Payment on publication.
Three little words that will mean little to those outside of the journalism industry, but everything to the women trying to make ends meet within it – the women who write the very stories you’ve been reading here on The Flock for the last 11 months.
Why are those three words important? Because women in journalism are more likely to be freelance than men, and when work goes unpaid for months, they can’t plan financially. This uncertainty has long been an issue, but throughout the pandemic – with the added threats of falling pay, work for ‘exposure’ and company closures – women who can’t afford the insecurity have been dropping out of the industry in their droves. The result? Our media becomes even less representative of marginalised groups, less able to tell the stories that matter to those outside of its bubble. In short, we all lose.
This picture is just one of the many things that bothered me about the increasingly problematic business I’ve called home for 18 years – and it was one of the first issues I wanted to tackle when I set out on this little experiment 11 months ago, determined to prove the media could be kinder, more inclusive and a great deal more ethical. Since then, I’ve prided myself on paying our writers in the same week as they submit their work. It’s a small step, but it offers certainty in a world where it’s all too often a scarcity.
Today though, the small funding pot which has kept us going and growing for the last few months is running low – and in looking for a way to keep The Flock alive, the obvious answer would seem to be advertising – something you’ve told me you don’t want and that I’ve been determined to avoid.
You see, the problem with advertising is that it doesn’t confine itself to the pages purchased. It bleeds throughout a publication, in print or online, impacting heavily on editorial decision making – for what magazine will criticise greenwashing while H&M pays its bills, or blast restrictive and unattainable images of beauty while its advertisers favour young, white, thin models?
And then there’s the small, sustainable, ethical businesses, trying desperately to survive through the pandemic as firms like Amazon thrive. These start-ups should be celebrated but, increasingly, they find themselves slaves to Instagram’s algorithm to reach customers, unable to compete with those buying advertising space – a situation I now understand all too well, having fought to build this platform with no advertising budget whatsoever.
Since day one at The Flock, we’ve insisted on better. We hold women in high regard, we talk about the issues that matter, and we highlight individuals, initiatives and businesses based on their merit, not their marketing budget. After all, those working towards a better society shouldn’t have to pay for their time in the spotlight.
Paying it forward
All of which brings us to today, and the high-risk introduction of the Pay It Forward wall. My aim, in this unusual funding approach, is to ensure that The Flock can remain free to those who need it to be, while also securing a reliable income to keep the site alive and let our writers thrive.
From now on, our work will be limited to members, with every subscription purchased generating a free one for a woman on reduced income. No questions asked, no proof required, no two-tier systems. Just pay it forward when you can afford to, claim one back when you can’t. Simple. Supportive. Sustainable.
As brutal as it sounds, after 11 months of eking out resources to show you what The Flock could be, it really is now a case of use it or lose it. If we can move forward being funded sustainably by our own community, I really believe we can accomplish great things. But without our community, the simple truth is, we’ll not be here to do so.
Ready to join The Flock and pay it forward? You can do so here.