After the reversal of Roe v. Wade, readers flock to publications aimed at women

In the weeks since the Supreme Court reversed Roe v. Wade, nullifying the right to abortion after almost 50 years, the consequences have quickly spread through American life. States have banned abortion or restricted access. Individual stories about the real-life impacts have become national headlines. Concerns have been raised about what the decision means for other civil rights.

And through every major news development, readers have flocked to women-focused publications supporting abortion rights to understand how it will shape their lives.

Jezebel, a feminist website started by Gawker Media in 2007, saw an 18 percent increase in traffic after Politico published a leaked draft of the decision in May. The 19th, which covers gender and politics and takes its name from the 19th Amendment, reported a 63 percent increase in readership for its abortion-related stories. And The Cut, New York magazine’s women’s site, said traffic to its coverage of abortion rights nearly tripled in June compared to the previous month.

The rise in readership has fueled a part of the digital media world that has dwindled in recent years, with many sites targeting women closing. Now readers are looking for a feminist perspective and looking for writers who have closely covered the fight for abortion rights for years.

“We’re able to cover this in an unflinching and honest way, with a perspective that I think a lot of traditional media outlets can’t do,” said Laura Bassett, editor-in-chief of Jezebel.

Ms. Bassett previously covered women’s rights and health for nearly a decade at HuffPost. She took over Jezebel in September 2021. One of her first moves, she said, was to hire a Texas-based reproductive rights reporter in anticipation of the Supreme Court decision.

“This was going to be the year that you would have this legendary feminist blog, maybe the first feminist media site that brought a lot of people into the media,” Bassett said. “And either you meet this moment or you don’t.”

Jezebel helped inspire new publications aimed at women in the 2000s and 2010s. But many of those blogs and websites struggled with digital media’s complicated business model that has made it difficult for even the big mainstream publications to stay afloat.

Most have already closed their doors. xoJane, founded by former Sassy and Jane editor Jane Pratt, closed in 2016. In 2018, The Hairpin (a sister site to The Awl), Lenny Letter (an online newsletter by actress and writer Lena Dunham), and Rookie Mag (a magazine by then teen style icon Tavi Gevinson) went out of business. The popular Feministing blog closed in 2019 after 15 years. The same year, Vice Media dropped its women’s vertical, Broadly. Bitch Media, a feminist publisher and magazine that started in 1996, closed in June.

The rest of the publications have found their moment. Readers outraged by the erosion of abortion rights in the United States seemed to be looking for outlets to match their reactions and provide updates and analysis as well as practical information on what the new legislation means for their state, how to help other women or even how to get an abortion themselves.

Alexandra Smith, audience director for The 19th, which was founded in 2020, said traffic growth had been “exponential”. She said the surge in search traffic had continued long after the June 24 court decision, with readers now seeking information about how the decision could affect access to Plan B and IUDs. They were also looking to read about the impacts on other civil rights, such as marriage equality.

“We didn’t launch with a focus on just providing the daily news updates, because so many other sources already have that covered,” he said. “So we see people looking for this context, looking for implications for other parts of their lives and that’s the niche that we’ve been able to fill.”

19th content is free to readers and available for other publications who want to republish it.

Priyanka Mantha, a spokeswoman for New York magazine, said The Cut had increased coverage of abortion before Dobbs’ decision, including preparing the cover story for the May 23 issue: “This magazine can help you get an abortion.” , which offers a guide for access to abortion, help and legal aid. Ms. Mantha said traffic to The Cut’s coverage of abortion rights had risen sharply in June, although engagement dropped in July.

Jezebel has focused on explanations and news updates and has highlighted local news reports. Jezebel saw the most website traffic from him all year in June, the month the Supreme Court handed down its decision, according to Mark Neschis, a spokesman for G/O Media, Jezebel’s owner.

“In a way, I think we make pieces of writing that should be readable by everyone, but am I trying to expand Jezebel’s audience to the pro-life crowd? No, I’m not,” said Ms. Bassett.

She hopes the website can keep its readers engaged amid the ever-changing terrain for abortion access and the looming midterm election in November.

“It’s not like we’re reporting the same thing day after day, week after week, it’s like an evolving beast, so I don’t see this going away any time soon,” Ms Bassett said. “I think it will continue to be the main story in this country for a while.”

Jessica Valenti, a feminist writer and author, has turned her attention in recent weeks to providing a daily roundup of abortion-related updates to readers of her newsletter Substack, All in Her Head, after hearing from many who were overwhelmed by the torrent of news from across the country.

“It occurred to me that just trying to distill everything that was going on at the state level, at the national level, these random local stories, would be helpful and give people the bigger picture they were looking for without having to spend hours online. “. she said in an interview.

Ms. Valenti, co-founder of the now-closed Feministing blog, said that since the Supreme Court decision, the number of free subscribers to her newsletter has increased by more than 30 percent, while the number of paid subscribers has increased by 70 percent. hundred. .

She said she thought people signed up for paid subscriptions because it gave them access to a community where people could talk to each other and commiserate without the online bullying that often comes with other social platforms.

“Right now, people are very angry,” Valenti said. “They want a place that is furious with them.”

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