Online or on page? It's a war of words for women's magazines

The death knell for the glossies has been sounded before, and The Lipster is the latest online venture to proclaim that young women deserve more than diets and celeb gossip. But has this so-called antidote to 'belittling dross about boob jobs' got it right? Lipster co-editor Rebecca Nicholson says her daily pop-culture fix is just what 20-somethings want, but Jo Elvin, editor of 'Glamour', counters that 550,000 readers a month can't be wrong...
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The Independent Online

IN PRINT Jo Elvin - editor of 'Glamour'

I really want to like thelipster.com. As a fan of US sites such as jezebel.com, I think there is a gaping hole for women-focused pop culture content online. But perhaps a self-styled "retort" to glossy magazines shouldn't find so many of its news stories from the very medium it says it's outgunning. A quick scan through The Lipster, whose founders have criticised women's magazines for being too celeb-focused, seems pretty heavy on the Girls Alouds of this world to me. There's a fair amount of second-hand reporting from magazines like Grazia. And, I'm sorry, but it's a real own goal for a website to start a story with the line, "OK, we're a few days late with this..." Isn't the web supposedly killing print with its immediacy?

But, as I said, I want to like it. I do think it's commendable to offer the sort of fare that you wouldn't find in a magazine. The tone is a refreshing respite from sites (and magazines) telling you why a pregnant celebrity deserves a Mum of the Year award, or pointing and laughing at Britney's breakdown. And with Glamour's own Sylvia Patterson on board, they've got great taste in writers! But there's a reason you won't find The Lipster's content in Glamour – because magazines and the web should be different.

So our "in depth" take on pop culture won't be a lengthy film review, as it could be on thelipster.com. Instead, it might be the sort of thing that only a magazine like Glamour would get, because celebrities trust us to treat such material with respect, and, here's the key contrast with the web, they know they're going to look pretty, in a gorgeous photo shoot. It's this kind of access that gives a glossy its gloss. Readers love it.

I've always been amazed at any idea that women's magazines don't offer variety and substance. Our new issue features a round-table discussion on career success with some of the country's most high-powered women, as well as a news story on the rise in "express kidnappings" abroad. We've been to Iraq and Afghanistan, and we've investigated under-age Cuban prostitutes. And, OK, there's some seriously nice shoes in there and hilarious interviews with people like Justin Lee Collins and Alan Carr. Sometimes I think we get labelled as flippant simply because we work our little behinds off to entertain.

Of course, this is all without mentioning our biggest advantage: our readers do like a glossy printed magazine they can hold in their hands. Glamour has been the UK's biggest-selling women's magazine virtually since its launch, so I like to think we're doing something right. My readers will just have to do without a history lesson on Amelia Earhart.

Or they can log on and read it on thelipster – because the fact is, there's room for us both.

ON SCREEN Rebecca Nicholson - Lipster co-editor

The Lipster is the result of a frustrated love affair with women's magazines. There is so much to fall for: Heat's wit and irreverence, Grazia's uncanny ability to balance a harrowing story about illegal immigrants with a piece about Victoria Beckham's jeans, More's girl-gang sass and Look's catalogue-like devotion to the high street. But it all seems to come at a price – you can have the elements that make you feel liked and respected and included, if you take the viciousness and the cruelty too.

And if the snide negativity fails to make you feel terrible about yourself, there's another problem: a serious dearth of quality entertainment coverage aimed at women. You can read about Daniel Craig's Speedo bulge but you can't top that up with a discussion of the movie. It's all relegated to a few pages at the back – if you're lucky, because there's an assumption that this stuff is disposable. It's an enormous disservice.

Women are used to being compartmentalised, particularly by the internet. If you want to know what Chloë Sevigny's new fashion line looks like, you head off to a snooty, exclusive fashion site. If you're interested in "women's issues" you can find reams of dry academia that will never travel beyond its niche audience. If you want to know what Girls Aloud are up to, you wade through a celebrity blog's remarks about their looks, weight, class and sexual history to get to the point.

Jude Rogers and I were brought together to start The Lipster because we wanted the same thing. We wanted to draw attention to strong female writers. We wanted to cover celebrity news with a modicum of decency, which meant that instead of ambulance-chasing a stricken Britney Spears, we were asking why we had got to a stage where people thought it was OK to do so. And we wanted to provide a forum where our readers didn't fear being called a whore or a bitch for expressing their opinions. Frustratingly, that's still the norm in online communities.

So far, it's working. We've had countless emails from young women saying that they wanted to start a site or a magazine like this, too. We've picked up some top-notch writers and we're discovering talented new ones. It's strange that we are the aberration, when all we're doing is crediting women with the intelligence to handle that little bit of everything. Hopefully it won't stay this way for long.

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