The G/O Media corporation is shutting down feminist website Jezebel, not because Jezebel’s not awesome—because Jezebel is, and was, and was part of blogging when blogging was awesome and new and potentially impactful:
Jezebel and its peer sites interrupted this misogynist turn [of the 1990s], offering an invaluable alternative. They pioneered a voice-forward, irreverent and acerbic take on news, culture and women’s issues, advancing a tone and vocabulary that would have been unthinkable in print media, but which were the lingua franca of the internet.
From the beginning, the feminist blogs of the 2000s and 2010s allowed their writers to express anger, frustration, sarcasm and delight – emotions that were banished from the tone of more traditional journalism and frequently taboo for public expression by women to begin with. The sites cultivated a profound loyalty from their readers, inviting them into a club of shared conviction and inspiring them to build their identities as feminists, thinkers and allies of the staff writers long before anyone learned the word “parasocial” [Moira Donegan, “The Death of Jezebel Is the End of an Era of Feminism. We’re Worse Off Without It,” Guardian, 2023.11.11].
And Jezebel’s closure is not because it couldn’t make money. It just wasn’t making enough money for the Wall Streeters who bought it:
There is one way to see the closing of Jezebel as a symptom of an ailing media business. Journalism layoffs have become something of a grim ritual, with dozens of talented, hardworking and well-sourced writers taking to social media to announce their need for new work whenever the industry turns the corner on a bad quarter. Media companies stumbled at the turn of the last century, when the advent of the internet made print advertising dramatically less profitable; they never recovered. Digital media arose, but has not been able to eke out sufficient profit growth as social media evolves and fractures, and traffic becomes harder to juice. Jezebel’s slow death over the past few years was exacerbated by the injection of private equity into the media industry, a medicine that has turned out to be worse than the disease.
Jezebel, like many digital outlets that have shut down in recent years, had the potential to be respectably profitable. But it did not have the potential to be exponentially profitable, and exponentially increasing profits are what private equity demands. In this story, Jezebel became a casualty of greed [Donegan, 2023.11.11].
Nobody in online media seems to be making lots of money, not the folks like Jezebel upsetting the apple cart, and not the more traditional neo-papers who help pour the sugar into the usual sweetened applesauce. Is there any remaining viable business model to support independent, authentic, and useful sources of information like Jezebel on the Internet?