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This Blog is Ending… But Social Media is Just Heating Up!

It is only after thoroughly analyzing the part that any conclusions about Jezebel can be drawn. It is clear that Nick Denton’s vision for Gawker media run’s through Jezebel’s core.  It is a magazine that knows its audience, and knows how to attract them. It does this through selective content, which parallels and aggregates other popular forms. It is part celebrity blog, part fashion blog, part feminist blog, and draws upon the appealing and crucial elements of all of them.  It also draws upon a rich history of women’s media, which blossomed creatively in an era of oppression. Jezebel is a new form of women’s media; in a new media for a savvier, and more well educated audience then some other forms of women’s media. This helps account for its differences, but acknowledges its similarities.  Jezebel defines itself by its critical voice, an inheritance from its older brother, Gawker.com. Even though Jezebel is “for women,” it has many similarities to Gawker. Throughout the blog, examples from Gawker that made pieces of Jezebel more salient, such as the idea of timeliness and Gawker’s transparency about its use of videos to draw attention.  Jezebel is framed by the taboo-ness of its name, which projects the type of image they want to craft.

While the issue of Jezebel’s feminism is inconclusive, it is undeniable the feminist strains it has. This is especially evident in its coverage of both personal stories and political/social narratives. However, it draws a closer comparison to other forms of digital media with its fashion and celebrity coverage. The cute videos are an Internet staple, and as the science shows, are guaranteed to draw interest.

Jezebel is the snarky girl in the friend group who eggs others on from the back corner.  She knows when to calm down enough to be liked, and occasionally causes a stir. After all Jezebel has been the part of national news and critiques, such as with the Redbook corner. But for the most part she just cleverly spars, talking over the television so that her commentary becomes a part of what the reader/watcher sees.

Armchair Analysts: Jezebel and Inaction

After breaking down the pieces of Jezebel, it is still hard to draw full conclusions about how it is a women’s blog.  One of the unclear pieces is if Jezebel fits inside the category of a feminist blog.   There are many undeniable parallels in goals and content. However, where Jezebel falls short is it full commitment to political activism. In her piece analyzing Feministing, Moswel discusses the activism built into the site. (2008) However, in Jezebel, the topics are too varied to really stir activism, but err more on the side of social critique. Jezebel writers are the armchair anthropologists of the digital age, sitting on chairs and jotting down notes on what they observe and hypothesize.  To truly be feminist, Jezebel would need to push beyond just observance to ask readers how they are going to take action against what has been elucidated by the writers of Jezebel.  In a similar way, Jezebel tries so hard to critique the magazine industry in their manifesto. Yet, with Nick Denton’s goals of creating the pixilated Conde Nast, they cannot help but fall into many of the same patterns.  The rhetoric penned by inaugural editor Anna North has cooled. In an interview with Madame Nior, popular current (and newer) writer Dodai Stewart reacts strangely, and almost in a coached fashion to this very question about magazine disapproval.

“Jezebel is not anti-magazine, we are anti-cover lies, anti-unrealistic Photoshop and anti-exclusionary content — whether it be targeting only white people, only thin people or only rich people. Personally, I love print…. But many mainstream ladymags are disappointing.”

But for as much of a fight that Jezebel puts against mainstream magazines, its content falls into many of the same patterns. There is the celebrity gossip, the analysis of who wore what, splashed with human-interest pieces. What sets Jezebel apart is its acidic tongue, but even that seems to fall short of really piercing celebrity culture.  Of course, Jezebel has made it clear that they do not deal in cruelty, Holmes pointing out in interviews that they never mention weight. (Johnson 2007) Really, in these areas they are treading into worn territory. Perhaps this is because their manifesto and begging was so focused on the fashion piece, that they forgot to really establish their goals for the rest, and fell fumbling into patterns of puppies and dresses.

However, this so far may be selling Jezebel short. One area they excel in is their attention to women’s issue. They have exhaustive coverage of LGBT issues, sexual health, reproductive rights and more. However, none of this coverage comes with the real impetuous towards change, only the passive resignation.

Sources:

Johnson, Steve. “Jezebel: A Few words with the editor [Chicago Edition].” The Chicago Tribune.25 July 2007: Web. <22 Mar. 2012 < http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2007-07-25/features/0707230542_1_jezebel-gawker-media-celebrity&gt;

Stodghill, Alexis. “Black Beauty With Buzz- Dodai Stewart, Editor at Jezebel.com.” Madame Noire. Moguldom Media Group, 18 Oct. 2011. Web. 22 Apr. 2012. <http://madamenoire.com/78847/black-beauty-with-buzz-dodai-stewart-editor-at-jezebel-com/&gt;.

Perez and More: Celebrity Gossip Blogs

There are hundreds of celebrity gossip blogs, providing a way for the average citizen to expressing feelings about celebrities and even establish celebrity of their own(Podnieks 2009: 53).  Celebrity culture has been altered by the gossip blog, becoming a core part and gaining prominence over traditional gossip outlets. (Fairclough 2008)  This blogs “ exert a considerable influence on the way that celebrities are mediated in a contemporary media culture (Fairclough 2008) Instead of a passive consumer or a third party source, “ today, the gossip blogger becomes both the producer and consumer of the celebrity, offering a route through which to deconstruct the celebrity image, while also contributing to, and even reshaping its cultural connotations. (Fairclough 2008) Part of what is unique about these digital gossips is that, unlike magazines, they are not beholden to any journalistic standards (Fairclough 2008.) It is practice, like Jezebel to report unsubstantiated rumors. There is one segment called Blind Items, where they list rumors about celebrities, leaving out their names and allowing commentators to discuss their guesses.  The lack of journalistic objectivity also increases the involvement of commentary, reflecting personal beliefs in the depiction of others (Podnieks 2009:63). For Jezebel, this means they do not just report news, but comment in a way that is shaped that their declare goals and feminist tendencies.  This looser structure also allows for a stronger involvement from readers, who contribute content and opinion. (Podniecks 2009: 65) This engages readers of gossip blogs in a process of sharing and group blogging that make it socially appealing (Podniecks 2009: 65)

These celebrity blogs have also been a product and contributor to the growth of what Fairclough calls “Bitch” culture. (2008) Fairclough’s description of Bitch culture- acerbic and terribly clever- resonates with the description of Jezebel’s snark. (2008) Fairclough’s description of a celebrity blogger matches some of the phrases used to describe Jezebel  (like here)  “ outspoken, flout codes of courtesy and are fiercely opinionated” (Fairclough 2008) Ironically, against its manifesto, Jezebel does engage in the micro level criticism of female celebrities, which is a trademark of the modern attitude towards female celebrities in gossip blogs in these “Bitchy” discussion.   These celebrity’s blogs offer cutting remarks to critique celebrities. (Fairclough 2008) However liberal Jezebel claims to be, they are policing social norms by calling celebrities (and others) out on their social deviance.  With this bitch culture, celebrities are often called out for being “train wrecks” and carefully scrutinized.  A recent headline about Kim Kardashian illustrates this bitch culture, prefacing an article about her response to critiques by actor Jon Hamm by saying “Stupid Person Responds Stupidly to Jon Hamm Calling Her Stupid” (Beckman 2012).

However, celebrity bloggers need to be careful before going too far down the path of negativity. Perhaps the most famous celebrity blogger si the self-appointed “Queen” of gossip- Perez Hilton.  Hilton is widely read, and focuses on the details of celebrity lives. He built his reputation based on the sharpest of the “Bitch” media voices (Fairclough 2008). Perez went further then Jezebel ever has, editing photos to show penises and drugs on celebrity faces and calling them cruel nicknames. However, after the rash of gay teen suicide, Perez had a change of heart about his cruelty and declared that he could not fight bullying while being a self-described bully. Since then, Perez has focused on creating a more positive image.  He announced the change on Ellen DeGeneres show, and then posted this YouTube video.  So far, Jezebel has weathered most of their storms without major change. It will be interesting to see in the future if Jezebel follows in Perez’s footsteps and tones down their social critique.

Sources:

Beckman, Leah. “Stupid Person Responds Stupidly to Jon Hamm For Calling Her Stupid.” Jezebel. Gawker Media, 12 Mar. 2012. Web. 18 Apr. 2012. <http://jezebel.com/5892663/stupid-person-responds-stupidly-to-jon-hamm-for-calling-her-stupid?tag=kim-kardashian&gt;.

Dobrow, Larry. “Lets Hear It for Women Who Suffer No Fools.” Ad Age Media Works. 13 March 2008. Web.  20 March 2012 < http://adage.com/article/mediaworks/hear-women-suffer-fools/125671/>

Fairclough, Kirsty. “Fame is a Losing Game: Celebrity Gossip Blogging. Bitch Culture, and Post Feminism.” Genders. 48 (2008) Web. 18 April 2012. <http://www.genders.org/g48/g48_fairclough.html&gt;

Hilton, Perez. “I’m Going To Be Doing Things Differently.” YouTube. YouTube, 13 Oct. 2010. Web. 18 Apr. 2012.<http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=glRZpHuGj6Q&gt;

Podnieks, Elizabeth. “Celebrity Bio Blogs: Hagiography, Pathography and Perez Hilton.” a/b: Auto/Biography Studies 24 1 (2009): 53-73.

http://perezhilton.com/

OMG!!!! DID YOU HEAR ABOUT LINDSAY/BRITNEY/MILEY/ANGELINA?

Popular wisdom and Yahoo Ask! User theone78 maintain that gossip is inherent to women, something inherent.  Curious user honeybee posted on Yahoo’s general forum for knowledge asking “ Why do women love to talk & gossip? I’m one of them so no judging here.”   The answer she received from theone78, whose self-stated source is an “Associate Degree—In Social Behavior Science” was not an unheard of.

“ It’s the way you girls are made…more social and emotional!! …. It has more to do with out genetic structure/makeup of survival. Gossiping however is not being to control your tongue which BTW takes discipline.” (theone78) This prominent perception (whether or not the somewhat dubious science checks out) has lead for the industry of celebrity gossip to become immensely popular.

Gossip has been a widely researched subject, and “ the sheer bulk of five centuries commentary on gossip suggests a phenomenon worth taking seriously (Spacks 1985: 26) Most of this discussion of gossip has been decidedly negative, with potentially positive elements being acknowledged rarely.  (Spacks 1985: 26)  There are ethical questions inherent in gossip relating to its position on the “borderline” between public and private (Spacks 1985: 262; Podneicks 2008: 56). It is clear that sites like Jezebel push this line, forcing private information of celebrities and even self selecting contributors into a more public forum.  Like the snarky attitude of Jezebel, gossip draws heavily upon humor. (Podniecks 2008:57)  Gossiping is a performance, meant to create a reaction, whether of amusement or disgust, from the audience.  (Podneicks 2008: 57). When it is “framed by humor gossip ‘rises above its pettiness and viciousness’ and is redemptive” (Podneicks 2008: 57).

While gossip was in previous era was limited to the exchange of information about personal acquaintances, celebrity gossip has supplanted that. (Feasy 2008:693)  This is a relatively new phenomenon, and has been shaped by and defined a new definition of celebrity.  From Louella Parsons, the first gossip columnist to todays gossip blogs, the discipline has changed (Fairclough 2008) The growth of celebrity has given a consequence free way to share information about others, a process which gains the sharer social capital (Feasy 2008: 690). Since it does not involve personal acquaintances, gossip is not as problematic (Feasy 2008: 690). Initially, the idea of nationally knows stars came to fruition with the era of the powerful movie studios (Fairclough 2008). Monolithic, the studios were able to control the images of stars with a heavy hand (Fairclough 2008).  However, the invention of the zoom lens changed that (Fairclough 2008). Salacious pictures of Elizabeth Taylor’s extramarital affair caught from a distance breeched a new form of celebrity information(Podnieks 2009: 56). Now, any aspect of a celebrity’s life, especially their faults and private shames, were fair game (Podnieks 2009: 56). Having a taste of something more,  people were not longer satiated by the static stupid images (Podniek 2009: 56).

Feasy’s 2008 study group of readers of heat, a British gossip magazine, revealed that the consumption of celebrity gossip is not the sole voyeurism traditionally associated with it. In fact, women like to read the information for the main purpose of sharing it with others (Feasy 2008: 693). Knowing this information gives people a desirable expertise.   It allows them to share it with others to create a sense of community. There is also a desirability to be the first to obtain this information, expressed by Feasy’s study participants (Feasy 2008:691). While this is not reflected on Jezebel itself, this desire for primacy is the meaning of Gawker.com’s tagline “Tomorrows News. Today.”  There is a certain appeal to be the first of a social group to know something, to even, as Gawker suggests, be a whole day ahead.

Additionally, the presentation of celebrity flaws and personal news creates what  Feasy identifies as a double edged sword (Feasy 2008: 696) Women  feel validated for the own imperfections, comforted by the normalcy of celebrities. (Feasy 2008: 695) However, women also feel a sense of guilt for intruding and pointing out people’s weaker moments, even if they are in the public eye (Feasy 2008:696)  The popularity and social benefits of celebrity gossip have embedded it in popular culture. With the digital age, celebrity blogging has grown.  Check out the next post for more on that!

Sources:

Fairclough, Kirsty. “Fame is a Losing Game: Celebrity Gossip Blogging. Bitch Culture, and Post Feminism.” Genders. 48 (2008) Web. 18 April 2012. <http://www.genders.org/g48/g48_fairclough.html>

Feasy, Rebecca. “Reading heat: The Meanings and Pleasures of Star Fashions and Celebrity Gossip.” Continuum: Journal of Media & Cultural Studies 22 5 (2010): 687-699

Honeybee, and Theone78. “Why Do Women Love to Talk & Gossip?” Yahoo! Ask. Yahoo!, 28 Apr. 2011. Web. 17 Apr. 2012. <http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20110428163842AA9TcJ0>.

Podnieks, Elizabeth. “Celebrity Bio Blogs: Hagiography, Pathography and Perez Hilton.” a/b: Auto/Biography Studies 24 1 (2009): 53-73.

Spacks, Patrica. Gossip. New York: Knopf, 1985. Print

Jezebel’s Intended Audience and Viewpoint

The truth revealing, no holds barred attitude was part of Jezebel even before the first words were written (Johnson 2007).  As expressed in its tagline, Jezebel strives to tell “the news without airbrushing.” The phrase was offered up by Anna Holmes, who would become the founding editorin chief of Jezebel, during her job  interview for the with Gawker media (Johnson 2007). While over 70% of Gawker.com readership was female, Gawker media decided to create a “straight women’s blog”(PR Week). They hired Anna Holmes, whose resume includes work at Entertainment Weekly, Glamour, and InStyle. (PR Week) Holmes experience with women’s fashion magazines had fostered a frustration with much of the media created for women and formed ideas that would become core to the site. (PR Week).  In an interview with the New York Times, Holmes explains that she “felt disillusion by magazines to a certain degree, because they perpetuated this insecurity factory and present solutions to the insecurities they just created (Mascia 2010).

Jezebel’s target audience is young, urban, educated, liberal females. Advertising Age praises Jezebel as uniquely successful in ability to “[appeal] as creatively and non-patronizingly to women in their 20’s and early 30’s” (Dobrow 2008). In an interview with PR Week from 2007, Holmes expressed the target range of the audiences as women from 18-40, “who take things more seriously than the magazines that are geared to them would have you believe.” (2007) According to Gawker media’s demographics page, 82% of the readership is between 18-34. (Demographics) Holmes makes it clear that Jezebel is intended for a more clever, critical audience. In fact, 81% of Jezebel’s readership has a college education or higher, and over a third (37%) have post graduate degrees. Additionally, it can be assumed that Jezebel appeals to higher income women,  as over 70% of readers are employed (Demographics). The targeting has clearly worked, as the Jezebel readership is 95% female (Demographics). The website also has a link to a live updated chart on the demographics of viewers. The chart indicates that the popularity of visiting the site rises in the afternoon, stabilizing around 3 PM and declining after 8 (Chartbeat). The chart also indicates where in the country users are, and how many people are on each page (Chartbeat).

It is clear that when they set out to make a women’s blog, Gawker media succeeded. However, this date does not display what Jezebel explicitly meant by its idea of a “women’s blog,”  This was stated in the Manifesto, and continued to be reaffirmed by the content they publish.

Works Cited:

Chartbeat. “Jezebel.com.” Chartbeat. Web. 19 June 2009 < http://chartbeat.com/dashboard2/?url=jezebel.com&k=2b3d990a244b3531b681932ac5c8ce33 >.

“Demographics.” Gawker Media. Gawker Media. Web. 23 Mar. 2012. <http://advertising.gawker.com/demographics/&gt;.

Dobrow, Larry. “Lets Hear It for Women Who Suffer No Fools.” Ad Age Media Works. 13 March 2008. Web.  20 March 2012 < http://adage.com/article/mediaworks/hear-women-suffer-fools/125671/>

 Johnson, Steve. “Jezebel: A Few words with the editor [Chicago Edition].” The Chicago Tribune.25 July 2007: Web. <22 Mar. 2012 < http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2007-07-25/features/0707230542_1_jezebel-gawker-media-celebrity&gt;

Mascia, Jennifer. “A Web Site That’s Not Afraid to Pick a Fight.” NYTimes.com. New York Times, 12 July 2010. Web. 23 Mar. 2012. <http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9B0CEEDB103BF931A25754C0A9669D8B63&gt;.

PR Week. “Journalist Q&A – Anna Holmes, Jezebel.” PR Week. 4 June 2007: 12. Print.

“Celebrity, Sex, Fashion [and cute puppies]. Without Airbrushing.”

The role of advertisers plays an important role in the format of Jezebel’s page. The organization of Jezebel  reveals important information about the content categories. Denton’s goals to emulate traditional media was  reinforced with a redesign of the front page of Jezebel,and the other Gawker Media holdings to look more like the front page of a magazine or tabloid (Denton 2010). In an article published on Gawker’s life advice/organization blog Lifehacker, Denton explained how the different changes are a result of media convergence, blurring the lines between digital communications and traditional media (2010). The format allows the editors to differentiate, and highlight certain articles or categories as more important or popular (Denton 2010). In fact, much of the redesign was based on the intrinsically linked process of drawing viewers and advertisers (Denton 2010). This reflects further Jezebel as a profitable media enterprise, which could have an unknown effect on the content present and could effect how the material may be edited to cater to drawing in the most advertisers. However, this cannot be proven without thorough content analysis at the scale this blog cannot complete.

Specifically for Jezebel, each article is tagged with a different label, which indicates the content of the article.  Underneath the highlighted article on the main page there are headlines for other articles divided by some of the more popular labels. Along the side of the page is a traditional blog view, which shows the label and article title. Some of the labels are features such as “Dirt Bag” and “Rag Trade” which are published regularly, while others are adjusted to more current issues such as “Pill Baby Pill” which covers issues with the current debate about birth control.

The blog defines itself as describing “Celebrity, Sex and Fashion for women.”  These three categories loosely divide most of the content on Jezebel. The “celebrity” indicates content that focuses on gossip and celebrity news, including a feature called “Dirt Bag” which lists celebrity gossip, and “Snap Judgment” which shows pictures of celebrities, and asks commentators their opinions.   One common celebrity article is “midweek madness,” which analyzes the celebrity tabloid magazine covers for the week, playfully mocking the focus on celebrity pregnancy (Mascia 2010). The “sex” content focuses on issues related to women, including women’s health news, personal relationship and motherhood anecdotes, accomplishments by women in news and similar content. The “fashion” category harkens back to Jezebel’s proclaimed roots as an alternate to traditional women’s magazines, (Holmes 2007) and takes up a smaller portion then the other two categories.  There are segments such as “Rag Trade,” which outline news about designers and the fashion world, snf “Photoshop of Horrors”, which shows egregious use of Photoshop in advertising, as well as reviews of fashion shows (Mascia 2010). However, as a member of Gawker empire, the payment of the writers is driven by page views (Grigoriadis 2007). This leads to a de facto fourth category, composed of labels such as “squee” and “aww” which, as their titles suggest include videos of cute children, adorable animals and other videos which are going viral from websites like YouTube and Vimeo. These videos  are what Denton describes as “palette cleansers” – softer pieces to dilute the snark that may driver advertisers away. (Denton 2010) All of this content is compiled to form what Jezebel views as what women want to hear about.

Works Cited:

Denton, Nick. “Why Gawker Is Moving beyond the Blog.” Lifehacker. Gawker Media, 30 Nov. 2010. Web. 21 Mar. 2012. <http://lifehacker.com/5701749/why-gawker-is-moving-beyond-the-blog&gt;.

Grigoriadis, Vanessa. “Gawker and the Rage of the Creative Underclass.” New York News & Features. New York Magazine, 14 Oct. 2007. Web. 22 Mar. 2012. <http://nymag.com/news/features/39319/&gt;.

Mascia, Jennifer. “A Web Site That’s Not Afraid to Pick a Fight.” NYTimes.com. New York Times, 12 July 2010. Web. 23 Mar. 2012. <http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9B0CEEDB103BF931A25754C0A9669D8B63&gt;.

McCarthy, Amy. “Self-Righteousness, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Celebrity Gossip: Why Jezebel Is Ultimately Bad For The Feminist Movement.” Feminists for Choice. Feminist for Choice, 8 Sept. 2011. Web. 20 Mar. 2012. <http://feministsforchoice.com/self-righteousness-gwyneth-paltrow-and-celebrity-gossip-why-jezebel-is-ultimately-bad-for-the-feminist-movement.htm&gt;.

Wait, so can you clarify what this is about?

Through every medium there are publications meant to appeal to women, from the thick flimsy Fabio covered paperback of the grocery store to the slick colorful pages of Ladies Home Journal.  With the expansion of the Internet, Jezebel.com has worked to establish itself as a “women’s blog.”    However, the newness of the Internet makes this distinction lack a great deal of clarity, as there is no precedent of standard to understand what that distinction means.  This entails analyzing its part in Gawker media, its structure and tone, and the different aspects of its tagline “ Celebrity, Sex and Fashion For Women. Without Airbrushing.”

In order to understand what the vague term “ a women’s blog” means, the different aspects of Jezebel.com must be pulled apart and analyzed, in order to create a more understandable whole.  Without understanding the components and context of the site, there is no way to understand the impact and meaning of the site itself.   An important part of the context of Jezebel is its part in Gawker media. Like Jezebel, each Gawker media blog has been successful by micro targeting its content to a specific segment of the population.  It is in alignment with this business model that Jezebel has come into play. It is important, especially given the distinctive tone of Gawker works to analyze how Jezebel fits within these works. It is also important to frame Jezebel within the history of female-targeted works in different media forms, and how it has taken on the mantel of this genre for the digital age.

Jezebel has also been called a feminist blog, in almost every description but their own. Since feminism is such a loaded word, this distinction is important. In order to determine if Jezebel is a feminist site, it is important to understand about feminism more broadly and specifically its expansion into the digital world.

The different elements of the tagline also indicate how Jezebel might break down how it is a “women’s blog.” Picking these topics could be no accident, and looking at each of them and their digital history could unlock what Jezebel means.  Celebrities, including gossip and gossip blogs are a flourishing element of the Internet and integral to Jezebel.com.  With any blog associated with Feminism comes a certain degree of sex, and for Jezebel, this is expanded to also include other aspects of sexuality. Contextualizing this and comparing it with feminist websites can clarify the importance of this part. While the fashion element of Jezebel is less obvious, further analysis can show why this was important enough to be included in the tagline.  Additionally, the tagline could be amended to include a fourth category, especially aimed at tugging women’s heartstrings. This is cute animal and baby videos, labeled “aww” and “squee” to replicate the reaction to watching these clips. How these different pieces all fit together is the answer to understanding Jezebel, and figuring out what it means for digital media