The last ten years has witnessed a seismic shift in female-focused media. Impacted, and in many ways energised by changes in both society and technology we now have a media which is the preserve not only of established media companies but also of innovative startups and increasingly far sighted brands.
Digital only brands
A decade ago technology enabled the largest explosion of female focused media ever. The shift of blogging from being a niche activity to a mainstream one empowered a new generation of content creators and spawned many fascinating communities. Fashion and parent bloggers took their stories increasingly to audiences so large that they dwarfed the reach of mainstream publishers.
The media quickly learned lessons from the bloggers and started to create their own online portals which were in many ways more community focused and engagement driven than before. As well as the likes of Cosmopolitan, Elle, and many others creating online version of their sites, in addition to their social media output, there was also a wave of venture capital backed new websites such as Popsugar and Refinery29 in the US initially (though both are global now) and The Pool, which mirrored the inclusivity and informality of the blogging world, yet delivered high quality content that could rival established media brands.
Sadly The Pool is no longer. Its owners pulled the plug earlier this year leaving thousands of dedicated readers bereft. Critics suggested that The Pool never really adapted its business model to an era where advertising is only a part of a media companies’ revenue stream. The Pool’s demise does underline how difficult it can be for independent British media companies to scale their offering.
So at the start of 2019 mainstream female media is still often the preserve of the big titles which have dominated the genre for decades. Except they have evolved in many ways adding innovations like video and developing many new revenue streams. It will be interesting to see whether the difficulties that have afflicted some venture backed media companies like BuzzFeed and Vice will impact on other more female focused contemporaries.
As has been chronicled many times on this site the one media explosion that few pundits saw coming was podcasting. In our Audio report, we saw that 48 million Americans listen to podcasts on a weekly basis. The numbers in the UK are lower as a percentage, but are still high and growing with 23% of Brits surveyed in early 2018 claiming to have listened to a podcast in the last month. The publishing industry has responded with many of its key players now offering their own voice based programming to rival podcasts from the burgeoning indie sector.
What is starting to occur now is that brands are waking up to the potential of the format. There are now lots of good examples of female focused brands who have created podcasts either on their own or in tandem with established podcasters.
Video too has become a major part of the media mix with many media brands working with companies to deliver everything from TV style documentary content through behind the scenes glimpses of live events.
One of the most interesting areas in recent years has been the growth of niche publishing. The independent print sector appears to once again be thriving and at the forefront of its success are a host female focused titles such as The Gentlewoman and Sum Zine.
The magazines chime with their audiences as they offer visually stunning, aspirational content which can only really be delivered via premium, quality print magazines. Increasingly brands have noted the success of these innovators and are beginning start to work more closely with them, often subtle and intelligent ways.
There have been some advances have been made in recent years, Gender and Power Professor at The University of East Anglia, Helen Warner, believes that mainstream media still has some way to go before it truly reflects the diversity of all of its audience.
Professor Warner said: “Women and non-binary folk have always created their own content because mainstream media have historically sidelined their interests/represented them poorly – if at all!
You need a space like Gal-dem written by and for women of colour when it takes publications like Vogue over 100 years to feature a black woman on the cover of their September issue. What we’re seeing now is perhaps increased visibility of these kinds of media texts thanks to technology but they’ve always been there.”
The discussion and importance around creating your own content is huge and it is something that Sharon Flaherty of CMA members BrandContent will be exploring at greater depth at the Women in Content breakfast.
Ultimately, similar to all type of publishing, female focused media has changed radically in the last ten or so years. Working out how to respond to these changes should be top of the agenda of any company that seeks to create marketing content, no what format or platform, which seeks to appeal to women.