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?