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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;.

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“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;.

Jezebel: Just one piece of Gawker Media

Before breaking down the significance of Jezebel, it would be helpful to explain the history and set-up of the site. Jezebel was founded in May 2007 as a purely female directed blog associated with Gawker.com, the popular online news/culture blog.  (PR Week) The website has 2.1 million monthly readers(Jezebel demographics).   Gawker Media was established in 2002 by Nick Denton and currently publishes eight different blogs that each target niche audiences. (Who We Are) The blogs range from Deadspin, which focuses on sports, to i09, which focuses on technology (Who We Are). The different blogs will often link to each other’s content, or have their content featured on the more general main site, Gawker.com. While Gawker at its root is meant to express the experience and ideas of a young New Yorker, the wide range of sites shows broader appeal(Grigoriadis 2007). A glance at the Gawker.com home page reveals that the stories expand far beyond the interest and experience of a New Yorker but still with the biting edge the city is known for.

Dent likes to view Gawker publications not just as a string of blogs but an empire of magazines like Condé Naste (Grigoriadis 2007). Additionally, many of the writers are journalist with credits from mainstream news outlets and formal media training (Grigoriadis 2007).  In fact, “Gawker is often credited with legitimizing blogging as journalism” and instead of more lowbrow blog posts, the items on the page are described as articles, which has a more professional connotation(Manjoo 2010).

This growth of Gawker media can be viewed as a result of the “professionalization of blogging.”  While blogging was once a more independent medium, professionals from the media are increasingly staffing it, or bloggers are becoming part of other media projects (Carlson 2009). An article in Atlantic Magazine discusses these phenomena, citing a discussion among bloggers where “almost everyone weighing in agreed that blogging has become more corporate, more ossified and increasingly indistinguishable from the mainstream media”(Carlson 2009). With the increasing popularity of blogging it has become a profitable industry, and is therefore increasingly subject to market disciplines” (Carlson 2009).  However, due to its occasionally risqué and controversial material, Jezebel is considered “a risky self for mainstream marketers” (Dobrow 2008).

The websites all feature visible advertisements, the first of which was an Absolut Vodka ad in 2003 (Timetoast).  All of the Gawker Media holdings are vastly popular, and together reached over 250 million page views in June 2008(Timetoast).  In February 2012, Jezebel received 11,274,170 page views (Jezebel Stats). Page views are displayed for the website as a whole, and individually by reach contributor (Jezebel Stats). There is also a detailed report for all of the Gawker media holdings, which breaks down the holdings by demographics. All of the statistics indicate that Jezebel, and Gawker in general have a large number of viewers, cementing their importance in the digital media landscape.

Works Cited:

Carlson, Benjamin. “The Rise of the Professional Blogger.” The Atlantic. The Atlantic Monthly, Nov. 2009. Web. 22 Mar. 2012. <http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2009/09/the-rise-of-the-professional-blogger/7696/&gt;.

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/>

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;.

 “Jezebel.” Gawker Media Advertising. Gawker Media. Web. 22 Mar. 2012. <http://advertising.gawker.com/jezebel/&gt;.

“Jezebel Stats.” Jezebel: Celebrity, Sex, Fashion for Women. Without Airbrushing. Feb. 2012. Web. 22 Mar. 2012. <http://jezebel.com/stats/?unique=true&gt;.

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;

Manjoo, Farhad. “Blogs and Web Magazines Are Looking More and More Alike. What’s the Difference?” Slate Magazine. Slate Magazine, 15 Oct. 2010. Web. 23 Mar. 2012. <http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/technology/2010/10/this_is_not_a_blog_post.html&gt;.

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

Timetoast. “Annotated History of Gawker Media” Gawker Media” Timetoast., n.d. Web 20 March 2012. < http://www.timetoast.com/timelines/2561>

Wazny, Katelyn M. “Feminist Communities Online: What it means to be a Jezebel.” B Sides 8 (2010): 1- 23.

” Who We Are.” Gawker Media. Gawker Media. Web. 22 Mar. 2012. <http://advertising.gawker.com/gawkermedia/&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