- Where did the idea for The Lily come from?
The goal of my team, Emerging News Products, is to reach new audiences. The Washington Post reaches a lot of millennials, but I thought we could offer something even more engaging for female readers and further deepen their engagement with Post content. The Lily also allows us to experiment with how Post journalism is distributed. The Lily’s Instagram is a great example of how a publication can adapt stories specifically for a platform. The treatment we give stories there differs from how it might appear on our site or on another social channel like Facebook.
- How has the first year been, what worked, what didn’t?
We’ve been live for about 10 months, and so far, it’s been a series of wonderful moments. As far as growth, every month has been better than the last. We reach 10 times the number of people now than we did the month we launched.
What’s worked very well for us is creating a consistent visual brand. A reader can identify a Lily story at a glance. We stick to a strict style guide with a distinct color palette. We design an original image for every story, across platforms. With this approach, our stories always stand out, regardless of how many people are writing about the same subject.
Our newsletter, Lily Lines, has the highest average open rate of any newsletter at The Washington Post. It’s another visually-driven experience. We work with several illustrators and photographers to create something original for each edition.
We’re learning and changing every day. Our first travel series, “The Lily in _____” didn’t take off after we tried it six times, so we have a completely new travel series concept coming next month. Our Instagram strategy is always evolving, and we analyze the analytics every week. We started out heavy on illustration but quickly learned that timely photos and quotes resonate with our audience. So now we have a mix of both. We noticed that comics, which we publish to Instagram on Sundays, were doing really well for us. Now we are working with five comic artists.
- What are the misconceptions about writing for a millennial female audience? How do you address those?
We are elevating stories critical to the lives of women. Though we write for women, we hope to inform a wide audience about the issues affecting women.
What stuck out to us as we were considering our editorial voice was the way other publications talk to or about young women. You see a lot of words like “lady boss” and “girl crush.” We deliberately chose to stay away from the slang and cliché terms used to address women. We foster intelligent conversations using normal language. We don’t speak in emoji and memes.
Another misconception is that millennial women don’t care about politics and international news as much as they care about food, celebrity gossip and beauty trends. No topic is off limits at The Lily, and while we still cover the latter, we don’t do straightforward tutorials or trend pieces. Instead, we offer pieces on women who find empowerment through cooking or the far-reaching implications of the latest Vanity Fair cover. Surprise, women are still engaged.
Our audience responds positively to this approach. A lot of people thank us for how we communicate, the topics we cover and the overall lack of pink.
- What are your goals for year two?
We are focused on growth across all our platforms. This includes having more original stories. Monica Castillo just joined our team as our first dedicated contract writer. We also want to continue to find interesting ways to connect with our community, whether online or in person. We recently unveiled in Washington, D.C., that invites our local followers and visitors to photograph themselves and tell us what they’re “getting loud” about on social media.
- By writing for socially-aware millennials, do you ever worry that The Lily is preaching to the choir instead of informing those who need the information?
I’m encouraged by the fact that our stories reach people of various ages and genders. As many have noted lately, the conversation around issues affecting women cannot be discussed among women only.
Our mission is to share as many diverse voices and perspectives as possible. Our readers and followers do not agree with all of the viewpoints they read on The Lily, and they let us know. We’ve received comments from readers thanking us for exposing them to people or situations they didn’t know existed or wouldn’t encounter on other sites that speak to this audience.
Kirsten is the Social Media and Blog Editor at the News Media Alliance.