Created by The Washington Post’s Emerging News Products team and run by editor in chief and creative director Amy King and deputy editor Neema Roshania Patel, The Lily combines freelance articles and curated stories from The Post to offer a collection of content that caters to millennial women and young people.
After only its first year, the publication won the Society for Features Journalism’s Excellence-in-Features Awards’ digital innovation category and a Webby for best email newsletter. “We knew that if we could take stories that this audience would be interested in and put them all together in one place and give them a certain look, that that we could probably provide a better service to young people,” King told me over Skype last month.
The publication launched in June 2017; however, it has quickly grown into a far-reaching, multiplatform media outlet. The Lily has articles ranging from popular culture and international women’s issues to comics created by diverse groups of people. The newsletters are both experimental and traditional, which has helped lead to their success. Instead of recapping stories biweekly, the newsletter serves to highlight the top news for the week and shed light on stories about women that people may not otherwise see.
“We wanted a mix of really interesting, intriguing design and really compelling stories,” King says. “The other thing about our newsletter that we think kind of helps us stand apart, and that we see readers really appreciate, is that our newsletters are really built to engage with our readers in email.
As a web branch stemming from a well-established media outlet, The Lily has focused on tightly curating their aesthetic and stories in order to make the brand pop. “It’s difficult to launch a brand within an existing legacy news organization, so we’ve really learned a lot about what makes our brand recognizable and what doesn’t, and we’re really doubling down on things that have worked,” says Roshania Patel.
Featuring a black and white theme, ample representation and stories that reflect women’s lives around the world, The Lily combines entertainment and news through a fresh, sophisticated lens. “Every single story that we publish, we create a custom illustration for,” Roshania Patel says. “We wanted to make sure that our stories stand out in crowded social feeds.”
The Lily now has more than 276,000 followers on Facebook and over 26,000 followers on Instagram. “I think we get pretty excited about Instagram. We do some pretty basic story roundups on Instagram stories, where we’ll just design a headline and link to a story and those work really well for us,” King says. “But we also try and get creative with how we’re using the tool.”
Over the next year, Roshania Patel and King aim to grow the publication further through innovative content and sourcing stories from a greater variety of writers. This year, The Lily is working to increase the number of writers for the publication by hiring a full-time staff writer. Their team includes a video editor, a contract writer, two multiplatform editors and two art directors. “We’re pretty equal on art and editorial, which is really important to our teams,” King says. “We consider the creative direction to be just as important as the stories.”
King and Roshania Patel are also working to expand their original content in the publication’s second year. “Since our original content is doing really well, we’ve been trying to think of content series that would resonate with the reader,” King said. One series that has done especially well so far is focused on mental health. It’s called the Anxiety Chronicles and it has run for more than eight weeks.
Although The Lily has seen great success in its first year, the team is dedicating their second year to improving and growing as a publication. From what has been effective to where there has been challenges, they are looking to continue cultivating a tight-knit readership through meaningful, stylized content.