Frat Feminism: Inside The Rise And Fall Of Babe.Net
In 2018, the irresistibly raunchy site for “girls who don’t give a fuck” broke the Aziz Ansari story. In 2019, it broke itself.
It was 8 p.m. a few days before Christmas 2018, when the staff of Babe.net received a message from the director of operations on the group’s WhatsApp: “Hey everyone, come to the office at 11 tomorrow instead of 9. Enjoy the lie in!” The message was suspicious — after all, it was layoff season in their industry — but the young staffers didn’t think much of it. At that point, the women staffers at Babe.net were used to the kind of work environment where bosses felt comfortable issuing spontaneous company-wide announcements by text. At Babe, It was a staff tradition to have drinks together in the office that later spilled into neighbourhood dive bars; its official motto was “for girls who don’t give a fuck.” So, the execs want to have a meeting? Maybe someone was leaving the company. Either way, who wouldn’t want to sleep in?
But when the team arrived to the office that morning, the usual upbeat mood was replaced with something decidedly heavier. The editors and some higher-ups were huddled in one of the smaller offices of Babe’s Williamsburg headquarters, including Jack Rivlin, the famously boyish CEO of Babe’s parent company Tab Media, and his friend/right hand, Joshi Herrmann, Tab’s editor-in-chief. “I wonder what’s happening,’’ a former Babe employee remembered thinking, as other staffers, all of them under 30, trickled in.
What came next was sobering. “We weren’t able to secure enough funding from investors,” Herrmann explained. The 29-year-old had been at the helm of Tab Media’s editorial department since its U.S. expansion in 2015. He was normally Babe’s biggest cheerleader, but in this moment, there was nothing to cheer. “As of today, none of us have jobs. Including myself.”
And just like that, Babe.net—a site that sky-rocketed to new-media infamy with a bombshell report accusing comedian Aziz Ansari of sexual misconduct that was simultaneously scrutinized, vilified, and celebrated when it was published just a year before — was done.
If the shuttering was a shock for the 20-somethings that comprised the publication’s editorial staff at the time, it was practically a nonevent for everyone else — only the U.K. political outlet The Spectator and media news site The Wrap, bothered to note its demise, who only wrote about it after Rivlin sent out a factsheet to potential buyers. But Babe’s demise was noteworthy. It marked the end of one of the wildest experiments in women’s media, the logical culmination to a trend that began a decade ago, the dot-com id of an entire industry.
Babe was a middle finger to the new digital media establishment, particularly publications slow to adapt to the bracingly honest approach defining the era. At Babe, the operating principle was to provoke no matter who it offends, and even make itself deliberately unfriendly to advertisers (its manifesto calls its approach an alternative to “brand-safe” media). It’s a spirit that could only come from young women reared on the oversharing and honesty of the Internet, reading alternative women’s sites that came about in the mid-to-early aughts like Jezebel, XOJane, Thought Catalog, as well as this publication, Refinery29. Amanda Ross, the site’s 25-year-old editor, wanted the voice to be unedited, to match how young women spoke with their friends. And to the Babe writer, that often meant the most extreme degree of irreverence — the kind of things said in the kind of way you’d only put in a private group chat, three drinks in.
Writers and editors came to the team straight out of college. Its most senior leadership — Ross, Herrmann, and Eleni Mitzali, the director of operations — were barely six years out of college themselves.
It marked the end of one of the wildest experiments in women’s media, the logical culmination to a trend that began a decade ago, the dot-com id of an entire industry.
It was an atmosphere that led to deliciously zany commentary on youth culture and internet ephemera like “What your favourite sex position says about what kind of hoe you are” and “Why is this egg prettier than me and you?” The staff’s ongoing antagonization of “Curvy Wife Guy” could have belonged on Gawker or Spy during their most mercenary eras (he threatened to sue them after they compared his book to the unabomber manifesto, and uncovered racist captions on his Instagram account). While Babe played to some of the fatigue around feel-good women’s empowerment and corporate wokeness, at the same time, it also published straightforward reporting: Beyond the Aziz story, they also uncovered sexual misconduct at Harvard and spoke with one of Teka$hi 6ix9ine’s victims.
Readers were drawn to this kind of straight-talk. When Babe launched its Facebook page in May 2016, it quickly racked up 250,000 followers. By the time it folded, it had swelled to more than 1.3 million (in comparison, The Cut, a popular site for women has only 1 million followers). That the business would fail to earn enough money to support operations is another story. According to a staffer let go in December of 2018, “I think it's a miracle the place didn't collapse sooner.”
And, such a carefree ethos and burn-it-down bravado played out behind the scenes, too. Which unsurprisingly, made it a fun place to work, too.
“Working at Babe was one of the greatest experiences of my life. Everyone was super young and super fun,” says Rebecca Nasibi, a social producer who was laid off last December after only being on staff for three months. “Anything we put out there we did it with no regrets. There’s a lot to be proud of, even if it didn’t work out.”
“It was this frat boy culture,” says another Babe staffer who worked there for the first half of 2018, before being laid off in July. “That is 100% why Babe didn’t work out.”
If you want to know how a women’s media site would cultivate a frat-like culture, understand that pre-Babe, there was The Tab, a tabloid-like publication for student news founded in 2009 by CEO Jack Rivlin and two friends at Cambridge University (at the time, its claim to fame was an annual “best bums” list). The Tab’s original model was savvy and cheap: create quick and dirty posts for students by students, largely without pay or direction (this is somewhat similar to the Bryan Goldberg playbook with Bleacher Report). All the subsites had access to the Tab’s proprietary platform, and stories could be shared across the network if they were relevant. After early success in the United Kingdom, the founders landed a $3 million USD investment and exported their business to the United States in late 2015. By 2016, they were installed in 40 American campuses, from state schools to Yale.
At its height, The Tab U.S. had teams at more than 70 campuses and 3,000 student writers in its network. It had drawn the attention of investors, including News UK, which put up $2.5 million USD into the company after Rivlin met with its infamous owner, Rupert Murdoch (The Guardian reported that the investment was $4 milion USD).
The Tab launched new verticals that were also student-written. These included Grits (about Southern lifestyle), Electoral College (dedicated to the 2016 U.S. election), and 9 to 5 (workplace and career advice). And then there was Babe, which was so much more successful than its sister verticals that it would eventually pull out ahead of the pack and become Babe.net.
Certainly for management, this system was efficient (especially when it came to the cost). If a student writer came across some dish suggesting, say, Malia Obama was going to Harvard (a real scoop The Tab Harvard scored in 2016), all they had to do was log on to the Tab’s publishing platform and write a dispatch. From there, the writer’s piece went to a campus editor who could decide to take a post live. Each campus team was led by a local “campus manager” who was also unpaid, but was occasionally offered stipends. Campus managers were overseen by paid staffers who were all recent college grads earning around $35,000 USD and working out of the company’s Williamsburg office as assistant editors.
For some students, the unpaid work at The Tab could be a win-win, too: They got clips and experience and a shot at a full-time job post graduation. And, many Tab alums have gone on to work for established outlets like Buzzfeed and the Telegraph. For those who landed at The Tab as assistant editors, staff jobs felt more like an extension of college than real work. No one who was full-time at The Tab was over the age of 30. The CEO and top editor were roommates. There were happy hours every Friday, and the staff often ventured out afterhours together during the week. Heavy drinking on work nights wasn’t uncommon. Weekend gatherings and company events were akin to frat-house ragers. One former employee described it as “start-up culture on steroids.”
“Pretty quickly, it became clear this wasn’t how normal companies were run. It went from oh it’s so fun, to Wait — there is a huge lack of legitimacy to this,” says a former assistant editor for The Tab. “Drugs were being used at company events. It was inappropriate on so many levels. There was such a blurred line. We were all friends, but there should have been a distinction between a boss and an employee.”
This also meant that professional and personal relationships were blurry; hookups and romantic relationships among staffers were common and fodder for talk. It was well-known among Tab employees and interns, according to multiple former Tab associates interviewed by Refinery29, that Herrmann had a reputation for romantically pursuing and sleeping with female interns whose writing he edited. (By all accounts, Herrmann only had relationships with Tab writers, and never with any Babe.net associates he managed.) The Cut published an account of one former intern’s sexual relationship with Herrmann, and another account of a young woman who made out with Jack Rivlin at a company party, both of which detailed just how blurry the professional and personal boundaries were. “At a work party, a colleague and I kissed in front of several members of the team,” Rivlin said in an email to Refinery29. “We were both drunk and it was obviously very embarrassing for both of us. It was a mistake and as the senior member of staff, I should not have let that happen."
Herrmann responded to questions with the following: “There's no doubt I should have thought much more about the problems with having relationships with people I worked with. It was a dumb thing to do and I learned from it.
I think it's a miracle the place didn't collapse sooner.
The frathouse behaviour came to a head during company work trips. In January 2016, the entire staff went on a staff retreat to the Catskills in upstate New York where they had rented a haunted-looking house. The retreat was ostensibly a team-building exercise for the small group of about 15 U.S. employees, but it was also an excuse to party. Someone brought edibles — cannabis cookies — and Rivlin wondered out loud how funny it would’d be if someone mixed them into a basket with regular cookies, according to a person who was there. He then made fun of staff members who told him that it wasn’t funny. (Rivlin denies he made the joke at all.)
The drinking went into the early morning around 5 a.m. The house was wrecked the next morning, littered with beer cans and, in places, vomit.
Employees also travelled to various schools for what was called “Tab Tours.” These were essentially recruiting trips where staffers would get to meet Tab’s campus managers and writers, while doing some street-team publicity by handing out “The Tab”-branded condoms and other gear. To cut costs, staffers stayed together in shared hotel rooms, with male employees and female employees in the same room, and sometimes even sharing beds. Over the course of the weekend, they would make the rounds at popular hangout spots on campus.
The 2016 holiday party was a memorably non-memorable night, according to several sources who were there. Students in The Tab network from nearby schools, plus in-office interns who were in NYC for winter internships, were all invited. Many were underage. “We were moving offices, so it was essentially people getting shitfaced in this empty office,” says a former U.S. editor for Babe, who worked there at the time. “It wasn’t your average company holiday party. There wasn’t a bartender. There was just a table set up with handles of booze. People were going into the stairwells to snort coke or up to the roof to smoke cigarettes. Girls were just stumbling around who were clearly underage and very drunk.”
“It was a fun party, but it was a hot mess,” adds another person in attendance. She was 21 and an intern at the time, but she says many of her fellow interns were not of age. (In response to a request for comment, Rivlin said in an email: “The company is not responsible for how people behave in their lives outside of work and it would be unfair to expect us to police their behaviour to that level.”)
While multiple former employees shared how the metrics for success at The Tab, and later Babe, were constantly changing based on the whims of the Internet (a not uncommon phenomenon in digital media), the one consistent guideline seemed to be “don’t mess with our fun,” one says. Raising concerns over the absence of boundaries or the degree of partying, or its impact on staff, was tricky. One former assistant editor at The Tab noted that during one of her last performance reviews, she was asked to smile more.
Employees who didn’t like it had nowhere to turn — there was no human resources team at Tab Media. “The decision makers and higher-ups were Jack and Joshi. So there really wasn’t anyone to go to that would take it seriously who also wasn’t a part of the problem,” says the former assistant editor. “We all talked to each other about it and would bring it up in meetings or reviews or even casually at a happy hour, but they just completely blew it off and would even laugh at us.”
“I was 25 when the company went to the USA, and the rest of the team was a bit younger. I'm sad that a small number of the team fell out with their managers and ultimately left the company,” Rivlin said in an email to Refinery29. “Nonetheless the team continued to do amazing work and built something really special. I’m proud of everyone who worked for The Tab US and Babe.”
When Babe first launched, it was under the purview of Róisín Lanigan, an assistant editor at The Tab. The original coverage at Babe was focused on tamer stories about things like female athletes and opinion pieces about Piers Morgan and abstinence-only education. “The Babe brand and voice evolved over time,” says Lanigan, who worked on Babe until May 2017, when she left the company. “It seemed to change a lot based on who was in charge of the editorial output. Certainly the voice and coverage when I was there was different to what it became in 2017 and 2018.”
But even this (slightly) safer version of Babe was a hit from the get go. Its growth was explosive, and the company saw spikes in site traffic and followers. Tab Media put more resources into Babe. By the end of 2016, Tab Media had hired U.S. editors to help wrangle contributors for Babe here in the States, while Lanigan worked from the UK.
By 2017, Tab Media was siphoning off resources and talent from The Tab to support Babe, and it soon became clear that Babe was the company’s future, at least in the U.S. That summer, the company threw an official launch party for Babe — this one was markedly more calm, but characteristically “college-style,” featuring plastic tarp backdrops, pink streamers and Solo cups, and girls in their early 20s wearing Babe logo stickers and T-shirts, swilling directly from bottles of Cupcake-brand prosecco.
The editorial voice of Babe was also evolving into something bawdier.
That was largely due to Amanda Ross.. When Tab Media hired her in late 2016 as an editor, Ross was just 23, and thrived in Babe’s frat-feminist environment. Less than a year after she started, she became its head of content. Even at her young age, she was like a “big sister” to the young writers she oversaw. Every morning, Ross would lead the 9 a.m. pitch meeting, where she’d greenlight ideas. Among the top traffic-driving stories in June 2017: “The new Ken doll looks like the fuckboy of our nightmares” and “Which of the six types of hoe are you?” Even headlines on news stories were brilliant trolls of the subject, like “The new Snapchat update is creepy as hell and I’m about to throw my phone out the window” and “Michael Kors is closing 125 stores, and that’s probably because all of their bags look exactly the fucking same.”
Some writers griped that although Ross always allowed writers to say no to stories they weren’t comfortable with, she could also take things too far. One writer mentioned that Ross would hold a grudge when conflicts over stories arose: “I always tried to stay on her good side.” Another said discussing a change to an assignment was “always contentious.” Ross’ response was to “grow a thicker skin.”
Three months into that writer’s time at Babe, she was fired after a disagreement with Ross over a headline. It was October 2017, shortly after the Las Vegas mass shooting, where a terrorist killed 58 people from the broken window of a casino hotel. In the morning meeting, the writer pitched a story about a ridiculous dildo shaped like a machine gun. The idea was to make fun of the dildo as an outgrowth of America’s gun obsession — a perfect story for Babe, she thought, because it mixed a raunchy brand of irony with current events. But according to the writer, Ross wanted to publish it under the headline “I would rather shoot myself than use this dildo.” The writer felt that headline was insensitive considering the real-life toll of gun violence and suicide. She pushed back, but Ross published it with the changed headline anyway.
“I made a huge issue over this, telling her I’d rather just take the article down,” the writer says. “It was my name as the byline.” Ross relented and they took the entire piece down shortly after. That was on a Monday. All week, the writer says her pitches were ignored in the morning meetings where all the writers and editors sat together at a long table. She went to Mitzali, who assured her they wanted her there. But by Friday that same week, she was fired “because my voice wasn’t a fit.” Amanda Ross and Eleni Mitzali disputed the writer’s characterization of her firing. According to Mitzali, she was let go for unrelated performance issues.
By all accounts, Ross and Mitzali tried to foster an environment where everyone was encouraged to engage with the work, and were part of a team. But in building a site for girls who don’t give a fuck, conflict is inevitable. Writers and editors were often brought in and tested on their attitude and ability to get results in terms of attention (measured by their ability to attract new readers and get social media shares) before being hired full-time, according to multiple interviews with former employees. It’s no surprise that Babe rapidly cycled through writers during its lifespan.
After its first year as a site, Babe.net got its hands on the scoop that would make it a sensation. In January 2018, 22-year-old writer Katie Way made contact with “Grace,” who had a story to share about Aziz Ansari. In Grace’s account of her date with Ansari, she alleged that Ansari ignored multiple verbal and nonverbal cues that she was uncomfortable, and pressured her into oral sex. Not only was the story about a famously feminist celebrity, it was also a controversial one because of how it was written and reported. It morphed the #MeToo conversation into an argument about the difference between sexual assault and a “bad date.”
While the public fought over whether or not to take Grace’s story seriously, the mediasphere obsessively dissected the ethics of how the story came to be. The team at Babe spent a week reporting, writing, and fact-checking Grace’s story. They did not attempt to find other accounts to establish a pattern. According to Ross’ (since-deleted) tweets on the matter, they only gave Ansari six hours to respond before they pushed it live. Herrmann bragged on Facebook that Way wrote it “on a 2am flight to Chicago, one margarita down.” (Way did not respond to multiple requests for comment regarding this incident.)
Then, in a sign that Babe was more than comfortable leaning into the controversy, Way got into a very public and ugly spat with veteran journalist Ashleigh Banfield, a t vocal critic of the story who criticized Grace for chiselling “away at a movement that I, along with all of my sisters in the workplace, have been dreaming of for decades.” After one of Banfield’s producers invited Way to be on her HLN show, Way fired back with an insulting Twitter DM that dismissed Banfield as “someone I'm certain no one under the age of 45 has ever heard of,” insulted her hairstyle, and called her framing of Grace’s story “despicable.” Predictably, Banfield then read the worst portions of Way’s message on the air, and Business Insider got a hold of the entire message a few hours later.
The story kicked off a long and necessary conversation about sexual misconduct as a spectrum of harm, instead of one prosecutable incident. Many sites wrote thoughtful articles that wrestled with the responsibilities publications have in reporting on #MeToo, as well as how certain relationships — between celebrities and fans, bosses and interns — complicate consensuality when power flows strongest in one direction.
To Babe staffers as well, this article was a flashpoint. Way declined to comment on the record to Refinery29, but a former Babe staff writer, who worked there at the time of the controversy before being laid off in July of 2018, says that many people on staff were torn between feeling proud of the story, and feeling sadness over how the criticism and conversation became directed at Way instead of Ansari. Management offered to pay for mental health resources for any staff members who needed it in the aftermath. It was inexperience mixed with overconfidence, the writer says: “The young people in charge didn’t know what they were doing. It was really frustrating.”
Nonetheless, the story paid off in terms of traffic. The success of the Ansari story also earned the brand an enormous amount of recognition. Soon after, Tab Media decided to focus all its attention on further building out Babe. The U.S. edition of Tab folded, and in April, the last remaining employees working on The Tab in New York were let go. “We hadn’t reached the scale we wanted to across U.S. campuses, and we didn’t [focus on monetization until it was] too late,” Rivlin says. “I therefore decided it would be best to focus on one project in the U.S.: Babe.”
This upped the ante for the Babe staff to succeed, and the pressure culminated in a dramatic breaking point for the staff. “All of us were getting more demands to meet higher pageview goals,” says one Babe writer who was on staff at the time. With more visibility came more scrutiny, too. “Once the Aziz story blew up, we realized all the other content was being looked at,” she says. “It was like ‘we need to chill out on the cursing. We need to scrap some of the sex articles.’”
At the same time, two opposing factions were emerging on the small and scrappy staff. On the one side were the lower-level staffers complaining about the anything-goes culture and commiserating about the pressure they were under; on the other was management, which was trying to run a tight ship during the day, while also keeping “fun” an office priority. By this point, the long-time staffers making up management had been through a lot together. Some of them started at The Tab before Babe was even an idea, and they had all built Babe from the ground up. They were very close friends — some would get matching Babe tattoos.
In May 2018, the conflict came to a head when a social media producer — who was one of two Black women in the office — was about to be pushed into a new role at the company. Management was not happy with her performance in growing the Instagram audience, but they thought they could keep her on to host an original video series, where she would do man-on-the-street interviews and “go off” on people with whom she disagreed.
“It was basically her playing up the angry Black woman stereotype,” says a writer who closely worked with the producer at the time of the dustup. “They did not understand that that was the issue. From their perspective, they were like ‘Oh you’re so funny.’ She had a lively personality in the office. They wanted to use that to their advantage.” According to the writer, this social media producer — who declined to comment on the record citing a nondisclosure agreement — wanted to take the new job as a video host. But she also wanted to negotiate a talent contract so she wouldn’t be forced to participate in situations or videos she felt uncomfortable with. Management heard her concerns about the original proposal and dropped the idea, but they felt the talent contract request was a no-go, given that no one else had a special agreement.
The refusal to budge on the contract led to a mutiny among the staff’s newer hires and underlings. “Everyone already had their own complaints and issues, but this was the inciting incident that caused it to boil over,” the writer says. “We were just over it.” The staffers felt the only recourse they had was to write up all of their complaints together in a Google Doc (which Refinery29 reviewed) and present it to management with a threat to quit if the demands weren’t answered.
All we were asking for is an adult. We were all kids.
The staff presented the document to Herrmann who was caught off guard by the severity of its claims and demands, which included clear contracts and a say in role changes, better professional boundaries, an effort to address “casual but pervasive sexism and racism” as well as sexual misconduct, and the creation of an impartial human resources person who they could go to with complaints or disputes in the future. From there, he undertook a multi-week investigation by interviewing everyone on staff. He held a series of meetings, while another male editor took notes. In the end, the investigation found that all the claims in the letter were untrue, and all concerns would be considered acknowledged and settled. There was no way the company could afford a full-time human resources staffer, but it was decided that all future complaints could go through the editor-in-chief of The Tab UK.
The letter-writers weren’t satisfied with this result. They felt like Herrmann was more focused on proving them wrong, so that everyone on the team could go back to business as usual. “The second that things got real and serious is when everybody put up their shields. No one wanted to take any kind of accountability for it. When really all we were asking for is an adult. We were all kids,” one of the letter writers says, looking back on the episode now. “Sexism and racism were brought up. But was it like, Did this person call me a n-word to my face? No, that didn’t happen. But there were situations where there was ignorance. The video was one example. Also, Babe.net was owned by a man and the editor in chief was also a man. The boys were getting all the benefits. The whole frat boy culture of it all it made things very cliquey. It was those things that we were nitpicking about.”
It was a 21st century power struggle. Writers wanted their bosses to act like adults, and for the values they advocated for in their articles — believing women was a big one — to also be reflected in their workplace. But management simply didn’t see the problem; they felt the young staffers had hyped themselves up into a ridiculous frenzy of emotion, and if anything, they were the ones who needed to grow up. (Rivlin, Ross, Herrmann, and Mitzali all declined to comment on the record in regards to the complaint.)
The next few weeks were extremely tense in the office. After the investigation closed, multiple people elected to leave the company, including Katie Way and the social media producer. Throughout the summer, another writer quit and one other was laid off. No one who complained experienced any retaliation, and some even left with recommendations in hand. Everyone just wanted to put the episode behind them.
“I was heartbroken because I had so many ideas and I wanted to build them even bigger. But unfortunately a lot of our ideas weren’t considered,” one of the letter-writers says. “We weren’t considered valuable. So, that was that.”
After the summer departures, new team members were brought on, and senior members of Babe’s team forged ahead to monetize the site. Advertising wouldn’t work for “brand-unfriendly” Babe. Instead, executives considered a membership model.
Early on, Babe saw some success with this idea among its superfans. About 1,000 users had signed up to pay $2.99 USD a month for the promise of exclusive Babe content. It experimented with adding paywalls, offering relationship advice and socialization opportunities behind a private Facebook group (a strategy that Facebook was actively pushing on publishers at the time). This group was probably the most successful of the offerings and it remains a community for former members. Another popular draw was a video series called “Is It Just Me?” featuring a scripted, fictionalized look into the lives’ and hijinks of a group of friends, told via scrolling text messages on a recorded iPhone screen.
Although the series was beloved as a free product, the “Is It Just Me? By Babe” Facebook page is brimming with one-star reviews. Many fans complained about the paywall. There were many others who made note of the “unprofessional behaviour” of the staff and the fact that the plotlines were impossible to follow.
“It was the drama between the friends that I liked, and they were all really funny. I watched those religiously,” says Lindsay H., a former Babe community member and “Is It Just Me?” fan. Lindsay liked the videos so much she paid the initial .99 cents/month to watch them. But when the subscription price to jump to $2.99 USD, the quality plummeted. “The storylines stopped making any sense,” Lindsay says.
When one reviewer, Anika Noel, tried to cancel her $3 USD subscription, “LMFAO alright,” was the official reply of Babe’s customer service rep.
In the end, this final experimental phase didn’t pay off. Investors failed to fund it any further. “It's very, very hard to raise money for media at the moment: We're seeing that in the sales of media businesses at low prices, and in the lack of VC funding,” Rivlin told Refinery29 in an email. “Most investors also said we were too early. We hadn't built the full Babe community product. It was still a website and Facebook groups.”
During the staff’s final meetings this past December, managers told those being let go that it was in the staffers’ best interests to keep it all quiet. According to Rivlin, this was only because managers felt they would have more bargaining power when finding new jobs and negotiating salaries if employers thought that Babe was still operational. “A lot of the team wanted to do a proper Babe-style jokey announcement about the closure once they'd all sorted their next job, so we told people not to spread it around too much before we’d done that.”
Babe ended in secrecy even though its central existence was to shamelessly lay it all bare. Babe tested the same ideologies that have been threaded into every other start-up success of this generation: Ask forgiveness, not permission. Move fast and break things. At its height Babe was a hellishly fun read, the devilish little sister to the older and wiser sites on offer. But it failed in part because that’s all it really was — a slogan of a moment in time. They were flagrantly feminist when it served them, and flagrantly not when it didn’t.
“We had a really strong culture which led to a lot of brilliant work, and a bunch of the longtime staff are still close friends,” says Herrmann, about how the toxic work culture affected Babe’s existence. “But things definitely got out of control at times, and I take a lot of responsibility for that.”
“While some of what has been said about Babe is not true, we clearly made many mistakes and I have learned a lot from that. Babe had a very young team who worked incredibly hard to try to build something special which they believed in. The fact that a small team of people in their mid- twenties built a media brand that broke massive stories and had paying subscribers is a testament to their ability and hard work,” Rivlin said, in an emailed statement in response to a detailed request for comment. "Clearly we made mistakes with our management and culture. We believed Babe should be run by the young women who wrote for it and as a result I did not put enough structure in place.”
Rivlin may have other plans. “When we closed, my original plan was to wait and then see if we could rebuild it from the UK, but I decided that was a distraction,” Rivlin says. “I still hope we will return to it one day.”
To borrow a Babeism: LMFAO, alright.