Lena Dunham's Newsletter Lenny Gets a Site, Ads From Hearst

Hearst Will Syndicate Lenny's Content on Its Own Sites

By Published on .

Reprints Reprints

Lenny's new homepage.
Lenny's new homepage. Credit: Hearst Digital Media

Lena Dunham's female-focused newsletter Lenny isn't a celebrity side project. The creator of HBO's "Girls" is turning it into a money-making media company with help from Hearst.

Introduced in September by Ms. Dunham and "Girls" showrunner Jenni Konner, Lenny's twice-weekly newsletter has carried headline-grabbing interviews with and columns from women in power -- such as a Q&A with Hillary Clinton and Jennifer Lawrence's recent essay on Hollywood paying female stars less than their male counterparts -- and now it will carry ads from Hearst.

The magazine giant has signed an exclusive deal with Ms. Dunham and Ms. Konner to handle ad sales for Lenny. But the deal goes beyond advertising as it extends Lenny's footprint beyond the email newsletter and expands Hearst's profile among twenty- and thirty-somethings.

Lenny "is a media brand for an active, intelligent, motivated, millennial audience," said Troy Young, president of digital media at Hearst.

On Tuesday LennyLetter.com will relaunch to better showcase the newsletter's content. Previously the site's home page only featured a form to sign up for the email newsletter, though people could click a link to check out the newsletter archives. Hearst's MediaOS publishing platform, which already supports the newsletter, will power the redesigned site. By offering the technology underpinning the site and newsletter, Hearst will be able to distribute Lenny's content across its own sites and create ads specifically designed to appear alongside that content.

"We will own the media rights to the newsletter, to LennyLetter.com and to the content as it is distributed through our touchpoints," Mr. Young said. Hearst's sites including Cosmopolitan, Elle and Marie Claire will present Lenny's content on their properties "as if it was a syndicated columnist," he added. "It's almost like a modern Dear Abby."

"The decision to carry ads on Lenny was made before we ever launched," Ms. Dunham and Ms. Konner said in an emailed response to questions. "We knew we couldn't pay for it out of our own pockets forever, so we considered both subscription and ad-based models. Ultimately we knew advertising was the way to go so that no readers were excluded by lack of funds." The pair said they chose to work with Hearst because the magazine publisher "knew what we were all about" and was "best positioned as a digital company to help us take what we were already doing and make it accessible to their readers and advertisers in a way that we were comfortable with."

"The decision to carry ads on Lenny was made before we ever launched," Ms. Dunham and Ms. Konner said in an emailed response to questions. "We knew we couldn't pay for it out of our own pockets forever, so we considered both subscription and ad-based models. Ultimately we knew advertising was the way to go so that no readers were excluded by lack of funds." The pair said they chose to work with Hearst because the magazine publisher "knew what we were all about" and was "best positioned as a digital company to help us take what we were already doing and make it accessible to their readers and advertisers in a way that we were comfortable with."

Hearst plans to sell traditional display ads as well as so-called "native" ads -- pieces of branded content that mimic editorial articles and videos and are created using the same publishing tools as Hearst's editorial content -- that will appear within the newsletter, on LennyLetter.com and on Hearst's own sites.

"We will work with the Lenny editorial team to develop content and ideas for advertisers. We'll also use the other distribution points, LennyLetter.com and our sites, as a place to partner with advertisers," Mr. Young said. Hearst has yet to sign a deal with a brand to advertise on Lenny, but Mr. Young said the company's sales effort will "start in earnest" on Tuesday when it announces the deal with Lenny at its MagFront event.

Most Popular