On August 22, Gawker.com, the eponymous news and politics brand of media behemoth Gawker Media, officially folded. While the company’s other blogs, including Gizmodo, Jezebel, and Deadspin, will live on in some form under the wing of Univision, Gawker’s ending sent shockwaves across the media industry.
For media companies, it was a frightening reminder of how privately funded lawsuits could bring any publisher to its knees.
But for freelancers, the story was a more chilling example of how words can have personal and professional consequences. I may not be releasing 1,400-word expositions of celebrity sex tapes onto the web (and vowing not to take them down), but rulings like that of the Hogan case trickle down as precedent.
There have been a number of attempts to understand the scope of “the gig economy.” But things are complicated. For one, there’s no real standard terminology: what one study calls “the gig economy,” another refers to as “nonstandard employment,” and a third uses “alternative work.”
Not too long ago, blogging was the de facto way of making your voice heard on the internet. Now, some are beginning to ponder if blogging is all but dead.
The number of millennials who maintained a personal blog declined by half between 2006 and 2010. Not surprisingly, this roughly corresponds to the rise of social media and micro-blogging platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr.
Since then, the so-called “death of blogging” has been a recurring conversation topic in writing and media circles. In a Motherboard article about the notorious blog Hipster Runoff, Brian Merchant characterizes the heyday of blogging as “a singular moment in internet history. A blip when a persistent weirdo, without the help of venture capital or a marketing firm, without getting swallowed by a media company, could simply blog his way into modest fame and profitability.”
If you’re a freelance writer, the majority of your editors are probably male and the majority of your colleagues are probably female. That’s not just an anecdotal generalization.
The American Society of News Editors (ASNE)’s latest report showed that, on average, women make up only 37 percent of newsroom staffs and hold only 35 percent of supervisor roles. Yet women account for approximately 73 percent of journalism grads and constitute about 70 percent of enrollees in MFA programs in the U.S, according to a report from the Women’s Media Center.
As traditional salaried writing careers become rarer, both former newsroom staffers and journalistic greenhorns alike are diving in to the world of freelancing. For some it’s by choice, but for up to two-thirds, it’s circumstance.
For women, pushed to the margins of the media industry, freelancing is often the only way forward—and, not surprisingly, wages have come to reflect the gender gap.
The demand for personal essays has only exploded in the digital age. Between blogging and social media, there is an increased comfort with dissecting every kind of experience online—particularly women’s experiences. And since sensationalism usually dictates virality, the more polarizing the piece, the more ad revenue publications can potentially drive. Welcome to what Laura Bennet, an editor at Slate, calls “The First-Person Industrial Complex.”