Elizabeth Spiers, having co-founded Gawker and launched blog network Dead Horse Media (now Breaking Media) is now moving on to self-help. She’s launching Flavorpill Media’s third vertical after Flavorpill and Flavorwire, called Everup, a productivity and personal development site. Here’s her (lightly edited) conversation with Digiday about her self-help obsession, her Gawker legacy and how millennials define wellness.
What’s the thinking behind the new site?
Everup is a site about personal development, or lifestyle design. It’s basically creativity, productivity, wellness — anything that might be ancillary to that. So there would be pop psychology, leadership and management that we’re putting under the productivity banner. There are going to be long-form journalistic features, personal essays and opinion columns and then the service-y, how-to pieces.
How will it be different from personal development and service information that’s already out there?
The site is aimed primarily at millennials, and there are differences in how they view wellness. It’s more as a piece of the fabric of their lives, and not something you do just because it’s good for you. We see a lot of trends now of people incorporating sports into fitness and making things a social experience.
How else will the site speak to millennials?
There’s a personal essay component to it. Having voices talking about how everyone struggles make you think about why you’re doing things in the first place. I’m writing a piece about how after I had my son, I was misdiagnosed with a brain aneurism for six weeks. It made me rethink decisions about how I spend my time, what’s important to me. So I hope the personal essay component will help the reader ask those questions and not just think about the topics we cover from an achievement orientation. Millennials value unique experiences a lot more; brands aren’t as important to them. I find all that refreshing.
When you’re covering such a wide range of things, how do you sell that to advertisers?
The obvious ones are fitness, nutrition companies, consumer packaged goods companies that are in the nutrition space. But we already understand the demographic. It’s going to be similar to Flavorwire. The mean age is 28, they tend to be overeducated people who work in creative industries. And there are advertisers that are going to be naturally around the topics we cover.
Most of your career has been in news-driven media. Are you tired of chasing news?
I’m actually very interested in the topic area. I’m a voracious consumer of all kinds of self-help, cheesy and non. So some of it scratches a personal itch. I’m also interested in science and wellness stuff — microbiome packing, robotic augmentation. It was a way to explore things that are interesting for me.
As a co-founder of Gawker, you helped establish the blog as a storytelling form. How has that form held up?
When we were doing Gawker, we had no idea it was going to be a real business. I do think when people looked at it as a model for things, they were mostly looking at it as the voice and orientation of it. There was some stuff out there that was similar: Suck.com. I was trying to channel Spy magazine; the New York Observer was tonally similar. They also weren’t online at the time.
What would be different if you started Gawker today?
It wouldn’t get any traction because there are a million sites like that now. So I’m kind of proud whenever I see some creative influence on other sites but I also think it was of its time and place. And we were lucky. Nick’s done an amazing job of building it out. There are a lot of different properties; they don’t necessarily need to integrate with each other. One of the things I’m looking at with Everup is Lifehacker. It’s one of Gawker’s less sexy properties but one of its more heavily trafficked. Lifehacker is a little more homogenous; it’s all service oriented. But we’ll be doing a piece of that.
Will people recognize any of Gawker in the new site?
I want Everup to have a lot of voice. I think it’s important that it has skepticism where appropriate. When I write, my voice is a lot more aggressive than my voice in real life. So I imagine it’ll bleed in. But I want to see what the audience responds to. This is new territory for me.
Image courtesy of Everup.
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