h1 American audiences are really tapped into confessional media ... there's an opportunity to do that in Australia too.
Amelia Grevis- James has accomplished a lot in her first 27 years. After a brief stint at an Australian newspaper as a journalist, she went solo into the world of digital media and launched The Peach in late 2012. The site, inspired by American women’s lifestyle media sites like xoJane, Jezebel and Hello Giggles is now thriving. And with provocative articles like Where does the finale of Girls leave us?, Marissa Mayer has done work-from-home mothers a favour, and I am hopelessly addicted to YouTube beauty tutorials you can see why - there's room here for fiercly independent women of all stripes to find their voice.
Say Media Australia spent five minutes catching up Amelia on a rare break at Kangaroo Island, off the South Australian coastline, to find out more about her new site including what inspired her, what's working and what's next.
What motivated you to start The Peach? I met Phoebe Montague, who runs the fashion blog Lady Melbourne, and who became one of my closest friends at uni. Seeing what she created on her own made me realise how much opportunity digital media offers young women, and everyone, to create their own platform.
Did you go straight from traditional media to flying solo in digital media? Yes. At the end of my newspaper cadetship, I got a job on a newspaper but I already felt limited by newspapers so I decided then to leave the papers and start The Peach on my own.
Sounds brave… It’s definitely had its challenges. I’m 27, have never run a business before and haven’t come from a decade of working in newspapers. But that was an opportunity for me as well. I didn’t feel limited by what I knew or what I didn’t know. I thought, I know what I know, I have a clear vision of what I want to create, I’m going to learn a lot along the way, and I’m not going to let the fact I’m still in my twenties stop me doing what I really want to do.
How do you find digital media after a start in newspapers? Digital offers this period of creative disruption where you can make your own rules to an extent. You’re not constrained by any boundaries of the medium. That’s what I really love about it – the accessibility and relevance it can have in people’s lives, and the fact it allows you to tell women’s stories in a much more immediate and less filtered way. One aspect that frustrated me in traditional media is it is very formulaic. There is very clear formula to how you go about telling a story. That means issues that can be really real for women, and all people, like mental illness or unemployment or parenting struggles or whatever it may be, tend to get wrapped up as these neat little stories. They’re nicely packaged and always tend to have a moral. But in digital media, you don’t have to package those issues as features and you can run them as first person narratives in a much more authentic and direct way.
And what attracts you to the women’s lifestyle media in particular? I’ve always been a voracious reader of women’s lifestyle media. I was the girl who started reading Dolly and Cosmo magazines when I was really young, as I was drawn to that type of content.
Are there other sites you look to for inspiration for The Peach? I love some of the digital media coming out of America as they’ve really embraced that confessional type of genre and they’re doing it well. Part of that is cultural. American audiences are really tapped into confessional media, but I think there is an opportunity to do that in the Australian market too. My favourites are Jezebel, xoJane, and Hello Giggles.
The Peach clearly has a knack for storytelling. Have you always been a storyteller? I have always been an incredibly story-oriented person. I make connections with people quickly and quite deeply. When I was little, I taught myself to read before I went to school and read voraciously. My parents couldn’t keep up with the number of books I went through. Just the other day, my father phoned to say he had found some of my childhood books in the shed. I told him to bring them over and he later pulled up with a trailer load of books. Basically stories and writing have always been a cornerstone of my identity. Whether The Peach succeeds on a small or large scale, I will already feel like I’ve succeeded in some way as I feel like I’ve made the best goal I can for myself, and I’ve the set the bar quite high.
Looking back, what have you learned so far? That building a site like The Peach is a slow burn. You want things to happen quickly but the reality is that it’s a slow, everyday process. Every day our traffic increases incrementally, our Twitter followers grow, and the emails and opportunities come to me more and more often. Having a community of readers building up around the site helps. The bits that readers don’t see, like the emails I receive, make building The Peach incredibly rewarding. I know I’m actually making a connection with a growing community of readers, so I feel I am achieving in small ways every day what I set out to do.
Can you sum up what your goals for The Peach? The Peach is about providing a platform for women. One of the most rewarding aspects of this journey is that I often get emails from people that start off ‘I’m not a writer but I read a piece on The Peach that resonated with me and here’s my story. Can you publish it?’ For me, that shows that I’m giving women a platform that otherwise wouldn’t have a platform. Working in mainstream media, the same voices tend to dominate because it’s a small industry. That’s one of the things I wanted to address by creating a more democratic platform for a whole range of women to have a voice.
Is that important in Australia? It’s important anywhere. But there’s space for it in Australia as the digital space isn’t overcrowded.
If you had a message for advertisers, what would it be? Women who read The Peach are smart, savvy and don’t want to be sold anything inauthentic. They have complex and multidimensional lives and that’s the type of content I try to publish and the type of advertising that will resonate more.
Leaping a few years ahead, what does success look like for The Peach? The Peach will be a site that tells women’s diverse stories intelligently and that has maintained the integrity I started out with, while attracting a lot of traffic.
The Peach is a Say Media Australia partner. Follow Amelia on Twitter @Thepeacheditor.