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Aug. 21, 2017, 8 a.m.
Audience & Social

Girls’ Night In is an email newsletter, but it’ll also be a way for women to make friends IRL

“We are helping serve the need for women to take a break, relax, and recharge.”

Women (especially the more introverted among us) know: It can be hard, and awkward, to make non-work friends after college. Yes, it’s a legit problem. (See: books like Friendships Don’t Just Happen!: The Guide to Creating a Meaningful Circle of GirlFriends and articles like this, this, this, and this.)

As news outlets look to get more of their revenue directly from readers, many are betting on events. The Texas Tribune has a dedicated events staff; smaller sites have experimented with town hall events of their own. But events like these, while they may be good for building community around a publication, aren’t really meant as a way for readers to make friends.

Girls’ Night In, a publication founded by 27-year-old Alisha Ramos, wants to do more to help women find new girlfriends. (Ramos who previously worked on Vox Media’s tech and product team for nearly four years, contributed predictions to Nieman Lab’s annual year-end package in 2014 and 2016.)

“This is something I talk about a lot with my own friends, especially ones who have moved to different cities. It’s really hard, as a late twentysomething or early thirtysomething, to meet new friends,” Ramos said. “One of the key challenges for people in my generation is wellness that’s not focused on physical, but on social and mental health. There’s a lack of spaces to meet new friends and people you can connect with.” (Ramos has been rereading Robert Putnam’s seminal Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community. “The percentage of Americans who define themselves as lonely has doubled from 20 to 40 percent since the 1980s,” she said.)

For now, Girls’ Night In is an email newsletter, blog, and Instagram account — all centered around the idea of cultivating deep relationships with close friends. “I’m a natural introvert. I love staying in, hosting my girlfriends at my apartment and having them over for drinks,” Ramos, who lives in Washington, D.C., said. “With social media and tech and texting, I think it’s really nice to have that face time with friends in an intimate setting.” Her original idea for the company was some kind of e-commerce site, but she realized that an email newsletter had a lower barrier to entry. (She’s funding it with personal savings; some revenue comes from co-branded newsletters, classifieds in the email, and affiliate links.)

Launched in January, Girls’ Night In now has more than 12,000 subscribers, an impressive average open rate of 57 percent, and a clickthrough rate of 27 percent. (The average “media” newsletter’s open rate is more like 22 percent, according to MailChimp, with an average click rate of 4.7 percent.) It uses a referral program similar to that of newsletters like theSkimm and Thrillist: Readers who refer new subscribers get various levels of swag. The subscriber count is growing about 10 percent every week, Ramos said.

Girls’ Night In is sent out on Friday mornings and is a combination of interviews (recently: Jenna Wortham and Doree Shafrir), links to interesting weekend reading, and ideas for things to do, cook, watch, and buy. There is one rule: No politics content. It’s not that Ramos is uninterested in politics — after her time at Vox, she worked at Nava, the startup that was brought in to fix healthcare.gov, and for a time ran Girls’ Night In as a side project — but “this is serving a different type of need,” she said. “The audience is incredibly smart, engaged, and educated. We think that they are keeping up with the news elsewhere. We are helping serve the need for women to take a break, relax, and recharge.”

It may seem somewhat paradoxical that an email newsletter wants to help its readers get offline, but — well, that’s the way things are now. “Technology is not evil in the context of GNI — It’s a part of our audiences’ routines, inevitably,” Ramos said. “The way I think about it is we’re creating a company, an experience, a brand that lives from online to offline, and vice versa. Some of the products we have coming out will leverage technology — but in a way that will encourage you to, eventually, disconnect and connect with either yourself or other women.”

That will mean real-life events; they’re coming soon. The first is a book club (the book is The Mothers by Brit Bennett), with meetups in 16 cities and three countries in the last week of August.

“Women just want to meet other women in a non-networking, non-awkward fashion,” Ramos said.

POSTED     Aug. 21, 2017, 8 a.m.
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