Oh, Bryan Goldberg. The past 24 hours cannot have been pleasant for the founder of Bleacher Report, the man who announced he's raised $6.5 million for his new women's site, Bustle.com. After Goldberg published a post on PandoDaily.com detailing his mission, the blogosphere was quick to pounce. The main problem? Goldberg comes off as completely uninformed about the current women's media landscape. How does one attract millions of dollars without a good competitive analysis? I don't know. But can he have done one and then asked the following questions?
Isn't it time for a women's publication that puts world news and politics alongside beauty tips? What about a site that takes an introspective look at the celebrity world, while also having a lot of fun covering it? How about a site that offers career advice and book reviews, while also reporting on fashion trends and popular memes?
Despite name-checking Jezebel, Refinery29 and PopSugar, Goldberg lays out his idea as if it's revolutionary, as if women's sites weren't already covering both politics and red carpet looks. "No topic is off-limits, so long as we ourselves would want to read it," according to Bustle's About page. "What others might call a big tent, we prefer to think of as a giant skirt."
I don't think any of us -- readers and editors of women's sites -- would object to the emergence of another online publication targeting female readers. (Didn't we all welcome The Toast with excitment?) But if you're going to write 1,333 words about your new publication, don't offend your intended audience by overlooking what's already out there (i.e., what they're already reading).
After several female writers questioned him, Goldberg tried to explain himself in the comments of his post and on Twitter:
Are there many great women's websites out there? Absolutely. Are many of them attracting huge audiences and mainstream advertisers? No.
— Bryan Goldberg (@bgoldberg) August 13, 2013
— Bryan Goldberg (@bgoldberg) August 14, 2013
But again, how? What are you going to do differently in terms of content? And if you really meant that it's all about attracting new advertisers, note that you're attempting to do that not with a never-been-imagined content mix but with the same mix other sites have featured for years.
A few thoughts: Use some of that $6.5 million to invest in even more serious journalism for women. (Yes, more, as in addition to what's already there.) Allow your writers to go beyond quick-hit pieces and do really good investigative reports or think pieces. (Again, this isn't new, but sure, we could absolutely use more of it.) And keep in mind that it's not enough to just mix straight write-ups of hard news stories with pieces about "mascara, concealer, and eye-liner." We are perfectly capable of reading widely to stay informed, so we're not necessarily going turn to Bustle to read a summary of what's happening in Egypt. When we come to women's sites, we still want to read a woman's take, an angle that makes it stand out from all the other content. (See Erin Gloria Ryan's genius reaction to Anthony Weiner's latest revelations.)
Women's media is an engaged community, so as Goldberg has probably learned by now, it's best to prove yourself before you start bragging about how much better you are. You don't have to be all smiles all the time -- as Jessica Valenti pointed out last year, "Wanting to be liked means tempering your thoughts as to not offend" -- but you also don't trash a thriving neighborhood when you move in. You introduce yourself and join the conversation.