OPEN THREAD: The Syndicated Elephant in the Room

It's my promise to you that syndicated content will never replace, change, or reduce the xoVain content you love.
Publish date:
January 29, 2016
open thread

You guys know I often participate in the comments here on xoVain (and xoJane), and I always want to read your answers to the Open Thread questions. This week, however, I'm paying especially close attention.

That's because I've noticed a lot of pooh-poohing in the comments on the posts we've been syndicating from other Time Inc websites lately, and I want your honest, constructive (read: not snarky for the sake of snark, pretty please) feedback about the whole thing — feedback I can share with the powers that be at Time Inc.

First, let me try to give you a better understanding of what this whole syndication thing is about.

Time Inc has lots of different digital properties; some are more focused on producing original content, like us, and others allow for a greater volume of content aggregation, like MIMI. But either way, pretty much every single Time Inc website syndicates content from other Time Inc websites on a daily basis. It's just company policy here at our new home.

Now, obviously, xoVain isn't going to syndicate a Super Bowl story from Sports Illustrated or equestrian news from Horse & Hound (which, yes, is an actual magazine and not just where Hugh Grant pretends to work in Notting Hill). We're a beauty site, so we're going to pull from publications like MIMI, InStyle, Essence, Real Simple, Health, and People StyleWatch's TheOutfit.

The thing is, we're a beauty site with a very distinct voice and editorial style, so when we syndicate beauty content from another publication, it can stick out like a sore, impersonal thumb.

We know that, for many of you, the reason you love xoVain is because we don't talk to you like so many other publications do. We write for our readers like we would talk to our friends, whereas many mainstream magazines have a reputation for patronizing their readers with oversimplified tips and a sophomoric tone. Those are the very same feelings that made me more of a Jane reader than a Mademoiselle reader, and I understand that's how many of you feel about much of the syndicated content you've seen so far; some of you have been very vocal about it, and even seem to take the mere presence of these posts as a personal affront.

But I'm also not interested in insulting my colleagues' work. The other publications here are staffed with amazing talent, most of whom, like me, are carrying on the editorial style of their respective publications' visionaries while adhering to company policies. It's a balancing act, but I think the balance here on xoVain still leans very, very heavily in the direction of how Jane envisioned it.

Right now, xoVain is carrying most of the syndication weight for both XO sites, mostly because there's a lot of Time Inc beauty content; that said, xoVain currently publishes only four times a day, so even if there's only one syndicated story a day, it can seem like a big change, even though you aren't getting fewer original xoVain stories.

In fact, over the next few weeks, you'll be seeing more original xoVain stories each day as we build up our publishing schedule with new columns and new contributors. And it's my promise to you, as xoVain's executive editor, that syndicated content will never replace, change, or reduce the xoVain content you love.

But, as a Time Inc employee, it's also my duty to participate in the syndication policies. And honestly? I think that's OK. Will the syndicated posts always be what you want to read? Probably not. (Hell, is every original xoVain article always what you want to read?) But even though comments have been largely unwelcoming toward outside content, I'm hoping at least a few of you end up reading some posts you like, maybe notice a writer you'd like to see more from, etc.

Hey, it could happen.

We're really happy to be at Time Inc, and they're really happy to have us — and that "us" includes you, the reader. The fact that they don't want to do some giant makeover on us that renders xoVain unrecognizable and vapid is a huge relief. But we're a member of a really big, really diverse team, and that means a little cooperation and reasonable compromise.

I try to think of syndication as a way to thank Time Inc for helping to keep xoVain and xoJane going. And if you're glad we're still around, I hope you're open to seeing it that way, too.

That said, I want to hear what you have to say:

  • What would improve the whole syndicated-content experience for you?
  • Do you have any questions about syndication? I'll do my best to answer.
  • As we increase original xoVain content, what would you like to see more of from our own writers?
  • And of course, as usual, feel free to talk about anything else that's on your mind right now.