Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Jezebel, I Hardly Knew Ye

About a year and a half ago, I discovered Jezebel. And I fell in time-killing, page-refreshing love. The blog had a pretty unique mix of news, politics and pop culture, all viewed through a feminist lens. It touched on alot of issues that are important to me, but in a snarky, irreverent, entertaining way.

Well, those days are gone. Sadly, Jezebel has betrayed me and now I have the data to prove it.

Jezebel is a horse in the stable of the Nick Denton/Gawker Media empire. It launched with a bang in July 2007 when their offer of a $10,000 prize for an unretouched cover photo from a big ladymag led to the dramatic reveal of Faith Hill as an actual human being (as opposed to the plastic glamour-cyborg published on the cover of Redbook).

Granted this coup de journalism was more monetary lubrication than reportage, but still- it was a pretty sensational, facade-busting way to come into the saturated women's media market. And it set the tone for alot of what came after- namely, revealing the market-driven nonsense spoon-fed to women for the bullshit that it is and shining a feminist spotlight on alot of the misogynistic (overt or not) crap that goes on in our world. With a healthy dose of humor to make the medicine go down.

All was well.

Then came the recession. There was "restructuring" and layoffs. And still, I thought, all was well. I mean, there might be less posting and different voices, but surely the content would remain the same? After all it is Jezebel's content and refusal to dumb-down that made the blog popular in the first place.


Since September-ish I've noticed a steady falling-off in, I don't know, the worthiness of the things Jez chooses to post about. In the days leading up to the hols, the drop-off became pretty steep. So now, with the holidays over, I decided to try to analyze, in a totally amateur fashion, NowJezebel versus PastJezebel. I categorized the attributes of every post put up yesterday, Monday, January 5th, 2009 and compared them to the posts of Monday, January 7th, 2008.

Here are the criteria I looked at:

1. Category/subject- ie, fashion, news, celebrity, etc.

2. Whether the post required an author or a journalist as opposed to an intern with an RSS feed. Is it just an image? Just a link to a real article? I did not count short summaries of articles, but I did decide to count any longer summaries, particularly if they were summarized through a lens of opinion or position.

3. Whether there was any sign of analysis, opinion or thought. I also credited the sharing of personal info or anecdotes. This is another of the things that made OldJezebel so fun- you got to know the editors and contributors through their posts.

4. Whether or not I personally was interested in or amused by the post. Obviously this one is completely subjective, but I like to think that I am fairly representative of the average Jezebel reader.

Here are the spreadsheets:

Monday, January 7th, 2008

Monday, January 5th 2009

Bottom line, the data supports exactly what I felt in my gut and in my increasing boredom with the posts on Jez. More celebrity crap, less news or feminist issues. More quick links and short posts, less actual writing. More of the hated TMZ-like paparazzied snap judgments. Less personality in the writing.

Here's how it broke down:

Jezebel Comparison

Kinda sad, no? That's a pretty conclusive ~10% fall-off in all criteria. The one thing I was suprised about was that there wasn't appreciably more Snap Judgments, cause lord, it feels like there's a new one every time i refresh nowadays. I guess cause there's less worthwile content posted between them...

And qualitatively, there was one post yesterday that particularly struck me as emblematic of the change. This item, "Couple Splits over Extreme PMS," is definitely something that would have elicited something more than a link and a pull quote in the days of OldJezebel. Comments on the way PMS, something inherent to female physiology and connected to propogation of the freakin species, is still so taboo and stigmatized that this woman was not only nearly divorced over it but didn't even realize that her symptoms were extreme? Maybe about why medication is always the instant answer to "female trouble"? Certainly at least an anecdote about the Jez editor's personal experiences with boyfriends and PMS. But no. Just a link, a pic and a pull quote. I'm all for commenter participation, but allowing them to generate ALL your content is just lazy.

I know Nick Denton and the most of the Jez editors would argue that this is temporary and due to the recession. Well, its a slippery slope guys, and I don't see you climbing back up.

Pour one out for OldJezebel. RIP.


  1. I have noticed a drop-off in the quality of posts at Jezebel. I hit Google to see if anyone else has felt the same way, and I'm glad to see your blog. I find myself refreshing the page over and over, hoping for better content, but to no avail. Luckily, the comments are still fun to read, but it's only a matter of time before people catch on and stop reading the site regularly.

  2. I know, its so sad! I sent the spreadsheet to the editors, but they never responded. Didn't really expect them to though. I wonder how much control they really have over what they write?