In recent months, Time Inc. has been scooping up digital brands in an effort to reach a millennial audience, including Zooey Deschanel's Hello Giggles and sports blog network FanSided. Last week, the publisher officially acquired xoJane, the women's lifestyle site launched by Say Media and legendary magazine editor Jane Pratt in 2011. We spoke with Pratt about her plans for the website and return to the world of magazine publishing.
You wrote in a post on xoJane that you actually worked with Time Inc. to launch Jane magazine back in the '90s. What happened?
Yeah, I was developing Jane magazine with Time Inc., and I was there for almost two years doing other things at the same time. But then Time Inc. Ventures, which was the division I was working with, folded. So I actually ended up taking it over to Fairchild and launching it there.
Did you ever expect to return to a big magazine publisher?
I had hoped that xoJane could land at a big publisher with the resources to grow the site. But I didn't want to go work with a primarily print publisher if I didn't feel that they were really invested in digital and understood the value of digital-only publications, and I think it's taken a while for big print companies to come around to that. So I'm happy that I started xoJane with a technology company, and now I feel like it's a good time to move to a company like Time.
What convinced you that Time Inc. was really committed to digital?
Well, I looked around a lot, and Time Inc.'s digital audience reach is the biggest of all of the major [magazine] publishers, which I really liked. But it was also Time's interest in xoJane and the fact that they saw that our growth was really a testament to how much we could do with very few resources. I don't want to put down Say, but we have a skeleton crew. Right now, it's only me and three full-time staffers on xoJane, and one full-time staffer on xoVain.
Will the Time Inc. deal allow you to bring some of your regular freelancers and contributors on as full-time staffers?
At this point, we're going over the way that we are, but I'm sure that we will be growing [the staff] over time.
What kinds of changes can we expect on the site?
Everything that is currently on the site will stay, but I'm really excited to be able to bring back some of the features that I did very early on that got phased out mostly due to budget cuts over the years. For example, there's a feature that we did early on the website called "Make-unders," which I had started at Jane magazine, but we had to phase out. I had celebrity contributors early on, and I look forward to bringing back more of that entertainment angle. Also, I'm really excited about doing more video.
It was reported that you had been working on a reality series with Relativity, which didn't end up happening. Are there plans to revive that project with Time Inc.?
I think it would be a really fun and really natural offshoot of the site, because the readers already do follow us as though we're a reality show. I don't know that it needs to necessarily live on a network; I think it could also be part of a YouTube channel.
XoJane publishes some pretty envelope-pushing content. Do you think you'll be expected to tone it down at all?
No one has said that we need to tone it down. But I'm also looking forward to getting more involved in the ad sales effort, so from a business standpoint, I do want to consider whether what we're doing editorially that is not important to our mission could be hurting us with advertising. I always take all that stuff into account.
How involved had you been in the advertising side under Say Media?
I worked on it quite a bit in the beginning with getting launch sponsors on board. That was fun for me; I like being involved in the ad side because I feel like I can really sell the site since I know it so well. I did a lot of that at Jane magazine. So I did that initially [at Say Media], but because of the way it was being sold and the broad network of salespeople, they ended up going out and selling it without me. That worked too, but in any case, I just wasn't that involved apart from the launch and the xoVain launch. And, of course, I stayed involved with the sponsored content.
How do you think that moving to Time Inc.'s new headquarters will affect the workplace culture of xoJane?
I think it's going to be really fun for us to be in the building and on a floor with other likeminded publications and for me to have other editors around. At Say, there were other publications, but we weren't all in the same office. I'm also really used to being—I don't want to say the "oddball," but we kind of are. I remember even at Jane magazine, our desks would be crazy and we'd be dancing on tables, and the people from W would walk through our area and be like, "Oh my god, what are they doing over there?" So I'm used to that atmosphere, and hopefully Time knows what to expect.