Real Girls Media
Real Girls Media (RGM) is a media network that provides a new way for women—young and older—to reach out, connect, and share their experiences in a vibrant web community that enables women to publish their stories.
RGM seeks to connect the real voices of women from often marginalized demographics through an online community. “DivineCaroline,” the first of several websites within the network currently has thousands of stories posted from women across the US and globe. The site officially launched in February of this year. RGM will soon offer multiple sites and resources serving different age groups—including young girls.
YMR caught up with Editor-in-Chief Monique Peterson, who travels between Brooklyn, NY and San Francisco, CA, to discuss RGM’s network in its initial stages and how the youth media field can learn from their first giant steps.
YMR: How did Real Girls Media (RGM) come about?
MP: Our CEO, Kate Thorp had a vision for a way to meet the needs of the largest and fastest growing demographic online: women. The core mission of RGM is to provide a platform for women to have their voices heard. Women have been grossly underserved in the marketplace and we lead complex lives.
We did massive research on women’s needs, the way women communicate, the way women spend money, the way women gather and share information, and ultimately, what women wish they could experience on the internet if given the opportunity. The first of our Web sites, www.DivineCaroline.com, is dedicated to adult women. Two new sites are in the pipeline that will be dedicated to younger women and girls.
We have an interest in how women use the internet, communicate with one another, and have a vocal platform. Check out www.realgirlsmedia.com to read about our founders who are Web 1.0 veterans and quickly raising the bar for Web 2.0.
YMR: RGM connects young women to share their experiences and publish “like real pros.” How do you reach these goals? What methods do you use?
MP: Contributing a story to the Web site is simple. It takes a moment to register, and upon doing so, members get a private “Studio” where they can manage information about themselves, collect favorite authors or articles, publish stories, post comments, and keep track of forums they’re participating in.
To publish a story, you can click a “Contribute” button, which will open a story editor page. From there, you can add a title, write in a text box or copy and paste a document into the text box, select a picture, determine where you’d like the story to appear on the Web site, and then click a “Submit” button for publication.
From there, the stories get uploaded onto the site and the author is notified by email when the story is published. These steps are all made possible by our amazing engineering team. Our technology allows us to make major changes to our site every 2-3 weeks.
Women can publish their stories on DivineCaroline where their voices are as equally accessible as professional editorial writers. Like YMR, readers can post comments and responses—building community.
YMR: In what news ways are Real Girls Media helping young women (and teenage girls) reach out, find out, and express themselves?
MP: Our site allows anyone to publish stories, articles, fiction, poetry, or musings. Readers generally will be able to see their stories appear on the site within a day of submitting for publication. Any woman can write a review of a product, place, or service, and post them instantly on the site. It’s about getting your voice heard.
Everyone is welcome to comment on stories and participate in forums. Additionally, every registered member (registration is free) gets a personal profile page where she can save her favorite stories, tell readers about herself, and also collect her own published articles (with a feature called “My Publicist”) and send them out as a calling card to others who might be interested in seeing writing clips. We also have a Message Center that allows readers on the site to contact other members and drop them a note in a private mail box. And this is just the beginning.
YMR: Does RGM connect young teenage girls with women from DivineCaroline? How does RGM benefit teen girls and young women?
MP: DivineCaroline has several partners and organizations whose mission is symbiotic with ours. Many of the articles we have on the site promote awareness of mentoring opportunities. When we launch our sites for younger women and girls, we will have more cross connections and opportunities with women and organizations that can support mentoring and career opportunities, as well as role models.
The platform for the younger demographic will be similarly structured to DivineCaroline. Young girls will have contacts through various partnerships represented on the site. Since young people can contact other members through the network via comments on articles or personal messages, they will become an important part of the online community.
Reaching out to youth interested in careers in technology or journalism (having a voice on the web) takes participation. There are different ways to participate in the RGM environment—one way is to become a user. A lot of writers have become prolific authors on DivineCaroline—and now they have a platform to do it. Youth can participate to get a sense of what it takes and what its like to be a writer and be aware of media in this environment.
Youth media can help address these issues by becoming part of our online community, becoming familiar with programs that empower girls, and teaching young women how to use the web to express themselves.
By participating, young women can make inroads toward jobs in technology or journalism. By using DivineCaroline’s My Publicist feature, youth can send a portfolio of their published stories to editors or youth media professionals in order to get an internship or showcase their expertise through their writing.
It has been interesting to see what women are sending to be published in DivineCaroline. They are writing about abuse, mental illness, eating disorders—topics that have often been silent, rendered stigma and taboo. This is similar to young people, who document these experiences in writing, radio, music and video. A community is ready to receive this information—and provide an important platform for youth to benefit from.
YMR: What can RGM offer to youth media professionals as a best practice/lesson learned?
MP: With the dawn of a new era in technology and communication, we are seeing a major shift in the way people get, share and communicate information. Specifically, we are seeing newspaper and magazine circulations drop, more people relying on the Web for news and information, and a surge of social networking sites. Anyone interested in the history and future of communications would benefit by seeing how technology is playing a role in the way news, information, and entertainment is gathered and reported. The rise of blogs and subjective reporting raises new questions about ethics and objectivity in traditional journalism. In many ways we are seeing a democratization of information. There are positives and negatives with every paradigm shift, and I think it is important to be continually aware of how the medium affects the message.
We are providing a new way to bridge marginalized communities to share perspective and promote change. We have an ever increasing ability to have a collective and vibrant voice and dialogue. It will be interesting to see how this grows. As we are in a vastly different place now than we were five years ago, we will be in a radically different place five years from now. As media professionals, we must be constantly aware of how media represents messages and how we interpret those messages, how we process that information as individuals and as a society—and as youth media professionals. Everyone has a different goal in mind, which affects how that information is processed.
YMR: How can youth media professionals assist RGM, be involved, and what else can they gain from RGM?
MP: We envision many inroads and bridges for mentoring, partnerships, and sharing resources among many communities that join our network. I suggest that youth media professionals join us, contribute, and participate. What’s to gain? Community, having your voice heard, reaching a wide audience, strengthening your professional experience, and tapping into a growing network of amazing women—young and older.
Monique Peterson is the Editor-in-Chief of DivineCaroline at Real Girls Media. She has written and edited books on film, television, animation, pop culture, art, sports, health, medicine, cooking, crafts, architecture, celebrity, science, sexuality, education, parenting, gardening, and history. Monique has been a lecturer at universities including Stanford and has been a broadcast journalist for Napa Valley’s KVON radio station.
An interview with Editor-in-Chief Monique Peterson