A Byline Count for the Next Generation: How Diverse Are the Blogs and Magazines Most Millennials Read?
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|A Byline Count for the Next Generation: How Diverse Are the Blogs and Magazines Most Millennials Read?|
We know that the most prestigious magazines in the world don't publish enough women, and we count their bylines every year to confirm it. Last month, VIDA released its annual inventory of the gender ratio in the pages of magazines like Harper's, The Atlantic, and The New Yorker. With the exception of Granta, every magazine surveyed published far more men than it did women.
It's depressing to see stats like this, year after year. The media old boys' club is predictably slow to change. Then again, many of these magazines have a graying subscriber base and were not even founded this century. What about the magazines young people are reading—and making—today? What about the writers we'll be reading next year, five years from now, 10 years down the line?
Enter GOOD's own byline count—our accounting of the gender split at magazines and websites Millennials write and read. Outlets like VICE, Rookie, Grantland, and Wired don't just publish the best writers of our generation—they also serve as a talent pipeline to the established, top-level magazines. Let a Wired byline marinate for a few years, and it could lead to a New Yorker staff writer gig or a GQ cover.
So we picked 10 magazines and websites that are thought leaders among young people—on everything from sports to tech to music to teen culture—and took an inventory. We decided to conduct our count the way we actually read this stuff: One full week of front-page content, online. (See slide 12 for more on our methodology.)
Here's what we found.
Gawker: The biggest, meanest blog can also be a young writer's portal to a New York Times Magazine confessional, New York media domination, or your own smaller, nicer media empire. Today, Gawker's flagship site is helmed by a male editor-in-chief and a female second-in-command, along with ten male contributors and two female ones. In a week, it publishes about 70 percent male bylines. Gawker also publishes Jezebel, a website for women that is almost exclusively bylined by them (with the occasional guest post from a man about, say, jizz)—along with a host of highly specific websites, including ones about sports, cars, gaming, and sci-fi, that cater to predominantly male interests.
The Awl: An irreverent blog launched by Gawker outcasts Alex Balk and Choire Sicha, the Awl can be a launchpad to too-real celebrity profile or an avenue for an already-established name to spin a column into a book. Week-to-week, The Awl is heavily male because it's mostly written by the men who started it. But following its 2009 launch, it soon added companion sites Splitsider (on comedy) and The Hairpin (on women), the latter of which is publishing some of the funniest and most relevant work by women on the internet. That means that at least a third of the empire's content is for and by women—it just doesn't always make it to the flagship site.
Pitchfork. If you're like us, you think of pioneering indie music website Pitchfork as an emporium for alterna-bros. We're wrong. On a week-to-week basis, the website publishes an impressive number of female bylines—in our count, 59 percent of Pitchfork's top-level content was written by women—even though its editorial staff leans heavily on male names. Next stop: SPIN.
McSweeney's. Dave Eggers' quirky quarterly gives up-and-coming literary types the chance to be published alongside established writers like Joyce Carol Oates and cult heroes like Michael Ian Black. McSweeney's Internet Tendency, the quaterly's online-only arm, doesn't publish much—we only counted 11 pieces hitting the homepage in our week-long count—but its gender split is nearly even.
Grantland: Oof. Bill Simmons' nine-month-old ESPN-owned sports and culture startup is publishing some of the best magazine-style content on the web, most of it by dudes. We counted only Grantland's front-page content—in a week, it featured one female byline—but the website does a better job of fitting women writers into its pop culture blog, which regularly features the work of Molly Lambert and Tess Lynch.
Wired: Since the mid-'90s, this monthly glossy has been the dead-tree bible for the digital set. These days, its print magazine competes with some of the big-name publications for A-list writers. It also publishes a slew of blogs on everything from science to national security to geek dads. And as even its parenting slant would imply, the homepage content skews decidedly male.
Thought Catalog: Think of it as a launching pad to the launching pads—this public confessional is the perfect space for a young writer to work through her issues before packaging them as a memoir or a Modern Love column. Thought Catalog publishes the type of personal deep-thinks that have traditionally drawn female bylines. Our one-week count found that the site, founded by Chris Lavergne, features slightly more men than women.
Rookie. Rookie is an online magazine specifically for and by teenage girls—founder Tavi Gevinson is 15—so it makes sense that it's mostly written by girls and women (and this week, Ira Glass). We included this publication because it's earned a readership that's years (sometimes decades) post-high-school. It's also doing great work that engages the youngest readers, writers, and thinkers, and represents one possible escape hatch for total male media domination—if dude-heavy magazines won't publish you, build your own.
GOOD. In our one-week sample, GOOD published slightly more women than we did men. Executive Editor Ann Friedman has pointed out that gender parity is often a top-down mandate: When magazines are helmed by women and men with diverse professional networks, the bylines reflect that diversity. "My professional network is mostly women, our editors are mostly women, and it's always seemed to me like I disproportionately assign to women writers. But I was wrong," Friedman wrote recently about the gender split of GOOD's print product, which today stands at about 50-50. "In 2012, it's still astoundingly easy to conflate mere parity with female domination."
Methodology: Our count examined the top bylines published on these websites between Monday, Feb. 27 and Sunday, March 4. Bylines published under the organization’s name—or bizarre, fake names we could not decipher—were discarded. We didn’t include photographers or designers, just writers.
We knew we weren’t comparing apples to apples, so we took a different strategy with each publication to help level the playing field. For GOOD, Gawker, VICE, Rookie, Thought Catalog, McSweeney’s, and The Awl—where most content is published together in a straightforward blog format—our count relied on each publication’s main RSS feed. In the case of The Awl and Gawker, which sometimes feature partner content from its companion sites on their front pages, those featured posts were not included. Wired’s count came from its "Top Stories" RSS. Pitchfork’s count added RSS results for its album reviews, track reviews, features, and news. Grantland’s count was based on a feed of its front-page stories.
If we missed anything, let us know.