Note: This article was written by Penelope Jones, the founder of My So-Called Career, a company that helps women take ownership of their careers. She previously spent 17 years in media working for both the Guardian and Conde Nast.
It's nothing new to say that traditional media has a diversity problem, a gender problem, an inclusivity problem, a representation problem, a millennial problem, a pipeline problem - you name it, media probably has it. Perhaps it would be more refreshing to flip the narrative and accept that the mainstream media has an average white man with an opinion problem?
With so much to rail against, you might think that those excluded by traditional media could make use of new platforms and technology to create a more representative media from the bottom up, but at the moment, it feels as if the world of independent publishing is at risk of recreating the same structural inequality.
In part, this is a platform problem. Platforms such as Substack, Patreon, Ghost and Mailchimp which are facilitating much of the current 'pivot to newsletter', have much in common with the mainstream media that they are increasingly positioned as a potential alternative to. Founders are overwhelmingly white and male, and operating with all the privilege that gives them, along with significant sums of VC funding - with big name investors seeing the 'passion economy' as a new area of growth.
There is also the role of the media echochamber, highlighting stories of the 1% who occupy the top spots on any given platform and giving a skewed sense of the opportunity for the rest of us. We are told that all you need to succeed as an independent publisher is 1000 'true fans' from whom you can extract the equivalent of $100 net per year but the examples we are given are of those who achieved that with the benefit of public profiles built up over years in the public eye.
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