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Bryan Goldberg Knows What Ladies Want (She Said, Sarcastically)

Bustle.com founder Bryan Goldberg is the subject of a New Yorker profile by Lizzie Widdicombe that Gawker rightfully -- and admiringly -- called "downright mean." Which is not, alas, to say that it's undeserved.

bustle 

(Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

First a little background on Goldberg. The 30-year-old entrepreneur is not new to the web game. Last year, his sports website The Bleacher Report and its supporting company sold to Turner Broadcasting System for somewhere in the neighborhood of $200 million. Now he's started a woman's interest site called Bustle, using $6.5 million worth of venture capital. So what's the problem?

1. He has a legacy of not-awesome content.

Jeff Bercovici of Forbes isolated a key issue with Goldberg's first venture, namely that it had a reputation for being, well, kinda crappy:

"While it published some perfectly good sports journalism, it was better known for spammy headline come-ons and crummy slideshows that felt like they were produced by amateurs because they were," Bercovici writes.

2. He doesn't seem to understand that women are people, and that there are already sites that serve them.

Look at this quote from the man himself, mansplaining the concept of his site:

"I'm starting this new company because I think there's a huge market opportunity. I think that women, especially when they're in their 20s, there's not a lot of stuff out there to read, not a lot of websites they love reading. …I think that some of the great magazines we think of when we think of the classic women's magazines -- your Cosmos, your Vogues, your In Styles, your Elles -- they did a great job in the publication world, but I don't think any of them have made a great jump into digital."

Everyone at Jezebel, XOJane, The Gloss, Daily Muse, The Hairpin, Hello Giggles -- etc. and so on, and on, and on -- must have fallen down laughing when they read that. Not to mention the editorial staffs at general interest pubs like The Atlantic, Slate, and The Huffington Post, which offer plenty of articles focusing on issues that many women find important.

Then there's the fact that he proudly asserts that his site is a feminist publication, and that "a partner-track attorney can be passionate about world affairs and celebrity gossip," but he doesn't seem to know that he's not the first person to figure that out. (Widdicombe quotes journalist Rachel Sklar as saying, "Congratulations for being the first person to realize that women are interested in foreign news AND makeup tips!")

3. His staff is paid peanuts.

Remember that $6.5 million in venture capital funding? Well, very little of that is going to pay writers, who are exclusively women, and who earn $100 a day for producing four to six posts.

"There's nothing feminist about not paying women a living wage," one editor (who declined a position at Bustle) told Bercovici.

4. He proudly doesn't read.

In fact, he thinks that no men read, unless it's a market report or a sports blog.

"Men, to the best of my knowledge, don't even read," Goldberg said, in a meeting with XOJane founder Jane Pratt. "When's the last time you heard a man say, 'I've been reading this great book, you’d really like it'? My girlfriend always tells me about these books she's reading, and I don't even see her reading the book! Where does this book live?"

5. And, finally, there's the whole "man saving ladies from a lady-free internet" issue.

Goldberg decided not to hire an editor-in-chief. (One assumes she might have asked for more than $100 a day.) In the New Yorker article, Widdicombe shares that Hearst Media's Troy Young asked Goldberg if he thought he was essentially standing in for a full-time EIC.

"Is it you?" he asked. "Are you the editor of a woman's magazine?"

Given his assertions that women's interests don't overlap with his own -- which he helpfully explained to the New Yorker include such non-female-friendly topics as history and markets and finance -- maybe he should reconsider.

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