Millennial whisperer

millennial-whisperer
Anna Holmes. (Anna Wolf)
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Anna Holmes is founding editor of Jezebel, and as such a contributing architect to the current state of internet media.

But she’s ready for things to change again, burnt out on its need for hot takes and think pieces and constant news-cycle monitoring.

“When I express fatigue with think pieces, I mean I’m expressing fatigue with the kind of over-intellectualization of every little fucking thing that happens in the culture,” she said. “And the compulsion, or seeming compulsion, or pressure to have people to quote/unquote ‘weigh in’ on stuff immediately.”

A few days earlier, Holmes had been named editor of digital voices and storytelling for the millennial-targeting cable channel Fusion, a jointly owned product of ABC and Univision that has been on a hiring binge of a certain kind of internet talent of late. A few weeks before that, the network had announced itself to the media world by naming Reuters financial columnist and all-around media gadfly Felix Salmon a senior editor.

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It’s been almost four years since Holmes left Jezebel, the Gawker Media women’s blog she founded and edited for three-plus years’ worth of 18-hour days. Though she’s worked on books and consulted here and there since, it’s been a while, she said, since she’s had what she called a W-9 job. She had been pondering her future, including perhaps starting her own site, when the Fusion call came from out of the blue.

After his hiring, Salmon, a longtime friend of Holmes who will report to her, wrote a piece in which he said he may not even write for Fusion at all. The bulk of his work there would be what he deemed “post-text.”

“When it comes to digital storytelling, however, the possibilities — at least if you have the kind of resources that Fusion has — are much, much greater,” he said.

It sounds a bit like the setup to a particularly 2014-suited media joke: Miami-based, millennial- and multicultural-targeted television network hires famed Gen-X New York media-type writer and famed Gen-X New York media-type editor to neither write for nor edit its website.

But that’s precisely what Fusion has done, and that’s the appeal to Holmes. They’ll be making content, she said for smart and savvy millennials on the platforms on which they consume their media—be they Vine or Instagram or elsewhere.

“We’re going to be doing things that don’t necessarily involve writing,” she said, pausing for a word, “or text. That kind of fits with what I want to do anyway, which is to let things marinate. If we’re going to do some sort of short video, you can’t execute that in 45 minutes. It’s going to take a few hours if not a few days.”

It had only been a few days since her hire, and there was much to work out still, she said. The surest portion of her new job, it seemed, was the audience she and her team will be targeting, the young and web-native crowd. Though some might think of them as a hyperactive bunch, she said she thought they might be as ready for change as she is.

“I suspect that a lot of millennials feel that fatigue,” she said. “I don’t feel that they’re any more suited to the constant updating than some older….than I am. I might not be a quote/unquote ‘digital native’ in the same way. I didn’t grow up at the age of 12 with Facebook, but I do feel very much of the digital world and of the digital media. There’s a lot of people who I respect, who I’ve worked with, who fall into the category of millennials, and they’re tired.”

“I think that what it comes down to is that it doesn’t feel fun,” she said a little while later. “And I want it to feel fun as opposed to obligatory.”

This article appeared in the June edition of Capital magazine.