August 30, 2010

“At the Huffington Post, Sexism Sells.”

“Mad Men: For Those Who Think Young (#2.1):

Peggy Olson: “Sex sells.”

Don Draper: Says who? Just so you know, the people who talk that way think that monkeys can do this. They take all this monkey crap and stick it in a briefcase, completely unaware that their success depends on something more than shoeshine.


Be warned: most of the links in this blog are NSFW.

With thanks to Feministing for the heads up on the below video.

We’ve all noticed it, but over the past couple years The Huffington Post—perhaps due to taking investment, and therefore being more bottomline driven, and therefore more traffic and advertising driven—has featured more and more sexy, NSFW, naked, see-through, “nip slip” type images.

I’ve long argued that it’s bad for their bottomline, ultimately—they do get tons more traffic in the short-run, as does any blog (including, of course, this one) posting sexy images—but, longterm, it kills the love and loyalty that readers feel for the site.

Here on #elej, we try and only post sexy images when it has something to do with the post itself, and our mission.

Therefore we go nuts on American Apparel images—we love all things hipster, including denying hipsterism. We love Made in the USA, and fair labor. And we love controversy, too.

Therefore we go nuts on blogs about PETA—we’re passionate about animal rights, and vegetarian and vegan diets. So if we post a sexy image via AA or PETA, at least there’s some connection with our mission in the post itself, once readers click through said titillating image.

We (and most of our readers, 73% of whom are female) don’t have a problem with sex. On the rare occasion when we use a sexy image that does in fact have little connection with the post it highlights, that juxtaposition is intentional—it’s funny, and effective, to post “Richard Branson Naked” and then feature 10 videos about his “meaningful, remarkable, click-worthy” yet “boring, unsexy, unclickable” work with The Elders. Seduce ’em in with “sex,” controversy, drama or humor, all of which do indeed “sell,” then hit ’em over the head with meaningful content. That’s a tried and true format.

That said, we will never post something about a “nip slip” and have the content be about a “nip slip.” Who cares? What’s the point? And if there is no point, a post like that hurts our business—it undermines any hard-won reader love and loyalty.

To return to Huff Post’s situation, I feel sympathetic, personally. Why? Because blogs with investors are driven by traffic, solely.

elephant is independent media, and that allows us to waste some resources and time on meaningful content. Yesterday Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin stood beneath the Lincoln Memorial on the anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s I Have a Dream speech, and “restored honor” to America. I put a great deal of love into promoting several posts that featured King’s original speech, with links to some remarkable commentary on Beck and Civil Rights…all the while knowing that no one would click it up. We readers too busy—or we think we are—to slow down and watch a 17 minute video, or a half hour documentary about The Speech—even if it’s free to watch. Even if it was one of the greatest speeches in history. Even if we may not have watched it in years.

I promoted the hell out of that blog on twitter and facebook…even posted something nearly confrontational to you, our readers, about how no one was clicking it, but everyone was clicking a simultaneous, silly, nearly worthless post about Calvin Klein’s new yoga ads—which just so happened to feature, if artfully, one of those six-foot-tall female models that we’re all taught is ideal.

So it’s funny. Or, rather, sad: if 73% of our readers are women, and “sexy” posts get kajillions of clicks, are women clicking those posts? Who’s responsible for “sex sells”—the blog or the click-er? How can we include sexiness, without being sexist? We all (nearly) love sex, love and attraction. We all (hopefully), dislike anything that uses women (or men) in an impersonal, too-thin, carnivorous manner.

As for Huff Post, if they back up their many sexy photos with quality content (which they do have in spades, elsewhere, though much of it doesn’t get the attention, ironically, of critics such as the below), to my mind there’s little problem.

So if we want to see mindful media grow to a first tier size and begin to balance the fair and balanced mainstream news sources that currently dominate American culture, we need to each and every one of us avoid clicking “sexy,” and slow down just a bit, and click “quality” posts.

Good luck.

PS: any readers of this post who would like to see more feminist content on ele, just email us. We only have one contributor who focuses on such right now, though many of our writers touch on such from time to time. ~ ed.


Huffington Post is #34th most viewed site in the US for a reason—they know what works. They’re a top 10 news site, and have around 40,000,000 views a month.

And this video, with worthwhile content worth contemplating, and mulling over? 3,000 views (not uniques).

Created for Bitch Magazine http://bitchmagazine.org/blogs/mad-world

Huffington Post regularly uses women’s bodies as an internet marketing strategy to entice viewers and generate ad revenue.

Visit www.feministfrequency for more information, links, and transcripts

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