Shondaland.com Chief Content Officer Talks About Avoiding Clickbait, Harnessing The Power Of Rhimes' Works For New Site
On Monday, Shondaland.com revealed itself to the public. The website was first announced back in April, and after offering a soft-launch newsletter for a few months, the full website finally went live.
With the arrival of the website on the scene, it's clear a new avenue has emerged for how brands operate in contemporary media. The name Shondaland was previously only associated with Shonda Rhimes' television shows and production company (Rhimes has produced hits like Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder). How was a website to fit into this equation? Would it funnel back into the shows themselves, creating a feedback loop of All Shonda, All The Time?
With the website only a few days in, an answer has already started to emerge. The site has feature articles like one in which CNN-commentator Sally Kohn discusses her part in the aftermath of the Trump presidency, as well as an excerpt from Ellen Pao's new book on battling sexism in Silicon Valley, plus interviews between Rhimes and legends like Billie Jean King and Maxine Waters.
The website definitely isn't Grey's Anatomy in listicle form. It's also "not a lifestyle site," as Rhimes has stated. While we're getting a clearer picture of what the site is, we're still curious about its vision and mission statement. LAist spoke with Chief Content Officer Jennifer Romolini over the phone to discuss Shondaland's identity, its role online, and how the site came to be.
How does Shondaland compare to other sites?
Romolini: It's definitely not a comparison game. Shondaland will operate very specifically to our mission. Personally, in my years working on the internet, I'd grown fatigued of the dirty games and tricks of clickbait and chasing trending news. It made it so brands didn't seem distinct. I wanted to bring a distinct voice and mission with Shondaland and stick close to that. This ends up meaning quality over quantity, rather than slapping everything up all day to see what sticks.
Does Shondaland intend to bring the tone of the TV shows to the site?
Initially, when we thought about the site, we wondered whether it would be about the shows specifically, but it seemed very navel-gazing. So when we were thinking about what our content strategy would be, we thought it would be best to pull the themes out of these shows. The purpose of the Shondaland shows and what they stand for are friendship, love, empowerment, owning your shit, and being a woman of power who is also fallible in a lot of ways. For the site, we looked at all of the shows and thought about what can we pull out and turn into important material.
What's been the process of attracting writers who fit that mission and making sure the quality stays strong on Shondaland.com?
Most specifically, this means fewer posts a day. There are places where management says "80 posts a day," and we just don't think that's possible. Our site is carefully curated. Story is king here, as it is in the shows, so anyone can pitch to us as long as the story is strong. Of course, when we started, no one knew about us, so I reached out to writers I respected who are forces of good in the world and who are aligned with this mission and had unique and beautiful voices.
How do you anticipate the site will change over time?
I don't know the answer to how the site will change yet, and I think it would be foolish to answer that. Online media is a strange and volatile landscape, and so we're just looking at what our plan is for today.
Have you noticed anything in particular about what has been resonating?
Generally people have been really resonating with the content specifically. We've been getting feedback like "this is necessary," or "this means something to me." It's exactly the type of feedback we hoped for.
Not only is Shondaland the first editorial-producing arm of a television production company, it also features videos from Shonda Rhimes' collaboration with the Dove Real Beauty campaign. Throughout all the videos, articles, and personal letters from Shonda herself, the Shondaland ethos of feminine power holds primacy.