Redbook, Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping, Ladies’ Home Journal and Glamour are alive and well and still reach millions of female readers.
But their readership dipped by a third in 2009, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulation, damaged by increased competition from the Internet. In the past few years, Mademoiselle and Jane have folded.
Yahoo decided to create a daily online women’s publication as an antidote to old-fashioned print monthlies. It named Brandon Holley, former editor of Jane as editor of Shine (http://shine.yahoo.com/), which launched in 2008. How does Shine differ from its print competitors, and what new ground, if any, is it breaking?
On its website Shine says it doesn’t “want to be a site just for moms, single women, working women or any specific demographic.” Instead it hopes to connect diverse, global women and inspire its readers to “laugh, think, get mad, empathize and be surprised.”
Yahoo launched Shine because millions of women on the Internet wanted to read about health, food, finances, and more, so Yahoo brought “all this content into one space but did it in an innovative way—by making the community the heart of the site,” said Bahareh Ramin, a Yahoo spokesperson. Any woman with a Yahoo ID can start a blog channel on the site, she adds.
Shine creates “community and conversation” while print magazines offer one-way communication, Ramin suggests. Shine permits two-way, three-way, and 10-person interaction online, encouraging discussion about different topics and forming communities. Of course, many women pubs offer dialogues with readers on their online sites.
Every publication has its own distinctive voice. Shine’s is “edgy, fun, inquisitive, supportive, and talks to you like your most honest and realistic friend,” Ramin says.
However, Shine doesn’t live up to its own mission statement. It says explicitly in “Everything you need to know about us” that “So what you won’t find on Shine: Advice on how to please your man and diets that urge you to lose 10 pounds fast!” Ironically, “Why You Can’t Lose That Last 10 Pounds” was published on Shine in summer 2010. Another article, “Are You Too Clingy? 4 Ways Not to Scare off Your Man,” focuses on how to please your guy. Shine seems to contradict its own intentions.
Shine is organized into Home, Fashion & Beauty, Healthy Living, Parenting, Love and Sex and Food, topics that fit into any traditional publication. Where are the in-depth news articles? Investigative pieces? Indeed a look at its content reveals few surprises and a myriad of service articles that sound reminiscent of traditional women’s pubs.
Most Shine articles offer how-to advice and tips, the same formula honed by Cosmo and others. For example, Shine offers “Tips for Adulthood: Five Reasons to Be Optimistic about Middle Age,” “15 Fab Beauty Buys for $15 o Less,” and “5 Surprising Ways to Rev up Your Workout.” What’s innovative about 15 fabulous beauty tips and 5 ways to intensify one’s workout exercises?
Indeed, the article on “9 Tips to Increase Your Focus” offers few new insights, telling readers to turn off the phone and use voicemail, reduce clutter (not sure what this has to do with intensifying focus), and shutting off pop-up tabs on their computers—nothing new here.
Asked what breakthrough articles Shine has published, Ramin points to a February 2010 article by Joanna Douglas about the lack of diversity in Vanity Fair’s “New Hollywood” issue. Hence, one of Shine’s major pieces investigates a celebrity magazine that omitted talented, up-and-coming actresses of color. While the article generated buzz, it broke little new ground. Shine has avoided dealing with more substantive issues such as women still earn less than men, that few CEOs and boards of directors are women, or the plight of single women with families.
Rather than relying on original content, it also republishes articles from Reader’s Digest, not exactly known for being hip and cutting edge, and Motley Fool. Why reprint columns that readers can access online on their own?
Nonetheless, Shine has a following. A recent article, “How Many Times a Day Do Men Think About Sex?”, which said men think about sex 13 times a day and women only five times, elicited 1,500 comments. Many women said that they think more about sex than the survey revealed. Holley told the New York Times “You don’t get that sharing in print. You miss the whole second part of the conversation.”
Shine is striking a chord with readers. Indeed, it has attracted an impressive 17 million visitors in January 2010, the second most popular women’s site after Glam Media (www.glam.com). Ramin adds, “Shine has become a safe place for first-time and seasoned bloggers to post their thoughts.”
“Very few sites can claim the success Shine has seen for its community. Women can learn how to bake the perfect cake from the test-kitchen experts in the same place they are receiving tips from other new moms in how to put your kid to bed on time,” Ramin says.
But if Shine aspires to introducing cake recipes and tips on getting kids to bed early, it has set its sights rather low.
Gary M. Stern is a freelance writer based in New York City.