The steady stream of tinkling laughter one imagines coming out of HelloGiggles headquarters must be more like squeals of glee on Monday—Time Inc. has bought the lifestyle and humor website for around $20 million, the Wall Street Journal reports. HelloGiggles was founded by Zooey Deschanel, Sophia Rossi, and Molly McAleer in 2011; under the Time Inc. deal, Rossi will keep her spot as HelloGiggles CEO, and Deschanel will remain the site’s chief creative officer.
Acquiring HelloGiggles is a smart move for Time Inc. People, whose readership is 70 percent women, generates more revenue for the company than any of its other properties, including Time magazine and Sports Illustrated. It’s clear that Time Inc. knows how to make a women’s magazine, but its demographics skew slightly older than most trend-forward publications would like. People’s median reader age is 38, higher than its closest competitors Us Weekly (35), OK (33.1), and In Touch (34.2).
Meanwhile, every corner of HelloGiggles is designed for younger women. Its logo incorporates heart-and-star iconography. If your cursor hovers over the site’s heading, its letters do a little dance. There’s a dedicated vertical for teen readers. Its columns are whimsical and personal (“How to Be Cool in High School,” “All the feels,” “Today in Duh”) and sometimes titled with hashtags (“#caturday,” “#twinning”). Its earnest tweeness feels genuine, an extension of its mission to provide a safe space for aspiring young female journalists to write about their lives and passions—formerly without pay. Jill Davison, Time Inc.'s corporate communications VP, tells me that HelloGiggles grew past that phase before coming on board: “We absolutely pay our contributors and will continue to do so,” she says.
HelloGiggles bills itself as “a positive online community for women” that strives to “inspire a smile”; its contributor guidelines prohibit snark and takedowns. This fits well with the People model, which leans on tidy feel-good narratives and comprises an entire microsite just for cute photos of celebrities’ babies. People has welcomed the site to the Time Inc. family with buzzy hashtags, Taylor Swift references, and a slideshow of motivational quotes. With any luck, the pairing of these two sites under the Time Inc. umbrella will lead each one to rub off on the other. People could use a helpful little sister to polish up its clumsy attempts at conversational pop-culture blogging for young’ns, and HelloGiggles can use that Time Inc. dime to put some real reporting behind its personal essays and puppy pics.