less positive and more sexist. In future, he should probably let the editors be the site's voice. (Sort of related note: how often does Nick Denton speak as the "voice of Jezebel"?)
posted by Going To Maine at 6:08 PM on September 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


He's being a bit hyperbolic, and he sounds like a bad 90's standup, but indeed, women read books at much greater rates than men, at least in the US.

As much as I hate to say it, when I think about it, I have a few male friends who are super into reading and talking about what they read, but most of them, even if they're avid readers, are not nearly as likely to talk about books the way my woman friends do. I had never thought about it before, but I guess it's just one of those ways that we're socialized, maybe?
posted by padraigin at 6:12 PM on September 16, 2013


How am I supposed to read that paragraph about him not looking like an athlete as anything other than nasty and unnecessary?

This dude doesn't come across as anything approaching sympathetic, but that's so bizarrely shallow.
posted by graphnerd at 6:12 PM on September 16, 2013


The top floor opens onto a roof deck, and it includes a room with a futon, usually occupied by the Web development team, which is all male.

Huh.
posted by mlis at 6:16 PM on September 16, 2013


I think part of the issue is that he's essentially a seller of advertising, and advertisers more than anyone else think in terms of broad swaths of society, where women are readers and men are not, and men watch the History Channel while women watch Lifetime, and men eat steak while women eat salads, etc.

If you don't think Nick Denton thinks the exact same way about selling his inventory on Jezebel, you're crazy - he's just smart enough not to invite the wrath of the Twitterati by saying it out loud, or by generalizing what he knows to be true from demographic studies to the specific group of 30 women in the room with him.
posted by downing street memo at 6:22 PM on September 16, 2013


How am I supposed to read that paragraph about him not looking like an athlete as anything other than nasty and unnecessary?

I read that part as a take on how women's looks are typically described in similar articles.
posted by troika at 6:22 PM on September 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


If men genuinely didn't read books, would a publishing industry even exist at all?
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:23 PM on September 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


"..I’m not afraid to talk to the girl who’s working behind the counter at a salon. I’m not afraid to talk to the hostess at the restaurant. I would ask women at bars, ‘What Web sites do you read?’ ”

See, I would've said Metafilter.
posted by hopeless romantique at 6:23 PM on September 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


“Honestly, nothing would have been more helpful here than for some highly regarded feminist writers to say, ‘Bryan’s a good person.’ ”

It's just a simple fix here. All they have to do is say something that would make this guy look better, feel better, and prove he really is awesome. You know: Reflect his glory to the world.
posted by julen at 6:24 PM on September 16, 2013


If you don't think Nick Denton thinks the exact same way about selling his inventory on Jezebel, you're crazy - he's just smart enough not to invite the wrath of the Twitterati by saying it out loud, or by generalizing what he knows to be true from demographic studies to the specific group of 30 women in the room with him.

Ah! But the fact that Nick Denton possesses that common sense is the key thing! There's a world of difference between "women read and men don't" and "women read more than men", and Denton seems to have a wall of people in front of him to make sure that that first statement (assuming he thinks it's true) doesn't make it into the discourse. And by keeping it out of the discourse, his staff works on making sure that that sentiment doesn't exist.
posted by Going To Maine at 6:38 PM on September 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


I read that part as a take on how women's looks are typically described in similar articles.

Yeah, I guess I can see that. But it seems weird for that to be in the New Yorker. Obviously there's no shortage of atrocious things said about the appearance of women, but I don't really see that in highbrow magazines like that.

But then again, I found the whole article to be more than a bit odd. This dude seems like a bit of a tool, but the whole angle of "look at this guy who doesn't know about women but is trying to make a website for them" doesn't really make much sense. I think that he's right that his job is to know the new media business, and not the content (despite his awful phrasing). Like the black hole of Gawker influence is warping the entire mind
space of Manhattan.
posted by graphnerd at 6:56 PM on September 16, 2013


You've never seen a highbrow magazine observe that a female writer on fashion "could be a model herself" or similar?
posted by No-sword at 6:59 PM on September 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't remember the New Yorker using a woman's appearance to suggest that she was unqualified for her job... At least in recent years.

(Although I could certainly be wrong, and would love to see examples to the contrary, if there are any)
posted by graphnerd at 7:06 PM on September 16, 2013


I still want to punch him in the face. The whole bizarre "let's decorate a speshul brownstone so my lady-writers can hang out and have slumber parties and shit" schtick really grates on me, as much as his last round of stupidity did. You say you want to have quality lady-content? Then who the fuck cares what the office LOOKS like?

(Yes yes, eponysterical, etc)
posted by bitter-girl.com at 7:12 PM on September 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


Then who the fuck cares what the office LOOKS like?

Employees?
posted by graphnerd at 7:18 PM on September 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


Well everyone I've worked for that has the "brownstone building as office" is usually running off a lot of capital and underpaid interns trying to see if THIS thing gets them the respect from the right kind of people so they can say they're doing something really cool at parties but basically amounts to busy work and hobby ventures-- and when it folds (and they always fold) they just kinda shrug and move to a new city or venture until they inevitably decide to settle down and start an organic winery so they have a new status marker to talk about that they have underpaid people run.
posted by The Whelk at 7:35 PM on September 16, 2013 [5 favorites]


You've never seen a highbrow magazine observe that a female writer on fashion "could be a model herself" or similar?

The New Yorker has a "Style" issue once or twice a year which is heavily skewed towards fashion coverage, and I don't think I've ever read that description of women who was not, in fact, a model. I could certainly be forgetting things from the ten years I had a subscription, but that included articles on Miuccia Prada and Elsa Schiaparelli, and that pre-teen fashion wunderkind that had a blog a while back.
posted by LionIndex at 8:00 PM on September 16, 2013


So... anyone actually read Bustle?
posted by Going To Maine at 8:02 PM on September 16, 2013


That teenage blogger wunderkind story was on longform or one of those recently.
posted by box at 8:16 PM on September 16, 2013


As a woman, this is not a problem I have ever encountered:

A writer named Kelsea Stahler said that she didn’t want Bustle’s writing to seem too “élitist.” She argued that some women’s sites contained too many overreaching literary references. “It drives me nuts,” she said. “Seriously? I’m reading about Justin Bieber’s monkey and you’re referencing Nietzsche?”

In fact, quite the opposite.
posted by oinopaponton at 8:18 PM on September 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


You know, I saw this photo on Twitter earlier and thought the tweeter was just mocking some stupid stock photo. But it's real. Blearg.
posted by Lexica at 8:29 PM on September 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


A writer named Kelsea Stahler said that she didn’t want Bustle’s writing to seem too “élitist.” She argued that some women’s sites contained too many overreaching literary references. “It drives me nuts,” she said. “Seriously? I’m reading about Justin Bieber’s monkey and you’re referencing Nietzsche?”

Amusingly, I went to Bustle and the first post I clicked on was a screed about fashion with a reference to Tolstoy in the opening para. So that sure says something about... something.

Anyway, as a Certified Woman, here's why I won't be going back to this site: the quality of the writing just wasn't that good, and the overwhelming majority of the content itself wasn't anything I haven't seen elsewhere on other news/entertainment sites today. It's a weird mix of casual, ranty blog-style posts alongside very dry news reports, and little delineation between the two (personally, I like consistent voices, or at least to have some idea what I'm going to get when I click into a post). And, at least based on the news pieces I read, "the articles often sound like they could have come straight from the A.P." was very generous of the New Yorker writer—some of them were dry, sure (though some of the pieces in "news" were blog-y, and again, it was a total crap-shoot which you were going to get when clicking a headline), but many of them were in dire need of a good copy editor to trim sentences and fix grammatical issues. The AP generally puts out really strong copy.

This is more a personal peeve as a journo, but I really don't like the inconsistency in the site's sourcing, either. Sometimes the reporters reference where their info/quotes are coming from (like "according to the New York Times," which is good), sometimes they just link some of the text but don't actually write where it came from (which is poor form, IMO). I think that's really problematic for something like today's Navy Yard shooting, where different news outlets are reporting different, often conflicting info.

I also don't love the page design—I want to be able to scan way more headlines above the fold on the home page of a news site. Also, the topic pages don't seem to have any "next" or "archive" links, so I'm not sure how to view any articles beyond the 25-odd most recent ones they offer you. Maybe I'm missing something, but I looked for some time.

In short, I don't have any interest in this site because it doesn't seem to offer anything new. I can't gauge any sense of its voice or raison d'etre. It may very well improve—it's new and probably needs time to iron out identity and style issues. Look at how far HuffPo has come. But for now... eh. No Bustle for me.

Of course, I am probably not the target demo anyway, because I actually don't want to read world news alongside fashion tips. Or fashion tips ever.
posted by retrograde at 9:38 PM on September 16, 2013 [5 favorites]


Of course, I am probably not the target demo anyway, because I actually don't want to read world news alongside fashion tips. Or fashion tips ever.

A fellow I know explained that he liked reddit because he could read the news while also browsing porn. By the same extension, I sort of wonder if the women of reddit can trick out their subreddits to solve the news & fashion tips problem.
posted by Going To Maine at 9:42 PM on September 16, 2013


New York magazine has a " 10 Subtle Burns " listicle for this New Yorker piece
posted by Bwithh at 9:55 PM on September 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'm trying to be sympathetic to the young women who are taking advantage of this odd opportunity to get their foot in the door of web stardom, but I just can't manage it. I keep butting up against what is apparently a bedrock belief I have: any woman who'd take a job with this kind of company is a complete shortsighted idiot.

I mean, you've got a male chauvinist fool of a boss who doesn't even think to run his ridiculously patronizing and ill-considered public introduction by his cheaply paid all-female writing staff first, while simultaneously not seeing a problem with the tech staff being all-male and continuing to make completely tone-deaf pronouncements.

*shrug*

Sorry, but any woman who'd work for Bustle? No respect.
posted by mediareport at 9:56 PM on September 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't really get the hate for this guy. He pretty much admits that he has no idea what the content on the website should be and he's hired people who seem to do a decent job and he lets them do whatever they want. I just looked at the site and most of the articles are something I, a woman, am interested in. Social commentary on current events, news, fashion and yes, books. (He's right about that one too- I have belonged to a half dozen book clubs in my time and they've all been 100% female. The only guys who ever showed up were just there to hit on the women).

Amusingly every article I've browsed so far has had a literary reference. I'm going to look for that now in all women's magazines.
posted by fshgrl at 9:59 PM on September 16, 2013


I don't know about history, but a cursory look at employment in the financial world reveals that it is, indeed, a very male pursuit.

I know you clarified that this was a normative statement and not a positive one, but even taken as a neutral description of the state of the world it still makes little sense as a defense of Goldberg. His statement wasn't "the financial world is dominated by men", it's "I have nothing in common with women because I'm interested in finance". Those are very different things. The former is an acknowledgment of reality. The latter is the kind of gender essentialism that we've been fighting against for god knows how long now. If you look at an industry that is overwhelmingly dominated by male leaders and spokespeople and conclude it's because women just aren't interested you have no business running a publication aimed at women.

As to the actual furor over this "publication": Goldberg is a guy who (according to him) knows nothing about women, has not bothered to learn anything about the social and political and economic issues that disproportionately affect women, thinks that "women's complexity" means "liking make-up but not yoga", doesn't think of women as anything other than a target demographic for advertisers, and is not paying his female writing staff a living wage while the all-male tech staff literally works on the top level. And yet he has raised far more venture capital than any female entrepreneur starting a women's magazine could possibly hope for.

Does that make him worse than any other media mogul? Maybe not. But he is the only one who wants accolades for finally paying attention to us poor neglected ladies, the only one who wants to be hailed as a savior of online media franchises aimed at women, and who evidently thinks of feminism as an easy way of gaining the trust of a susceptible audience rather than a political movement. That's plenty distasteful for me.
posted by Be cool, sodapop at 11:35 PM on September 16, 2013 [9 favorites]


I don't really get the hate for this guy. He pretty much admits that he has no idea what the content on the website should be

That there is enough.
posted by MartinWisse at 12:42 AM on September 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


She argued that some women’s sites contained too many overreaching literary references. “It drives me nuts,” she said. “Seriously? I’m reading about Justin Bieber’s monkey and you’re referencing Nietzsche?

But this is what makes Marina Hyde so fun to read!
posted by mippy at 3:52 AM on September 17, 2013


I keep butting up against what is apparently a bedrock belief I have: any woman who'd take a job with this kind of company is a complete shortsighted idiot.

Your kind words of support for women writers taking less-than-ideal jobs while trying to break into this industry are both heartwarming and inspiring.
posted by griphus at 5:25 AM on September 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


and is not paying his female writing staff a living wage

This has now been mentioned twice, and is simultaneously not supported by the article (the interns make $50 a day, which undoubtedly makes it one of the highest-paying media internships in NYC by default; "freelancers" make $100, presumably in exchange for something other than their entire day's output), and a strange move of the goalposts. Gawker doesn't pay a living wage (unless you're a pageview monster); The Awl doesn't pay at all, from what I understand.

On the rest of your post, we'll have to agree to disagree (I'll just note that he's running the business end of Bustle, not the editorial side, and I'm just not really sure why it's wildly important that he's up to date on all feminist issues if his writers are, and he allows them freedom to write what they want, both of which appear to be true)
posted by downing street memo at 5:49 AM on September 17, 2013


The Awl doesn't pay at all, from what I understand.

The Awl pays its writers.
posted by troika at 6:06 AM on September 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, as mentioned in the Slate piece from the previous Bustle thread, Bustle's freelancer pay is $100/day for 5-6 articles.
posted by troika at 6:11 AM on September 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


He really couldn't find any women to work on his web development team?

Something something unicorns

yeah I don't know either
posted by ook at 6:12 AM on September 17, 2013


I'm mainly upset that Bustle really is kind of boring and full of articles that I have left half-read. Most of the news stuff is a short rehash of longer stories elsewhere; the top book review was mainly panegyric (and I already loved the author); the top fashion story is about how fashion really is a cool public art form, which I'm totally on-board with but I feel like that's been done to death elsewhere. I read XOJane sometimes and while it has major faults and TMI problems, it's 100% more fun than this. Why do I love the Hairpin? Estate jewelry. Art appreciation. Poignant stories on love. Texts from a Ghost (moment of silence.) Ask a Librarian/Archivist/Other Cool Job. Why do I love the Billfold? Actual facts and figures. This person has a trust fund; why and how.

Whereas the Bustle has a guy who thinks women hate history and finance, and who didn't reach out and hire a single female web developer for his team. Why should I like his site or like him?
posted by jetlagaddict at 6:32 AM on September 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


and urgh

“It got me thinking,” he said. “Honestly, nothing would have been more helpful here than for some highly regarded feminist writers to say, ‘Bryan’s a good person.’ ”

like somehow praise is a cookie that he earns because he used the word "feminist" in a sentence?
posted by jetlagaddict at 6:34 AM on September 17, 2013


Your kind words of support for women writers taking less-than-ideal jobs while trying to break into this industry are both heartwarming and inspiring.

Heartwarming and inspiring was clearly not what I was going for there.
posted by mediareport at 6:49 AM on September 17, 2013


Ugh, sorry, that was snarky. I get your point, griphus - it's tough, and Goldberg is providing an opportunity, such as it is, that may be a leg up for some of those women. But validating his disgusting approach to women's publications seems to me an atrociously bad long-term move. Choosing short-term gain over that is understandable, particularly in the young/hungry people Goldberg is targeting for his employees. But as I nose around for women's voices online, I can't shake the feeling that the folks who make the choice to write for Goldberg are voices not worth any of my time.
posted by mediareport at 6:56 AM on September 17, 2013


when it comes to covering local sports, Goldberg said, “we don’t need every writer to be David Brooks."

We don't even need David Brooks to be David Brooks and frankly, we wish he wouldn't be.
posted by octobersurprise at 7:29 AM on September 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


Those aren't internships. Those are full time jobs that pay $50 a day, in New York City, with no benefits, employer contributions, or paid leave of any sort. These aren't poor, struggling writers. They're kids who are getting their 'leg up' at the expense of their parents and indirectly at the expense of people working in the field who have to pay their own way.

If you want to work for the experience, do it for yourself or a non-profit that you believe in. If you let someone pay you in cookies and encouraging words, anyone else would be a fool to pay you real wages.
posted by ernielundquist at 4:37 PM on September 17, 2013 [5 favorites]


The Hairpin should be the gold standard for how to write a website for women that isn;t a Women's Website.
posted by mippy at 8:54 AM on September 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think The Printed Internet just gave us the most withering take on Bryan Goldberg yet.
posted by oinopaponton at 11:38 AM on September 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


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