And that readership is expanding. The site launched 15 months ago at Harvard while Kaplan and Hanger were seniors and has spread to more than 75 college campuses nationwide. They keep a legion of 750 students known as campus correspondents writing articles for the site while running promotions for advertisers. Two Her Campus blogs are syndicated on Huffington Post. Like most Huffington Post bloggers, campus contributors are unpaid. (The site's three principals draw a salary, but don't reveal how much.) Unlike HuffPo bloggers, campus correspondents also hand out coupons.
"There are college marketing firms that will put together street teams; there are Web sites that speak to one audience or another," Hanger says. "We marry the two — the people that produce the content for our Web site are also our street team. Because they have this platform online, you can read about what they're doing on campus; there's one cohesive message."
In addition to giveaways and advertorials, the site runs feature articles geared toward college survival. Those are divided into six categories: style, health, love, life, career, and world. Topics generally adhere to those in conventional women's magazines, but with a corporate slant: "Starbucks Fall Drinks: Which to Pick and Which to Skip," "The Importance of the Facebook Relationship Status: It's, Well, Complicated."
Campus correspondents must be current college students. Kaplan and Hanger graduated from Harvard last year and the third founder, 21-year-old CTO and creative director Annie Wang, is taking a leave of absence. Her Campus writers, however, need to be enrolled. The August after their graduation date, they're out.
"At some publications, you have women in their 20s and 30s writing articles for teenage girls," Hanger says. "Our writers don't have to take that extra step to get inside a college girl's head to write an article for her. If you're a college girl, you know exactly what college girls care about, what they think about different things."
Her Campus's blurring of marketing and journalism has made them the toast of the town. Their business plan won Harvard College's i3 student innovation challenge in March 2009, securing Her Campus national attention and free office space.
A week after the site launched, the Globe featured it and, more recently, named all three founders among the most stylish Bostonians. Her Campus writers have provided content for Seventeen. This summer, Inc. magazine included the founders in a list of the top 30 entrepreneurs under age 30. And last month, Glamour honored the girls at their Women of the Year award ceremony, where they received their Amazing Young Women awards from Chelsea Clinton.
They've found plenty of support from influential individuals as well. Cathryn Cronin Cranston, publisher of the Columbia Journalism Review, sits on the board. Joanna Coles, editor of Marie Claire, serves as a mentor.
"I read about them in the New York Times, then I called them," Coles tells me on the phone from the Hearst offices. "That was over a year ago, and we've been in touch ever since. We're working on a couple projects together." Coles admires their youth, their business savvy, and their editorial chops. "I just think they're fun. They're lively, they're clever, they're fun. They embody the Marie Claire spirit, and I just feel inspired by them."