In a midtown office bathed in light that is as fluorescent as her site, HollywoodLife.com, is pink, Bonnie Fuller and a staffer debate the merits of the relationship between Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez.
Entertainment reporter Chloe Melas thinks the butt grabbing is a little much, while Fuller — who previously edited Marie Claire, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, and US Weekly — believes they are just teenagers in the throes of their first love. The PDA stuff is natural.
The duo, seated in (what else?) pink director’s chair, bicker — chat? argue? It’s hard to categorize the enthusiastic, but vaguely argumentative tone — back and forth, never really coming to a conclusion.
Then, the kicker.
“Tell us how you feel,” the once and future tabloid queen asks the camera, encouraging the site’s millions of readers to chime in with their thoughts.
Welcome to the new life of Bonnie Fuller.
HollywoodLife.com is not one of the cushy gigs the editrix previously held. Her paycheck isn’t as large. Neither is her crew. There’s a small staff of 16 producing lots of content.
It still is, however, life viewed through the lens of celebrity.
“Our aim is to talk to women 18-35 years old and to be there for her and talk to her about all the aspects of her life,” Fuller told The Wire on Thursday afternoon. “We use celebrities to really reach into all those areas of her life.”
The plan seems to be working. The site had its biggest month ever in May with 4.1 million unique visitors and over 26 million page views. Hollybaby.com, the spinoff site, is growing rapidly. The venture is not yet profitable, although general manager Will Lee says it will be later this year, but they need a new office to house the increasing number of staffers. (HollywoodLife is part of Jay Penske‘s PMC consortium that also includes Nikki Finke‘s Deadline, Boy Genius Report, Oncars, and Movieline.)
Fuller is the type of editor who talks about celebrities using only their first names, partially because she’s been in this game for so long and partially because she is one herself. Her resume is long and varied, full of successes. Fuller has her share of detractors — click the links in this post if you want more — but she’s taken to her new role in the internet world. The abbreviated shorthand with which she so naturally discusses the young, beautiful, and famous works better online. (One of the tabs on the homepage nav bar is “RPTAZ&KSTEW, short for Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart of Twilight fame. Once you recover from the astonishing awkwardness of the moniker, you realise it’s kind of wonderful.)
Events, such as the Royal Wedding, are huge hits for the site. Fuller proudly talks about having a screenshot of Kate Middleton arriving in her car up “seven minutes” after it appeared on television, and the audience continued to grow from that moment.
“We do it live so what we can create is a real shared experience of the audience. It’s like our audience is watching it and following it,” Fuller said. “I bet they were watching on the TV with their laptops on their laps. We were like a commentator for them.”
She’s right, of course, but recently that role of commentator has come under fire. There is a growing concern, or at least an increasing number of essays and articles arguing that publications for women are too simple, that “girls just wanna have fun,” as a recent Daily Beast column wrote. In the article, Jezebel editor Anna Holmes said, “I actually blame Bonnie Fuller.“
The HollywoodLife head doesn’t think that perception is true. And even if she did, she wouldn’t care. Women deserve a place to just enjoy.
“I don’t believe that there is any dumbing down of anything for women,” she said. “They are entailed to have something fun and entertaining.”
As for the pink that explodes off the screen when you click through to HollywoodLife? She’s unapologetic about that as well: “I’m responsible for the pink invasion in the entire field. I started it. And I believe in it. It’s a girly site. There are no bones about it. “
In Fuller’s world, HollywoodLife isn’t just simple fun; it serves an important purpose.
“I’m not kidding when I say that a celebrity couple can be a role model. How many women do you meet in New York City that tell you they can’t meet a guy?” she asks. “Women want to have some hope, to think ‘maybe I’ll meet a guy like Rob [Pattinson].”
Until a woman meets that guy, there will be Fuller and HollywoodLife.com.
And afterward as well.
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