Elizabeth Spiers Launches New Women's Site, The Gloss

by PETER FELD · March 8, 2010

    The Gloss, the latest in a string of sites that Gawker's original editor Elizabeth Spiers has been developing for b5media, launches today. The site is intended to attract a broad audience (i.e., not strictly urban professionals) of women 25 to 40, with features, posts and columns about style and beauty, culture, and (of course) sex.

    Last fall, b5media, a Canada-based blog network, hired Elaine Kunda (former managing director of Toronto.com and CEO of ZipLocal) as CEO with a mandate to overhaul their content properties. Kunda soon turned to Spiers, who went on from Gawker to create over a dozen successful sites, including Dealbreaker, Above The Law, Fashionista and FishbowlNY. Along the way, she launched or boosted the early careers of now-prominent writers like Business Insider's John Carney, Brian Stelter of the NY Times, Rachel Sklar, Flavorwire's Caroline Stanley, Garrett Graff, and Faran Krentcil.

    For The Gloss, Spiers hired ex-Jewcy editor Lilit Marcus (also co-founder of Save The Assistants) as lead, and Jennifer Wright (who dissected last year's epic "farewell to Dodgeball" party for GofG) as deputy editor. (Spiers recruited ex-Business Insider writer Erin Carlson and Amanda Ernst for the February launch of Crushable, and brought in IAC's Michael Orell as b5's account manager.)

    The Gloss's launch content includes a review of last night's Oscars fashion by a panel of drag queens and one straight dude, and a doctor interview about how to get Botox without ending up looking like Nicole Kidman. There's a column on books (this week's covers author Carolyn Jessop's escape from a Utah polygamist cult), and one that recommends essential tabloid articles for grocery-line skimming. Spiers tells GofG:

    It's nice to be working on a women's site with an actual sense of humor. As someone in the target demographic, I find that a lot of women's publications and sites talk down to their audiences. The Gloss does the opposite. Lilit and Jennifer are making something that's smart and funny.

    Marcus noted that while many major women's magazines and websites are run by men, theirs is published and edited by an all-woman team that includes CEO Kunda, Spiers, and Wright. "We're not just giving lip service to the idea of a women's site run by women." But the site will feature some male contributors, including the New York Observer's Spencer Morgan, humorist Marty Beckerman and author Kevin Roose, along with ex-Idolator Maura Johnston and beauty blogger Nadine Jolie.

    When Spiers described her earlier idea for an online "Maxim for women,” Women's Wear Daily noted comparisons to Gawker Media women's site Jezebel (where that story's writer, Irin Carmon, now works). However, The Gloss feels quite different from Jezebel. It's female-positive, for sure, but without the overtly feminist voice often found in Jezebel. (Spiers' "Maxim" concept was intended to “cater to the female id and the female ego.") Jezebel is itself likely to develop in some fresh directions, having recently lured back ex-Gawker editor Jessica Coen from NYmag.com, where she was online managing editor as it developed into what many consider the print magazine industry's best website. It will be interesting to see if The Gloss can match the high level of engagement found in Jezebel's comments, boosted by Gawker Media's proprietary comments management system.

    The Gloss and Jezebel share one contributor: Megan Carpentier, whose "Bitch, Please" column for The Gloss dispenses straightforward, if aggressive, common sense advice on friendships, family and coworkers -- but not relationships. The submissions info line warns: "If you have a problem with your boyfriend, you should probably just try talking to him."