To mark the launch of Double X, co-editors Emily Bazelon, Meghan O’Rourke, and Hanna Rosin took readers’ questions about their new online women’s magazine during a live chat on Washingtonpost.com. An unedited transcript of the chat follows.
Washington, D.C.: Why another mag for the ladies? Isn’t there already a whole lot of stuff for you, e.g., Cosmo, LHJ, Glamour, etc.? What content will Double X have that the print media won’t have, and that will be worth paying for in terms of ads?
Emily Bazelon: Good question. Our hope is that Double X will appeal to women who don’t necessarily feel at home in the glossy mag world (me among them). Women’s magazines surround their smart content with much straight-up, idealized coverage of beauty and fashion. That’s an economic necessity for them. We’re hoping that the web will free us from that. We’re also hoping that men will join in and eavesdrop on our conversation, and feel more comfortable doing so than they would buying a glossy women’s mag.
Federal Cubicle, D.C.: The magazine looks great. But that name? How could you?!
Out here in Government Worker Land, and also (I’m pretty sure) in Corporate America Land, bookmarking a site called Double X is just begging for trouble. What were you thinking? That all our work computers aren’t subject to monitoring? That the whole world is so high-minded that “XX” means chromosomes first and foremost, and sexual content only a distant and improbable second?
Please explain your thinking, because as a result of it, a lot of us may have some explaining to do down the line. Thanks. Sort of.
Emily Bazelon: ah, the name. Naming is hard! Here’s what we were thinking: XX for two female chromosomes, as you said, and to try to skirt trouble for readers, we spelled out the URL—doublex.com—so no not-for-work sites will pop up unexpectedly. You can bookmark us safely, we promise! We also chose this name because it plays off the name of our blog, XX Factor, which is the spine of the new site.
New York, N.Y.: As we are discussing whether the Internet will replace newspapers and TV, do you see sites like yours replacing magazines? Will you have, or if you don’t, be considering adding video to your site? Do you believe sites like yours might eventually replace similar TV shows?
Emily Bazelon: Yes, we are running video on the site—some original video, and some that we partner with other sites for, or pull from YouTube. I don’t think short videos really replace TV. At least not good TV that warrants 30 minutes or an hour of viewing, as opposed to a brief snippet.
I also don’t think sites like ours will replace print magazines. There is a tactile appeal to reading something that you can hold in your hands. Especially for long pieces, it’s just more pleasurable. Or such is my view, anyway. But four years at Slate have convinced me that the web offers a vitality and spontaneity that print can’t match. For conversations like the one we have on our blog, XX Factor, nothing else will do but the web. And the links mean that readers can follow along on a writers’ research journey, which I love.
New Jersey: Okay, I looked at the site and it is fine—but it duplicates Cosmo, Glamour, and a whole lot of other print magazines that presumably have their own websites.
Which is to say: it skews young.
Which is also fine, BUT, I am writing to ask whether there are any—ANY—webzines at all that target single, childless women over 35 who are NOT in nor actively seeking, a relationship?
We are probably the largest underserved “magazine” demographic in the US. And our numbers are growing. We have disposable income, control a fair amount of wealth, and have interests that range much more widely than children, shoes, and holding on to a man, which are the mainstays of most women’s magazines and Web sites, including XX.
I keep thinking of starting up something online for such women. I don’t think there’s anything, anything at all, out there for us. I could visualize a lot of advertising revenue—e.g. Home Depot advertising “extreme beginner’s” home repair courses that don’t assume you know ANYTHING. Do any of you know whether there are any webzines like this out there?
Emily Bazelon: I’m interested that you think the site skews young. Today we have pieces about Elizabeth Edwards, the Supreme Court, and reminiscences from famous women, most of them older, about who they wanted to be when they were a little girl. It’s true there’s some content for parents, too, and maybe for you that’s off-putting. But our hope is that our readers will pick and choose and find something they like.
Baltimore: I know you don’t want to segment your audience too much, but could you devote some space to stylish, reasonably priced fashion for the older than 40 crowd? I see so many women in the 40-50 age range who are wearing clothes that are either too young or too old for them. Can’t find a decent line of clothing that is hip and not frumpy for the 40+ age group. Hey, we still care about how we look! Help!!!
Emily Bazelon: That’s a great suggestion. We definitely want to run pieces and slideshows etc that are relevant to readers in the 40-plus age group. We’ll keep this specific idea in mind!
Bowie, Md.: Is your site at some point going to address the role of woman-centric economics in contributing to the current financial situation? So far, we keep reading about Wall Street quants, but at the grass-roots level, we also see:
Women took out a disproportionate number of sub-prime mortgages. The most obvious excess in commercial real estate was building shopping malls selling primarily to women. Women drove the real estate market for bigger houses.
Until two years ago, we used to hear a lot about how women make 80 percent of buying decisions and were the primary movers of the economy. Now that we know America was over-spending during that period, the gender nature of it has suddenly stopped being a story.
Emily Bazelon: I would offer a few more statistics: Women are more likely to be poor and make low salaries, which is related to why they took out more subprime mortgages. And women are experiencing fewer layoffs than men—less than 25 percent of the total—so their earnings are increasing crucial for keeping family afloat in this downturn.
Your point about the link between gender and consumer culture is a really interesting one, which we hope to explore more on the site. Why do women tend to do the bulk of buying for their families? What do their purchasing habits mean for the economy? Those are big questions.
Kansas City: I’m a female daily Slate reader. Currently, I find the XX Factor near impossible to read. With the blog format, so much of the time I didn’t catch the original post and am lost to read the discussion from the middle, so I get frustrated and give up.
I guess what I’m asking is will Double X be more of a true online mag like Slate instead of the BLOG format of XX Factor? Thanks!
Meghan O’Rourke: Hi, great question. Double X will contain both the blog and features and essays that are more like Slate. You can find these features underneath the blog in the center column of the site—where it says “Table of Contents.” There, and in our promotional pane on the upper-left hand side of the magazine, you’ll find pieces about Elizabeth Edwards’ new book; an interview with actor Tilda Swinton; an assessment of the Supreme Court candidates; and much more.
BUT: I also want to add that we have spent a lot of time redesigning the blog so it will be more readable. Some of these features don’t totally work yet, but they will soon. One that might interest you is that if you click on the word “conversation” by a post, you can read the conversation in chronological order. (This feature has some bugs in it today, but we’ll sort them out soon.)
But do let us know what else we can do to make the site more readable and navigable.
Anonymous: I’m so glad this site is being launched. I’ve been a fan of Slate for years and have enjoyed the blog immensely since it started. Quick question: if someone wanted to contribute to the site, what’s the best way to go about doing so? I sent in the form with name, e-mail address and comments, but didn’t get a confirmation page that it was received. I don’t want to be so presumptuous to think that my contribution would be needed, but, well, I’d love to try! Thanks, and congratulations on the launch!
Emily Bazelon: Thanks for this note! We would love for you to comment on the site, and I’m sorry you didn’t get a confirmation back from us—we’ve been snowed under getting ready for launch. You can go to doublex.com whenever you’re ready and log in. Once you’re registered, you can post in response to any blog entry or article you want. We look forward to hearing your thoughts—we started the site in part to bring readers into our XX Factor conversation, and you’re key to our success!
Florida chick: Dead-tree media and, esp., cable TV, revealed itself to be savagely misogynistic with the “shrill” Hillary meme and the utter dismemberment of Palin. No coverage of male candidates in the past began to approach the personal and inappropriate stuff tossed around. From cackles to cankles to MILF star ratings, to was just plain shocking. Shocking. How will your efforts seek to immediately change this tone, which is apparently not limited to any party or media outlet? (Similar crap would not have been tolerated vis a vis Lieberman’s religion, Richardson’s ethnicity or so on.)
Meghan O’Rourke: This is a great question. It was partly out of frustration with the tone that you describe that we started the XX Factor blog on Slate. It was a conversation among Slate women about politics, the campaign, whether sexism, implicit or overt, was affecting Hillary’s campaign. Within the conversation on that blog, we tried to dissect and examine our own assumptions, the moments when we might have been absorbing bias without even noting it.
I was thinking about this very issue last week, because all of the fuss and acrimony over Elizabeth Edwards’ book has brought up some of the same questions for me. On the one hand, Edwards wrote a book and put herself out there to be discussed. On the other hand, it almost feels like women are quicker and more enthused to jump in and critique her than her husband!
So, we’re trying to take a reasoned, analytical tone when we explore these subjects. We also think that the conversational element of the blog is key. It lets us represent different points of view. And to represent argument and debate about these very questions.
New York, N.Y.: How do you (if at all) envision place of men at Double X as readers or contributors?
Meghan O’Rourke: Thanks for asking. We are going to have regular male contributors. They’ll contribute on a variety of topics, from parenting to cultural and political issues. To give you a concrete example, this week we will be running a Book Club about a handful of parenting-confessional books that were just published—the kind of books that are part of the so-called “Mommy Wars.” Hanna Rosin, my co-editor, will talk with Stephen Metcalf, a culture critic for Slate, about these books and why they strike a cultural nerve. Our hope is to get outside of the tunnel vision way that these issues are often talked about by inviting a man (and a father) into the conversation.
We’ll be doing that regularly. Men will routinely write about kids and parenting. And much more.
Arlington, Va.: I kind of find the magazine to seem like a ghetto for “women.” If the topics are so “smart” why do they need a XX factor to tell women THIS IS TARGETED FOR YOU! Does this mean Slate is not meant to be read by women? Slate is a Men’s online magazine?
Meghan O’Rourke: Good question. The XX Factor blog is read by men as well as women. The reason we expanded into a full site of our own was to be able to expand the conversation we were already having on the blog. So we think of this less as a conversation or magazine just for women—a pink ghetto, if you will—than a site that will be able to publish more content than Slate would on a variety of topics that the blog already touches on. Emily and I both write regularly for Slate, so no, we don’t think of Slate as a “men’s” magazine. But Slate is already packed full, and doesn’t have room to promote all the stories it runs. So, we decided we needed to create a new site. Our hope is that men as well as women will read it—a hope we have some reason to believe will be reality, given the very equal gender breakdown of readers of XXFactor.
Cosmo, LHJ, Glamour, etc.: Those are exactly why Double X will be so welcome.
Meghan O’Rourke: Thank you. We hope to differentiate ourselves from those magazines—not so much by never talking about celebrity or fashion, but by taking on a broad range of topics and by taking a more analytical tone. I hope you enjoy!
Anonymous: are you concerned readers might confuse your blog with a Vin Diesel movie?
Hanna Rosin: This is a chronic problem. Readers coming to the site might be disappointed to find photos of humans with hair, and no six-pack abs, and not a wife-beater undershirt in sight. Perhaps we will start a Vin Diesel fan corner to mollify them.
New York, N.Y.: What do you read besides Slate? Also, do you accept submissions by outside contributors?
Emily Bazelon: Yes, we except submissions–send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. I read magazines like the New Yorker and the Atlantic. On the web I go to legal blogs a lot, like scotusblog, volokh’s conspiracy, ann althouse’s blog, balkinization, and glenn greenwald on Salon. I also like talkingpointsmemo and some of the Atlantic blogs—the Daily Dish in particular.
Bowie: Sounds like you’re planning to write news that women want to read, in the sense that it will help confirm their own opinions of themselves.
Hanna Rosin: I’m not sure what you mean by “confirm their own opinions of themselves.” But my instinct tells me I don’t agree. This will not be a place where women come to learn that women are the most empathetic intelligent half of the species and there should be nine of them on the Supreme Court. There is no single “woman” as you know. What we encourage is debates between women. On the site today we have a symposium of writers talking about what the problems for women are today. The answers are completely varied, and contradictory, and ornery. We’ve already gotten strong objections by outside women to some of the responses, and those will appear tomorrow.
Arlington, Va.: To what do you attribute the success of the XX Factor blog, and how do you plan to carry it over to the new site?
And is the launch of all these Slate Group niche sites—Double X, TheRoot, The Big Money—signal a particular strategy by the co.?
Emily Bazelon: We think that XX Factor works because it’s a conversation among a group of women who feel comfortable with each other. We disagree, vehemently sometimes. But we do it with affection. I think that has made the blog a place where writers have both the freedom and security to muse through their reactions to news and events.
In terms of strategy, the idea is to branch out and build Slate’s audience among groups that we’re already reaching, but would like to woo as loyal readers in greater numbers. The home page of Slate is a limited piece of real estate. So the stand-alone sites offer space to do more of a particular kind of content than we can do on Slate.
Washington, D.C.: What would you describe as the quintessential Double X story? Elizabeth Edwards and Madonna discussing Sarah Palin’s skills as a mother?
Hanna Rosin: I think it would be more fun to have Elizabeth Edwards and Sarah Palin discussing Madonna’s skills as a mother, don’t you? Compulsive overseas adoption adds a great new wrinkle to the mommy wars.
Emily Bazelon: Hey thanks to all of you for your great questions. We look forward to reading you as commenters on Double X. Sign up!
Hanna Rosin: Thank you all for chatting with us. We hope you come visit us at doublex.com today, tomorrow, and every day after that. We welcome your comments and, if they’re really good, we’ll give them prominent play!
Meghan O’Rourke: Thanks for joining us today.