Bustle editor-in-chief Kate Ward on being the fastest growing women’s interest site

One of the first, and most successful of the new guard is Bustle, an independent site which was launched in 2013. Since then it has grown hugely and currently rates as one of the two most read women’s interest title in the US.

Here Bustle’s editor-in-chief Kate Ward, talks about why she thinks the site has grown so quickly, why innovation is essential for all digital publishers and the importance of experimenting with social platforms.

Bustle ()

Bustle’s Twitter bio states your mission as ‘redefining women’s interest.’ What gap was/is Bustle intended to fill in women’s publishing? What are the issues with the way ‘women’s interest’ is generally interpreted? 

When we launched in 2013, Bustle’s aim was to be a mass platform for women’s voices. And that’s exactly what we’ve become – we currently reach 40m unique readers around the globe monthly. But we always want there to be more women’s voices online talking about the issues and subjects that matter to them. 

Women, which make up half the population, are often treated as a ‘special interest’ group. That’s just not true. And at Bustle, we speak to millennial women, which is the largest generation since the Baby Boomers, and we know how important it is to get female voices out there. 

What other websites do you admire for producing inspiring content? 

Oh, there are so many! We feel really lucky to have so many amazing peers in the space producing awesome content. We are inspired by sites like Jezebel, The Hairpin, Broadly, HelloGiggles, and also publications like Cosmo, Elle, and many others. 

Was it essential to  be ‘innovative’ when launching Bustle? Does innovation still count for something in digital publishing? 

Innovation in digital publishing matters more than ever. Especially when it comes to native and branded advertising. We have an incredibly creative branded team at Bustle that focuses on innovation while creating content in line with Bustle’s voice and mission. They do fantastic work and elevate the type of campaigns that we can deliver. To boot, our tech team delivers new products and editorial features — like interactive flowcharts — while simultaneously refining the user experience across our site and mobile app. No matter what we’re working on, we are always thinking about how to give our audience the best possible experience. Innovation is essential to doing just that. 

Bustle is built on thousands of contributions from different writers. What does Bustle look for in its young journalists? 

We want someone with a strong voice and a strong opinion. We work a lot with young writers in journalism school or recent graduates who are smart, curious, and eager to start building their bylines. Also, we look for writers who are eager to learn — we pair them with editors who have experience in the field of journalism they are interested in to ensure they’re getting as much as possible out of a Bustle internship. Mentorship is key when it comes to our editorial process. 

Do you have strong opinions on display advertising? Is Bustle monetised mainly by native advertising?

Native is a huge part of our business. We have a separate team dedicated to branded advertising and we’ve worked with over 40 of the largest and most visible brands in the world. 

How significant is your mobile traffic? 

Our audience is digitally native, so a big chunk of our traffic is mobile. An important part of our mobile strategy was launching our app, which we did in June to help keep our readers updated via their iPhones. It’s become a major driver of traffic. 

Where does Bustle’s social traffic come from? How important is Pinterest, and any plans for Snapchat? 

We see traffic from lot of different sources. Google, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, to name a few. We work hard to make sure that our stories are being promoted across lots of different platforms and we are always experimenting with how to best serve our audiences on those platforms. 

Do you think the US (as a market) is open to new ideas/websites? Is it relatively easy for publishers to break into, as opposed to say, the UK or Germany?

Digital is a very open market and there’s room for lots of winners. We are really excited about the growth of digital media and it’s a really exciting time to be in the industry. The recent acquisition of Business Insider by a European company shows that there is global appeal. 

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