Yahoo's recent launch of Shine, a women-focused media portal, is bound to make some magazine publishers nervous. Billing itself as a place that "features the best writers and bloggers in women's publishing," as well as a form of social networking, Shine.yahoo.com looks like the future of publishing, making magazines look like the past. But the two have more in common than one might believe.
Shine exists thanks to RSS feeds, journalists looking for a stable place of employment, assumed rules of engagement for repurposing content, and the rise of independent bloggers looking to display their content in multiple networks. Yahoo smartly amassed serious talent from the magazine ranks for Shine, including Brandon Holley, former editor-in-chief of the now defunct Jane, as well as reporters and editors from other print and Web publications. The site clearly fits into Yahoo's strategy of creating content and services to monetize through its ad network. But while Shine boasts a lot of positive aspects, its broad-minded focus goes against the tide of new media entrants.
To judge Shine is to look at its mission statement: "We didn't want to be a site just for moms or just for single women or working women, or any specific demo - or psychographic."
Shine launches at a time when everything is disintermediated. Women - and men - can seek out content that speaks as broadly or specifically to them as possible. Women with children might not wish to be seen solely as moms. They also might not want to read a publication that targets them and their 18-year-old daughter with the same content.
Women's magazines are suffering in part because their audience can find content online that more specifically targets them. Shine, on the other hand, is even less targeted than magazines. Look at four recent headlines on the site's cheat sheet: Chelsea Clinton asked about Monica. Again!; Why are global food prices soaring?; Running really can make you high; Woody Allen busts American Apparel. It's not unfair to think that most women who visit this site would find at least one of those stories uninteresting.
That's why blogs are changing the face of publishing: They provide readers with the great ability to control what type of content reaches them. Magazines are suffering because consumers can become their own editors through blogs and RSS feeds. Rather than purchase a magazine that provides advice on restaurants, fashion, entertainment, and other subjects in bulk, people are creating their own publications by taking feeds from a food blog of their choice, reading the fashion blog of their favorite designer, and signing up for e-mail alerts from the online publishing arm of entertainment magazines.
If women's general-interest magazines are dying, Shine won't be the reason. Both are betting on the same thing - that the reader of tomorrow will want someone else to be their editor.