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pherank

Online publication, the Media, and the demise of Rookie Mag

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This "goodbye" editorial by Tavi Gevinson of Rookie makes for fascinating reading. And if you've managed to not hear of Ms. Gevinson yet, here's the quick Wikipedia blurb:

"Tavi Gevinson is an American writer, magazine editor, and actress. She came to public attention at the age of 12 due to her fashion blog Style Rookie. By the age of 15, she had shifted her focus to pop culture and feminist discussion.
Gevinson was the founder and editor-in-chief of the online magazine Rookie, aimed primarily at teenage girls. In both 2011 and 2012, she appeared on the Forbes 30 Under 30 in Media list. In 2014, she was named one of "The 25 Most Influential Teens of 2014" by Time magazine."

And here are a few quotes from the editorial about her trials and tribulations as writer/editor at Rookie Mag:

"It has sometimes felt like there are two Rookies: There’s the publication that you read, that I also love reading, writing for, and editing; and then there is the company that I own and am responsible for. The former is an art project; the latter is a business. Each one needs and feeds the other, but when I started Rookie at age 15, I saw the two as mutually exclusive. Rookie had been founded, in part, as a response to feeling constantly marketed to in almost all forms of media; to being seen as a consumer rather than a reader or person. In my black-and-white view of the world, the idea of capitalizing on an audience seemed cynical, selfish, and something only evil adults do…"

'One woman venture capitalist told us, after hearing my very nervous pitch, “I hate to say this because I hate that it’s true, but men who come in here pitch the company they’re going to build, while women pitch the company they’ve already built.” The men could sound delusional, but they could also sound visionary; women felt the need to show their work, to prove themselves. This wasn’t a note just for my style of pitching (flat, part-Troll doll); she was encouraging us to dream bigger and start anew. What would Rookie look like if we saw everything up until that point as just research?'

"But one problem with thinking you know what you want, with being good at locating words, and with being praised a lot for both of these things, is that it is hard to notice when you are evading the truth. It is hard for the people around you to notice, too, because it seems you have never been wrong before. Even if I knew that I would eventually need to not be as responsible for Rookie-the-business, I was still the person who’d started Rookie-the-art-project, and I was ready to compartmentalize my anxiety/stress until the art project and business were both where I wanted them…"

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Thanks for posting this, pherank. I had heard the name but not much else. It sounds to me as if the whole project became a bit too much for her and she probably made the best decision for herself. She sounds exceptionally bright and capable and I'm sure she'll do well in future.

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3 hours ago, dirac said:

Thanks for posting this, pherank. I had heard the name but not much else. It sounds to me as if the whole project became a bit too much for her and she probably made the best decision for herself. She sounds exceptionally bright and capable and I'm sure she'll do well in future.

Hi Dirac - Gevinson could be described as a prodigy of sorts. Her TED talk (recorded when she was 15 years old) gives that impression:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6osiBvQ-RRg

There are various interviews/discussions with her about art, fashion, feminism, teenagers, etc. on YouTube. This one is more recent (she's about 22 years old now):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C31yO1QYlAs

These days, most of her time is spent on her stage/film acting career, and though she doesn't really go into that in the above editorial, I think that second career has an awful lot to do with her not being able to control the Rookie project.

I'm not sure if it's an important question, but is it healthy for a teenager to be running a sprawling business concern?  😉

Edited by pherank

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I've seen her a couple of times at the Williamstown Theatre Festival, most recently as Frankie in Member of the Wedding this past summer.  She's a pretty good actress, but the show was definitely stolen by Roslyn Ruff as the housekeeper, Berenice. 

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I listened to a taped presentation about one aspect of scaled Agile software development by a man who had 40 years experience in the software industry, including as a developer, plus decades of experience with Agile and a master's degree in Mathematics.  Towards the end he described what it meant to create a business: when he was the one doing everything, mostly everything worked.   The issues start piling up when it was time to actually have a business, not simply a sole proprietorship: ie, to operationalize the vision and to expand and transition a lot of what he was doing to someone else.  She learned it earlier than many entrepreneurs do.

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Young electronics engineer Steve Wozniak was fortunate enough to know another young guy name Steve Jobs who was really interested in developing a business about computers (and an entire approach to the development of electronics and an electronics 'lifestyle'). That kind of partnership just doesn't come along too often. The questions and ideas Gevinson quotes from the "woman venture capitalist" are all salient and to the point, but precisely the thing a venture capitalist is interested in, and not someone producing the art "product", so that's where things get tricky, really fast. Anyone trying to start an online business, reading Gevinson's editorial, might feel the task is too daunting - why begin if it's all going to collapse in a year, or five? But I'm sure Gevinson would say that the experience is too rich and rewarding not to at least try. And one experience leads to another soon enough. In our society there's far more emphasis on goals and endpoints ("Make your first million! Then your first billion!"), than on the process of a life's work.

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