This week I was lucky enough to be invited to attend a panel discussion at Refinery 29's downtown headquarters as part of the website's ThinkBig series, which focuses on issues that drive the content of women's digital media today. This particular event, "Right Brain/Left Brain," was mediated by Jezebel's founder Anna Holmes, and included four top editors from Fashionista, Cosmopolitan.com, NY Mag's The Cut, and Refinery29, all competitive websites in some way or another, but different enough in voice and coverage to be destinations in each of their own rites.
One of the really remarkable takeaways from the discussion was just how much each of these women called out Sassy and Jane magazines as major influences—as I do too. It's interesting because they were considered somewhat "alternative" publications back in their heydays, especially compared to more mainstream magazines like Seventeen and YM (remember YM???), and yet all of these enviably whip-smart, cool women—now big brassy ladies in digital publishing—were devoted readers. Jane Pratt, thank you from all of us!
Another interesting point made by several of the women was the importance of being a constant reader, and how that makes one a better writer. I completely agree, but what's so interesting is how that contradicts the amount of time a typical reader spends on most of these websites. One editor said that her site's analytics showed 30 seconds to a minute are usually spent on an average post, with two to three minutes devoted to longer-format stories. That blew my mind! Being a "regular" or fervent reader of these websites these days only goes so far. If you want to write for The Cut, Refinery29, or any decent publication, then real skills are gained from reading thoughtfully, deliberately. And, as old-media as it sounds, slowly.