Trolling Gwyneth Paltrow over some of the more extreme suggestions on Goop has long been something of a sport in the media, but Goop founder Paltrow knows exactly what she’s doing. You might even say she and Goop CEO Lisa Gersh are trolling the media right back–and attracting more and more customers and readers to its website in the process.
On stage at the Fast Company Innovation Festival in New York City today, Paltrow and Goop CEO Lisa Gersh told journalist Katie Couric that they believe all the attention–positive and negative–the lifestyle and e-commerce website receives is good for their brand, and maybe even for society.
Take, for example, “vaginal steaming,” the unusual personal spa treatment featured in Goop last year that spawned thousands of snarky blog posts across the Internet.
When Couric brought up the now-infamous practice, Paltrow responded with, “Ooh! Have you tried it?”
“No,” Couric said as the audience erupted in laughter, adding, “This just now qualifies as the weirdest interview I’ve ever done.”
“My editorial director and I, Elise (Loehnen), when we say something [in the Goop newsletter], we sort of place bets sometimes, asking, ‘Hmmm, how bad is this going to be?'” Paltrow said, smiling. “And in [the case of vaginal steaming], because it was funny, I thought this was gonna be a thing.”
But Paltrow says she wasn’t fazed by the tidal wave of ridicule that swept across the Internet after Goop’s post about the practice went viral. “That kind of thing doesn’t bother me at all, especially when we’re talking about a healing modality that’s actually kinda great,” Paltrow said, prompting Couric to repeat “a healing modality” back to her.
The Goop founder and her partner were not simply unfazed by the outcry; they thought it was a positive result. “We are a media company, as well as a commerce company,” Gersh pointed out, “and you want people to pay attention to what you are saying. For most media companies, that’s a really good thing, and that happens to us all the time, people pay attention to what we say. Sometimes they say not nice things, but for the most part people say nice things,” she added.
Paltrow agreed. “To Lisa’s point, I think, in a media company, it’s good when people are talking about your content,” she said. “Especially if you stand by your content: It’s not like we’re a gossip site, we’re not saying mean things–we have no negativity in the website at all. If we try a restaurant and we don’t like it, we just don’t add it. That’s part of our values–we believe in positivity and promoting, we don’t say anything bad,” she said, adding “to get attention for our content is never a bad thing.”
Couric also asked the actress about Goop’s reputation for featuring wildly expensive and sometimes rather ridiculous product suggestions. But Paltrow and her CEO Lisa Gersh insist their website isn’t just aimed at the 1%.
“We sell what we love and what we are looking for and we want to buy–and that might be a Stella McCartney skirt that’s on the higher end of the price point range, and it might be an $8 lip balm, it might be a $15 T-shirt,” Paltrow told the packed auditorium in New York. “If people have that stigma attached to the site, it’s not actually accurate,” she said.
But, the actress added mischievously, “Sometimes we just like to have fun, and make fun of ourselves and put on [Goop.com] some ridiculous thing just to make ourselves laugh.”
Case in point: “Our gift guide is coming out on Thursday,” Paltrow said, inciting laughter from the audience as she rubbed her hands together and gleefully exclaimed “Ha-ha!” (It has become an annual tradition for the media to click its tongue at some of the outlandish product suggestions published in the site’s annual holiday guide.) “This year we actually have a number of gift guides, but one of them is just called ‘Ridiculous,'” Paltrow laughed. “I think there’s a trip to space on there, and a hot air balloon or something,” she continued. “I think the most ridiculous thing is there’s a website that’s selling solid-gold dumbbells.”
The Goop team might be trolling us a little in their gift guide this year, but Paltrow says that there isn’t anything on the site that she wouldn’t personally recommend or buy. And she thinks that big brouhahas over the website’s content are good not only for the brand, but perhaps even for society.
Take, for example, that infamous “conscious uncoupling” post that Paltrow and her ex-husband Chris Martin published on Goop.com which, as Paltrow puts it, “broke the fucking Internet.”
“At the time, I was like ‘Oh, my gosh.’ It was such a hard time personally, and then you have this added layer of all this criticism,” she recalled. But with time, she added, “You look back, you think, well, this is actually kind of a good thing to talk about, introducing [the idea that] you could break up in a way where you remain a family, even if you’re not in a couple. What would be that knock-on effect, on your children, on your community?”
“You look back and you think, you know, I really am glad that happened because it opened a discussion in terms of how maybe there’s a gentler way to do something like that,” Paltrow said.