The 18- to 34-year-old demographic, long sought by advertisers and TV shows, is now in the sights of a new website, Book Riot, which aims to bring a funny, irreverent take on literature to what it believes is an underserved group of readers. Co-founders are New School professor Jeff O’Neal and marketing exec Clinton Kabler; newly hired as executive editor is Bethanne Patrick, who previously helped launch Shelf Awareness for Readers and hosts the popular #fridayreads on Twitter.
“We want it to be a Jezebel, TechCrunch, Valleywag type of site,” Patrick says.
Current posts on the site include “Songs Based on Books & Authors: A Playlist,” “How the Booker Got Snookered” and “Review GPA,” which “translate[s] reviews of notable new books into letter grades” to determine a grade point average. (Jeffrey Eugenides’ The Marriage Plot gets a 3.34.) The site will also feature guest posts by book bloggers like Dead White Guys and Rebecca Joines Schinsky.
Book Riot is currently working to build out content, and says it’s already reaching its target audience; up next month is a push to secure advertising. Within the next couple of years, Patrick said, the site will start running events that consist of “a mix of entertainment and education with emphasis on community.”
Book Riot comes from “the place of social media” and is targeting a group that has grown up on the Internet and read a great deal of quality YA fiction, Patrick said. “They’re not going to settle for something a publisher is pushing at them. I was about to say these are the Twilight readers,” she said–adding that that sounded funny because the books were critically panned, but “Twilight shows that these readers are willing to stand up for what they love, to a point where they have an effect on the market. They are not going to talk about books in the same way and they may not read the same kinds of book reviews” as older audiences.
So what interests someone who is “25 and reading”? “Sometimes it’s mixing and mashing things up with other kinds of media,” Patrick said. “How does a new book that comes out relate to the movies? How does a video game relate to a graphic novel or a YA novel?”
Some content hits the irreverent/rebellious angle too hard. Charles Dickens is “reigning king of Dead White Guys You Should Have Read in High School, But Probably Just Read the Cliff Notes or Possibly Watched the BBC Mini-series.” Editor Jeff O’Neal describes his employer, the New School, as a “big, liberal, snobby-as-all-hell university.” This is a little cloying, if irreverence can be cloying, and seems better suited to younger teens who still think it’s cool to be jaded. Luckily, though, Book Riot drops the “we’re-cool-because-we’re-not-your-parents-seriously!” tone most of the time, and when it does, it stands out as a unique site–one that reaches out to a demographic that’s fairly underserved in terms of book coverage, with a refreshing lack of hand-wringing over whether “young people” are so busy on Facebook that they have no time to read anymore.