As an avid reader of The Pool, it was with a truly heavy heart that I learnt of it going into administration on Friday. Crisis talks had been taking place for the last few weeks but sadly they just couldn’t find a buyer and the worst happened – The Pool is no more.
Founded by Lauren Laverne and Sam Baker back in 2015, The Pool felt like an innovative fresh space. It was one in which women could read about topics they were actually interested in, written from a fellow woman’s perspective. IMAGINE – a space where you could find a recipe for dinner, get an affordable fashion fix AND come away that little bit wiser about the latest Brexit negotiations. Rather than feed us fear-mongering stories about our fertility, job prospects, or just ignore us altogether, we could educate ourselves on topics as diverse as Repeal the 8th, FGM and maternity laws. It shouldn’t have been ground breaking, but it was. It didn’t tell us to ‘tone up for summer’ whilst pushing unrealistic celebrity bodies before us. It didn’t bitch about other women (ok, sometimes it bitched about Theresa May), but on the whole it understood there was no one way to be a woman. And that’s why it’s such a crying shame that it is no more.
So if a great brand like The Pool can’t survive, what does that say about women’s journalism in general? Does this mean that a women’s publication can only be profitable if it’s pushing all the unwanted crap alongside? I seriously hope not.
I guess websites like this are part of the problem – not that for one second I’m suggesting Crummbs is in the same journalistic league as The Pool – but we, the readers, are so used to being able to consume content for free. It’s all just right there, free for us to gobble up. And we’re greedy. But let this be a stark reminder that if you love the content, you need to pay for it. Use the shopping links your favourite websites provide, sign up and subscribe to the ‘extras’. This is how to support spaces you love. It’s too late for The Pool, but let’s try not to make the same mistake again.
And it’s not just women’s spaces that have been affected, late last year Shortlist, one of the UK’s biggest men’s magazines, shut down after a decade, as they struggled to make a free magazine profitable. Online, both BuzzFeed and HuffPost have laid off staff and with the continued uncertainty over the UK’s economy, things don’t feel particularly positive right now.
I was lucky enough to write a piece for The Pool before Christmas, and although it will clearly be the last, I was so thrilled to get the commission. My heart goes out to the freelancers owed so much that they can’t afford to pay their mortgages and the team of 24 permanent members of staff who haven’t yet been paid for January (one of which is a good friend). If you have a couple of spare quid, some kind soul has set up a Go Fund Me page, which you can contribute to here. (I obviously won’t be taking any money from this myself, as I’m fortunate enough that my one unpaid invoice, whilst a shame, won’t leave me struggling to pay my bills).
In the spirit of celebrating women’s voices, here are four restaurant reviews written by exceptionally brilliant women. Yes, some are behind paywalls, whereas others ask for a small donation – and clearly that’s the price we need to pay.