Interview: Anna Holmes

Anna Holmes spent years working for glossy magazines like Entertainment Weekly, Glamour, Star, Celebrity Living, and InStyle, along with a stint in the documentary division of HBO.

Anna Holmes spent years working for glossy magazines like Entertainment Weekly, Glamour, Star, Celebrity Living, and InStyle, along with a stint in the documentary division of HBO.

Now, she's heading Jezebel, the women-focused blog launched last month as Gawker Media's latest offering. She spoke to PRWeek about what women want - in a blog.

PRWeek: How did you come to work for the blog after years in magazines?
Anna Holmes: There was a girl I worked with at Star…who knows [Gawker media head] Nick Denton, and was a blogger. She kind of started the idea of the blog. She asked me if I wanted to be involved, I thought about it and I said yes. And she ended up going back to London for personal reasons, and so I was like “alright, I guess it’s me.” So that’s how I got involved with it.

PRWeek: What is the proposition of Jezebel? Why did Gawker think it needed a blog like this?
Holmes:
The thinking seemed to be that Gawker.com itself had such a predominantly female readership that there was something there to that. Something like 70% of its readership was women, and it decided maybe it needed a straight women's blog with the appropriate Gawker tone.

But nobody ever came to me and said, "This is what we want to do; execute it." They said, "We want to start a girly version of Gawker," and that's really as far as it went. I don’t want to not give [Denton] credit for it, but it was never communicated to me outright that “it should be this, this, and this.” It was more like a concept, and let’s see what we can build on that.

PRWeek: Who do you think your audience is, specifically?
Holmes:
In terms of age, it could be anywhere from 18 to 40. I think our audience is women who take things more seriously than the magazines that are geared to them would have you believe.

A lot of women's magazines really can't say certain things because then advertisers get freaked out and pull their stuff. You can't really have a women's magazine that's ragging on conspicuous consumption because [then] an advertiser's going to get upset... [but] there are more important things in life than being told that you really need to have a $1,000 handbag.

PRWeek: Do you think you’ll pull readers away from Gawker.com?
Holmes:
That is not something that I want do or, or that I’m angling to do. By no means. But I think they’re two very different things, because Gawker is very much a New York- and, by some extension LA-type of thing. That’s who’s really reading Gawker. I’m sure there are people in other places that are reading it, but their focus is on New York. Whereas Jezebel, I would like it to be broader, in terms of a woman anywhere in the country, or even the world, would be able to look at it. So I don’t want to take readership away from them, but I’m not sure.

I think they’re just more inside baseball. And by extension, in a lot of ways they sound smarter than we are because of that, because they’re looking at things in a very detailed way. It’s all about the players [for them], whereas we’re focusing on women that you’ve already heard of.

PRWeek: You seem to have a pretty good audience so far, judging by the comments.
Holmes:
I have to be honest with you, I don't look at the comments until the end of the day. I literally do not have time to go through the comments, and I think there's also a part of me that's like, "I like this, but does anyone else?"

There's a certain kind of trepidation, like are we getting comments that say, "You guys suck!" And we're not. But I'm not used to the immediacy of the medium. I'm used to print. And when someone writes in to a monthly or weekly, you usually don’t see it, because it gets sent to the person who’s in charge of letters to the editor, and that’s it. So it’s something that’s very exciting, but it’s also a little overwhelming.

PRWeek: Are you still tweaking the site as you go?
Holmes:
Yes, I think there are things that we’ll drop, either because no one’s reading them, or because I realize that I can have all these idea, and in theory they sound great, but when you actually see them executed, hmmm, maybe it didn’t work so well. I don’t have any specific things right now that I’m going to say we’ll drop or not drop, but yes, I think it will be an evolution. We will respond to what the readers respond to. We’re not like overlords; it’s very give and take.

PRWeek: Do you think that magazines are taking as big a hit from online blogs as newspapers are?
Holmes:
Well I do know that InStyle and the majority of Time Inc. are very committed to having the Internet properties associated with their magazine be very strong…The reason I decided to work on the blog was I wanted to see what it was like for once to just go off, without having as many concerns. Basically just to be more honest. I’m not saying that InStyle is dishonest, not at all. There are magazines I think are dishonest; that’s not one of them…There’s something to be said, though, for sitting down with a magazine.

PRWeek: What kinds of interactions have you been having with PR people?
Holmes: We get e-mails sent to us, but not a lot yet. Not tons, and sometimes the kinds of things where you're like, "Oh, come on." With some of them, it seems like they know you exist, so they just send you something.

The one thing I would love is I'm really fascinated with all the swag that gets sent to these women's magazines. What I want to do is a weekly roundup of what free [stuff] got sent to which magazine editors - or if not specific editors, just which magazines.

The magazine editors might not like that, but if we're going to mention someone's product, it's good publicity for them.

PRWeek: Do you think Gawker Media is just going to keep expanding forever?
Holmes:
I don’t know. I’m so not of that world. I’m a consumer of the internet, and now I guess I’m a provider of it. I don’t feel I have a really strong working knowledge of how the web, in terms of web properties, work. Gawker is obviously strong. It’s only getting bigger; it’s only getting stronger.

Name: Anna Holmes

Outlet: Jezebel

Title: Managing editor

Preferred contact method: anna@jezebel.com

Web site: www.jezebel.com

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