Last week, Jezebel launched and shuttered the subsite Titanic.Jezebel.com, devoted to the popular James Cameron film Titanic. This is the story of how it began.
BOBBY FINGER: I’ll begin with a question for the editors. How do you remember this subblog beginning?
EMMA CARMICHAEL: Does anyone remember?
KATE DRIES: I remember saying no.
BOBBY FINGER: I also remember you saying no, Kate.
JULIANNE ESCOBEDO SHEPHERD: I remember Emma typed in editors slack something to the effect of, “Do you guys think it would be funnier to have a full week of Titanic, or just a Titanic Tuesday?” I voted for just one day, but clearly I was wrong.
EMMA CARMICHAEL: I didn’t really believe we could sustain four full days of content. And yet...
JOANNA ROTHKOPF: Yeah. We all thought Titanic Tuesday but then there was so much content. And then we said if there was too much Titanic content for Titanic Tuesday we could expand to Titanic Wednesday, Titanic Thursday, etc
BOBBY FINGER: Emma, do you remember the reaction from IT when you requested a new subdomain?
EMMA CARMICHAEL: Yeah. I DM’d Lacey [Donohue] and she was like, “We don’t really make subsites anymore.” And I was like, “But we want to make a Titanic subsite.” And she was like, “OK, we can make an exception.”
I filled out Gawker Media’s custom domain registration on a Google Doc, at 11:26 a.m. on August 9, Gawker tech hero Ernie Deeb wrote to me, “30 min or so.” At 11:52 a.m. he wrote, “Should be all set now.” And it was. That’s pretty much how the subdomain got started.
BOBBY FINGER: Wow. That’s great.
BOBBY FINGER: Now I want to get the wonderful writers in on the discussion, as they’re the ones responsible for keeping Titanic.Jezebel.com afloat for four days. What were your first thoughts when hearing about the subblog, and how you chose the subjects of your pieces for it?
I thought it was a joke. Remember when I was like, “Wait”?
BOBBY FINGER: I do, Clover. It’s one of the most vivid memories I have of the entire Titanic.Jezebel.com experience. You were surprised to find out it was actually happening.
KELLY FAIRCLOTH: I immediately saw the groundbreaking potential of the site. I thought, “Wow, at last—the single greatest movie of the career of James Cameron and also of the 1990s more broadly will finally get its due.” I feel that, in the end, we lived up to that potential!”
ELLIE SHECHET: I missed the pitch meeting because I was on vacation, and came back very confused. I said:
EMMA CARMICHAEL: And then... you got it.
ELLIE SHECHET: And then... I got it
CLOVER HOPE: Tbh, it was genius to extend it to a week.
ELLIE SHECHET: I was still confused honestly, but everyone was asking for admin access to the subblog so I felt left out and asked for admin access too. And then I looked up “Titanic” on YouTube and found the alternate ending. And that was my post.
CLOVER HOPE: Same Ellie. How I chose my “Brows” post is that I googled “titanic scenes” and watched the dinner scene and noticed their brows.
MADELEINE DAVIES: I chose my first post subject because I was looking at Leonardo DiCaprio’s Instagram and thought, “Wow, this sucks.”
BOBBY FINGER: Wow.
EMMA CARMICHAEL: Visionary.
KELLY FAIRCLOTH: Emma, “visionary” is the first word that comes to mind when I remember my experience at the Titanic.Jezebel.com subsite.
ELLIE SHECHET: Crazy that we are sharing these secrets.
BOBBY FINGER: Interesting how crucial Google was to this entire thing.
CLOVER HOPE: When I saw Bobby’s first post, I thought, “Wow it’s happening.”
ELLIE SHECHET: I remember seeing the little Jezebel Titanic ship and feeling really impressed and overwhelmed that Bobby made that. Wait Bobby you made that right?
BOBBY FINGER: Yes.
CLOVER HOPE: Oh yeah, how did you make it?
BOBBY FINGER: I had originally planned to make just one, but after realizing Kinja was capable of using GIFs as subdomain headers I decided to change it every day. If Titanic needed two VHS tapes, I knew a single GIF wouldn’t do.
EMMA CARMICHAEL: I believe we had a few mockups for the original logo—is that right Bobby?
BOBBY FINGER: Yes Emma.
EMMA CARMICHAEL: The moment I knew we had really found something special was when Ellie posted her classic “alternate ending” post on August 10 at 5 p.m.
ELLIE SHECHET: Wow thanks Emma. I spent a really long time on it, so that’s nice to hear.
KELLY FAIRCLOTH: You know I think what was really magical—that’s the word I’d use, magical—was to watch enthusiasm spread across Gawker Media Group. It was just sort of this funny little project that Jezebel cooked up (those wild broads at Jezebel!), but once we got it up and running, our colleagues began just clamoring to participate. That’s really the word I’d use, clamoring. Bobby, would you agree that they were clamoring?
BOBBY FINGER: I think “clamoring” is the perfect word, Kelly. A spot-on description of the mood of the people.
JOANNA ROTHKOPF: Yeah, sometimes blogging can be a slog but seeing the enthusiasm for Titanic was really inspiring. It reminded me why I became a blogger to begin with.
SOPHIE KLEEMAN: I actually think I stumbled upon it in the wild. I didn’t know it existed and then I saw a tweet and found it. I was delighted. Particularly with the logo. Also i was surprised there was enough content—boy, was there enough content.
ELLIE SHECHET: I guess the memory that really sticks out the most for me is from Titanic Friday, when I realized that Bobby was watching Titanic for the second time in a row.
GIRI NATHAN: I think I also stumbled upon it. I was sitting near but not in front of a big screen playing the movie Titanic. I “listened” to the movie twice in a row. Then i thought about why I’d never seen this 1997 classic. I’ve still never seen it. I know what sound it makes, though.
BOBBY FINGER: Wow Giri. You were able to contribute without having seen it! The movie still had an impact on you. I love that.
MADELEINE DAVIES: When I learned that our dream of Titanic subblog would become a reality, I was surprised—not because I thought it was a bad idea—but because—in a world of chaos—you often find yourself shocked when something so reasonable and, I dunno, natural is allowed to play out.
It’s like how you convince yourself that soulmates aren’t real because it’s too painful to admit that you haven’t found yours and then one day—BAM—there they are. That’s how I felt about titanic.jezebel.com.
JULIANNE ESCOBEDO SHEPHERD: I feel like you should talk about the progression of the gifs, Bobby; a subtle flourish that helped make this subblog great.
BOBBY FINGER: Why don’t I just show the progression?
BOBBY FINGER: Question for the room: what character from Titanic do you most identify with, and why?
ALEX PAREENE: After this week, the Captain.
MADELEINE DAVIES: The character I most relate to is Fabrizio because, based my life so far, I’m pretty sure my purpose is to piggyback on other people’s decisions while adding some annoying-yet-colorful background noise, then get crushed by a smokestack.
JULIANNE ESCOBEDO SHEPHERD: I don’t really know, maybe Rose but when she’s old, and only in the alternate ending when she’s threatening to toss a trillion dollar diamond necklace into the sea.
ELLIE SHECHET: I relate to that sad single blonde girl who Rose watched fall down the ship. I just feel like that would happen to me.
KELLY FAIRCLOTH: The Unsinkable Molly Brown, because she’s fat and just slightly vulgar and loves clothing with feathers.
GIRI NATHAN: The only “characters” Iremember were the sounds of guns (disturbing, surprising) and sounds of Celine Dion (comforting, familiar), but I can’t say I “identify” with either.
JOANNA ROTHKOPF: I am the man at the fancy dinner who says “All life is a game of luck!!!” because I only have one thought and at parties I keep saying it loudly until someone nods at me.
CLOVER HOPE: I relate most to Cal because I always forget where I put things.
MADELEINE DAVIES: (laughs)
BOBBY FINGER: Well I would like to thank you all for your participation in both Titanic.Jezebel.com and this oral history. Here’s to making it count.