The Dawn Chorus

Fresh Australian Feminism

Crikey Wants To “Pull Chicks”

Posted by Mel Campbell on August 20, 2009

Online media outlet Crikey.com.au has been doing some audience research and is dismayed to realise that subscribers to its daily email service are 70 per cent male. Deputy editor Sophie Black points out today that this is despite a 50/50 gender balance in its editorial staff. Meanwhile, editor Jonathan Green says (tongue in cheek, I’d assume) that even the male staffers have “considered carefully the advances of feminism over the last few decades and placed ourselves within that context, while still pulling chicks.”

Initial fact-finding missions via Twitter uncovered a mix of potential reasons, which seemed to fall into recurring themes:

  • Women are too busy fulfilling myriad domestic responsibilities, on top of their work commitments and social lives, to sit around reading about Australian politics, media and business;
  • Women are not interested in the minutiae of party politics and the Canberra press gallery
  • While Crikey’s staff may have an even gender balance, freelance contributors are largely male
  • The editorial tone is blokey and macho, from the topics chosen to the way headlines are phrased
  • The industries covered in Crikey tend to be male-dominated
  • Women aren’t prepared to pay money for Crikey subscriptions, preferring to get Crikey’s emails forwarded from others, or getting their comment and debate for free on the web

I contribute occasionally to Crikey (and some of my writing at The Enthusiast gets picked up by their new aggregator-style website), and I feel a little embarrassed that my articles about stuff like fashion, media and advertising tend to look lightweight compared to the ins and outs of the Liberal leadership. Even though these are my professional interests, I feel worried that this kind of writing is considered “female-friendly” because, to be frank, many of my Crikey stories are deeply, gleefully silly. Although it’s come to seem that way, silliness is not “women’s interest”.

Crikey is considering starting a political blog written by women, possibly similar to Double X. But is the answer to its gender woes simply to increase its coverage of  “women’s issues” – and to ghettoise these on its website – when the original problem was an imbalance among its email subscribers? Perhaps a more pertinent issue might be Crikey’s definition of ‘politics’ – and its subscriber model.

In general I find Crikey’s current policy-wonk focus quite dry and boring. For instance, it does not intrigue me in the slightest that “ASIC, normally the country’s most timid regulator, is calling for bans on commissions and a slew of tighter regulatory requirements to end conflicted advice and impose greater responsibilities on financial planners.” (from Bernard Keane’s story in today’s email, Canning advisor’s commissions would be super start to reform.)

Perhaps women are more interested in social, cultural and sexual politics – that is, real-world politics. These are not just issues directly involving women, such as sex crimes, workplace and media sexism, consumer culture and work/life balance. Instead I’d suggest that women also respond passionately and empathetically to human rights and ethical issues of all sorts, from the environment to policing tactics, health funding to drugs in sport. These are not abstract policy debates but rather humanist debates.

Crikey’s email subscription model is also a linear method of content delivery – it’s sent out to subscribers, who can write back with comments, which are then sent out in the next issue. However, Sophie Black cites studies showing that women are heavy users of blogs and social media technologies. These are not linear but use metaphors of networks and communities. (In the past, Crikey subscribers have vehemently rejected the jocular name for the site’s community, “the Crikey Army”.)

In my experience as a woman (but, sadly, not “as an athlete, and a mum”), women like to share information by emailing their friends and joining in discussions at favoured online locations, whether these be Facebook, Twitter or The Dawn Chorus. Perhaps Crikey does have more female readers – but its 30 per cent of female subscribers are forwarding the emails to their friends. Perhaps online debate among women is happening in places that don’t have paywalls.

Why do you think women aren’t subscribing to Crikey? What kind of politics do you think women want to read about? And if you don’t read Crikey, where are you heading for your political reading?

12 Responses to “Crikey Wants To “Pull Chicks””

  1. blu-k said

    I am a huge crikey fan – but not an official subscriber. My brother subscribed a few years ago and now we share a subscription – but it’s in his name, not mine.

    For me the main reason not to subscribe outright is the money. I started sharing with my brother as we realised that I was using his subscription more than he was. But he has always earned significantly more than me so, at least initially, I justified my sponging on that basis. Perhaps the old chestnut of the lack of wage parity is rearing it’s head again?

    Personally I find the information on crikey fascinating – I can’t understand why readers wouldn’t be interested that ASIC is finally cracking down on dodgy financial planning commissions.

    I would love to hear more female voices on crikey though – I found the Dawn Chorus through crikey and enjoy the articles by Eva Cox and Melissa Sweet, to name but a few.

  2. pagarama said

    I agree with Blu-K. I also went straight for that article on ASIC and the FPA and I forwarded it to people who I knew would be interested in it (mainly clients of financial planners)!

    I am a crickey subscriber. Have been for 2 years. I read it and share it with others. I just don’t make the effort to post comments on articles necessarily. Not that I would normally do so on other websites or blog sites either, so this particular habit could just be me. I use crickey mainly as a way of clarifying and distilling news because they seem to know how to get to the heart of the matter.

    I’ve never thought of crickey as blokey or sounding too male. I tend to read the articles without checking the names of the journo first. If I want to read about a specific gender related issue or similar, then I just go to specific websites.

  3. khoster said

    This is great information. I’m starting to get story ideas zooming in my head.

  4. rayedish said

    I’m a bit annoyed with Crikey’s approach to “pulling chicks”. I can see why its failing if yesterday’s edition was anything to go by. Bernard Keane’s article on the proposed changes to midwifery referred to (in the headline no less) “home birth wingnuts”. If they are serious about attracting a bigger female audience then perhaps they shouldn’t stoop to insulting reproductive rights activists and throwing round terms such as “hysterical”.

  5. MarianK said

    ‘And if you don’t read Crikey, where are you heading for your political reading?’

    On the rare occasions I scan the Crikey home page, I find very little difference between it and any mainstream media news site. Too much big ‘P’ politics, too many blokey concerns and far too much gender snobbery. The main political sites I would visit in any given week (but not every day) would be …

    General political sites:

    Online Opinion (but I stay away from gender discussions as they ALWAYS descend into venomous beatups on feminism)
    Lavartus Prodeo (ditto, but beatups slightly less venomous)
    Common Dreams
    CounterPunch
    What Really Happened (although the anti-Zionism gets a bit much at times)
    Media Lens (just love it!)
    John Pilger.com (Australia’s most underrated national treasure)

    Feminist sites:

    Women and Hollywood (never miss a day)
    The Dawn Chorus :)
    Hoyden About Town
    Feministing
    I Blame the Patriarchy (wonderful, uncompromising, unapologetic)
    F**k Politeness (ditto)

    I tend to find that, even with their ‘niche?’ audience, feminist sites give me far more insight into general politics than the mainstream media or political sites like Crikey.

  6. Mel Campbell said

    Just now Crikey has put out feelers on Twitter what to call its (so far) hypothetical “women’s iss-ewes” blog. Here are the ones they judged the “best suggestions”:

    Andrew Bolt on women by Andrew Bolt
    Bint Blog
    Lesbian Fun Park Hijinks
    dykey.com.au
    Fernwood
    Emily’s mailing list

    It’s really hard to avoid being stereotyped as a “humourless feminist” for not wanting to laugh when your own gender is belittled, but I just don’t find these funny – although I guess there is a certain dry irony in ‘Fernwood’.

  7. MarianK said

    Rayedish

    I really bristled at that ‘home birth wingnuts’ headline too. I was going to mention it in my previous post but didn’t want to make my comment too long. While homebirth advocates don’t speak for all women, it’s sloppy gender politics to needlessly insult any attitude to women’s reproduction in this way. It deserves a similar level of respect given to ‘sacred’ men’s issues like war service (and I’m not being ironic).

    Mel

    (Grumpy comment #2). With an ugly list like that, Crikey doesn’t deserve to ‘pull chicks’. What an insult to women, and what a double insult to gay women!

  8. Janice said

    They need to start a whole new website.

  9. Janice said

    By the way, I agree with everything said here. I don’t know why Crikey is having such trouble getting it.

  10. Michelle said

    It’s no wonder Crikey can’t “pull chicks” when it uses such charming terms as “pull chicks”, clearly demonstrating that it does not understand real women, and won’t even pay lip service to feminists.

    I don’t want their male contributors to act like or write like women, I want them to be good journalists. Bernard Keane’s article referring to ‘homebirth wingnuts’ (a declaration of interest: I have had a homebirth) did not endear me, and clearly demonstrated poor journalism. He mistakes the issue, as have many journalists, but I expect the good ones to get it right.

    If you want to sideline and insult women by calling them wingnuts and chicks, then I think women are well advised not to subscribe.

    Clearly, in learning how to bake and wear striped socks you missed a lesson on respect and equality.

  11. Hmm, interesting analysis/comment, Mel.

    I read Crikey but am guilty of having it forwarded to me rather than paying for membership. I do find it quite masculine and blokey in its approach often, and that does tend to stifle my interest. I don’t think that it is only the issue of the gender balance on the editorial staff, there’s clearly more to it than that. Perhaps, considering Crikey is often read and used by people in political/media/etc workplaces, it’s a reflection on the lower rates of women in middle and higher management positions in these industries. I’ve seen first-hand just how imbalanced the gender lines are in the political sphere.

  12. Nic Heath said

    I don’t think Crikey’s content is blokey – except maybe for the sport element. What I do think is that politics has been historically male-dominated sphere and women in politics have long been sidelined or objectified. I’ve just finished reading ‘And So It Went’ by Bob Ellis – a lifelong political commentator and an undeniably wonderful writer – and his ingrained sexism illustrates clearly how blokey Australian politics has been in the past. Things have changed though (still a long way to go!) and Ellis bemoans the changes thus:

    “The new wowserism, I’m calling it. No campaign fucking. No more foul-mouthed mateyness of backroom advisors of backroom ad of both genders. No more blonde jokes told, as they used to be, by female staffers. No more inter-office love sonnets. No more ministerial votes like yesterday’s in Canberra for Kate Ellis as ‘the sexiest minister’. A ghastly confluence of Karl Rove gremlins and splenetic feminists and timorous media managers is weeding out all clumsy contact (the stuff of comedy and romantic yearning, Twelfth Night, Knocked Up and Love Actually) between men and women.”

    I thought this quote did a good job of showing the sort of sexism once common in politics and as well how we still haven’t arrived at the ideal place in terms of gender relations (but thankfully splenetic feminists are on the up!).

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