Media Interview with xoJane UK editor Rebecca Holman
Every adventure story has a beginning (yes; this is an adventure story about a website), and perhaps xoJane UK's origin story started in May 2011 with Jane Pratt's launch of xoJane.com in the US. Following on from the success of Pratt's teen girl mag Sassy and lifestyle magazine Jane, xoJane's online 'inclusive and uplifting' vibe was a hit. Attracting over 800,000 unique monthly visitors since its genesis, the website keeps 'em coming back with honest and intimate editorial from its team of writers.
xoJane.com's little sis xoJane UK arrived here just a few weeks ago under the editorship of Rebecca Holman, and this is where we join the adventure! Get ready for a heady mix of fashion, beauty, love, sex, celebrity, and swear words…
About xoJane's journey to the UK
How would you describe the readers xoJane UK is hoping to snatch up?
We’ve only been live a week, and traffic is looking great, as are the number of comments we’re getting on the site, but I’m going to keep quiet on traffic until we’ve got a couple of solid months under our belt.
How do you think the UK audience will differ from the audience the US version attracts?
I think it’s going to be the same type of woman, broadly speaking, but British! Jane always says that it’s more of a psychographic than a demographic – the xoJane user is a woman with a certain perspective on life, and that’s the same here as it is in the States. We just have different cultural references and use words like ‘git’ and ‘bloke’.
What makes you different from the other outlets in the lifestyle/women’s interest sector?
I really struggled to answer that question when I first started working on the site, but now that we’ve settled into it, I can’t remember what it was like working in traditional women’s media! Everything on the site is written in the first-person, from a personal perspective, and we encourage our writers to be as upfront and honest as possible. As such, there’s not as much of an 'editorial voice'. Our writers have distinctive tones of voice and characters that come across in anything they do. Plus! We can swear! (Thrilling for a potty mouth like me…)
Any gossip from the launch party you could share with us?!
It was really hot and packed, and the most fun launch I’ve been to in ages – at one point, we spilled out into the street and had an impromptu street party. Apart from that, I drank far too many Editrix cocktails, so any exciting gossip passed me by entirely…
Do you find social media useful?
Yes – and fascinating. No one’s really nailed a long-term way of harnessing it in the long run – it evolves and changes so quickly. We have such active and engaged users that social media should really be an extension of everything else we do on the site, rather than a simple traffic driver.
xoJane UK and freelance journalists
Do you pay for contributions from freelance journalists?
Occasionally – although at the moment we’re only paying regular contributors who contribute multiple posts a nominal amount.
Do you like freelance journalists to get in touch with you directly to pitch ideas?
Yes; best bet is to email firstname.lastname@example.org with ideas – they need to be things that can be written in the first-person and from a personal perspective that you’re definitely willing to cover and put out there!
Name the three most important attributes that make a freelance journalist stand out for you and would make you use them again?
A well-written, pithy email.
Ideas that are already spot-on for Jane.
Timing – unfortunately, you’re more likely to get a response if I’m in the process of clearing out my inbox and answering emails, or if I’m about to start commissioning a whole new bunch of copy!
If you can, tell us about the best approach you've seen from a freelance…and the worst…
This is a tricky one, because, again, it’s all down to timing. Getting badgered incessantly and rudely when I haven’t replied to an initial email is very annoying. As are obvious round-robin emails where the PR hasn’t even bothered to change minor details – I get loads asking me when my print deadlines are, for example!
The best ones are when I go for a coffee or breakfast with a PR expecting a rudimentary catch-up and come away with five amazing feature ideas that are perfect for the site. That works best when the PR really gets what you’re doing and doesn’t try to fit a square peg into a round hole…
Any xxx and ooo for PRs?
Do you work closely with PRs or do you keep them at arm’s length?
Not as much as I have in the past, because it's not been as relevant for the site so far – I think that will change, though.
If you could make one change to the way PRs deal with you, what would it be?
Less irrelevant press releases. Although that’s just part of the job, so really I need to suck it up! I’ve refused to have a landline at my desk though, which has revolutionised how much work I get done!
How should a PR approach you about their client?
A personal email which is clear, concise and easy to scan. If you can be as specific as possible about how this relates back to xoJane UK, that would be great.
Describe a typical day at work on xoJane UK: What are your editorial duties/responsibilities at the outlet (e.g. commissioning, subbing, features, interviewing)?
I always kick off at about 8.30 – 9 (or 9.30, depending on how spectacularly late I am that day) doing a couple of entertainment stories, which is something we don’t cover on the US site, but we’re trying them out to see how they go down… Most of the rest of the content for the day should be set up in advance, so I check everything’s good to go, and then think about how we’re going to fill-in any gaps with more timely content (women’s issues or feminist stories are always great).
I spend the afternoon writing or commissioning new content, meeting PRs and advertisers, or talking to my lovely colleagues in the New York office.
What interests you most about your job so far?
How many amazing, intelligent, funny, cool, clever women there are on the internet – and the fact that I’m getting to meet some of them!
Where have you worked previously, and how did you end up in your current position?
I used to edit Handbag.com at Hearst. Jane dropped me an email saying she was coming to London and wanted to chat about xoJane.com. A 40 minute interview became a 90 minute brain storm, and the rest is history!
If you had to choose a theme song for yourself, what would it be?
'Yes Sir, I can Boogie' by Baccara.
"Mister, your eyes are full of hesitation. Sure makes me wonder, if you know what you're looking for"… Start looking at @xojaneuk; disco is dead, but xoJane UK is just getting started.