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March 31, 2023updated 05 Apr 2023 3:39pm

Gal-dem closes after eight years citing impact of reduced brand budgets

The brand said it is "increasingly challenging" to run a small media business.

By Charlotte Tobitt

Gal-dem, an online magazine brand staffed by and telling the stories of women and non-binary people of colour, is closing down after eight years citing financial difficulties.

The website, which has culture, music, politics and investigations among its main content areas, told readers on Friday afternoon that “continuing to operate as a business is unfortunately no longer feasible”.

“The hard decision to close the business has come from difficulties we’ve faced in stabilising our position both financially and structurally,” it said in a statement.

“Keeping a small, independent media company that is reliant on partnerships afloat over the last three years has been increasingly challenging.

“Through a global pandemic, brand budget reductions and economic downturn, we have worked tirelessly to reconfigure how we operate and keep gal-dem going through it all. And while we’re passionate about our membership model, it’s been difficult to sustain the level of growth needed here to support our work in the long term.”

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The membership model was launched in March 2020 initially to help support the publication through the Covid-19 pandemic. The brand, which also printed the occasional print magazine, has no paywall but members were offered perks including events and giveaways.

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According to a membership update earlier this month, the site was hoping to reach 6,000 members so it could continue its mission to “be proudly independent, challenge the whitewashed media landscape and most importantly, platform the work of marginalised communities”. Previous reporting showed the site had reached 3,000 members by the end of 2020.

Gal-dem made a small number of redundancies in the past month, similar to many media companies struggling with the current economic headwinds. Its current “meet the team” page lists 12 members of staff, of whom two – senior editor, politics Naomi Larsson Piñeda and music editor Charis McGowan – revealed earlier in March they had left the company.

The brand is now building a directory to be published that will list its contributors in the hope that other media organisations will find them for future projects. It also published a list of 17 other independent UK-based media organisations for its audience to support.

The statement on Friday continued: “There was always a delicate balance to strike in marrying our values, rooted in our beginnings as a volunteer-led organisation, with profitability that was needed to sustain and reinvest in the business, all while delivering ground-breaking creative work that served our community with an organisational structure that works.

“It’s a balance we committed to navigating carefully and responsibly, and while we’re incredibly proud of the projects that we created, it also came with its own set of challenges.”

According to Similarweb, Gal-dem had 214,700 visits in February, down from 247,900 in December – and more than 600,000 visits in July 2021.

Gal-dem was founded in 2015 by Liv Little, who stepped down from her role as chief executive in September 2020 to become president of the board. She said at the time her goal continued to be to share stories from “voices which are so often left out of the mainstream” and that: “Our dreams are big and beautiful and our potential to shape dialogue and debate is unprecedented.”

Little led the site to grow from a small volunteer-led operation to a team of paid staff interviewing high-profile names from Oprah Winfrey and actress Michaela Coel to British singer Ray BLK.

Gal-dem helped to make its name via various collaborations with others in the media industry. It has twice worked with Guardian Weekend, first in August 2018 with a takeover that saw them fill the magazine with work exclusively by women and non-binary people of colour highlighting their mission to bring the work of underrepresented individuals into the so-called mainstream media.

They then revisited the collaboration in December 2020 with their editorial teams working together to set up conversations between black artists, activists, actors and sportspeople and featuring black photographers, illustrators and designers. Gal-dem and The Guardian also worked together on a writing competition for black women and black non-binary people.

Last year, Gal-dem worked on an editorial partnership with Vice in which they jointly published articles exploring abusive behaviour in the music industry.

Gal-dem closing: picture shows previous collaboration with Guardian Weekend
The gal-dem and Guardian Weekend collaboration team in August 2018. Left to right: Ruth Lewy, deputy editor, Weekend; Liv Little, editor-in-chief, gal-dem; Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff, deputy editor, gal-dem; Caroline Hunter, picture editor, Weekend; Melissa Denes, editor, Weekend; Maggie Murphy, art director, Weekend

Gal-dem head of editorial Suyin Haynes told Press Gazette in 2021 that the Gal-dem team aimed to act “with authenticity” in everything the brand said and did “not because we feel like we have to or we feel like we’re the spokespeople for all people of colour”.

Haynes said on Friday she was “depply saddened” by the news and “I will always be incredibly proud of what our team has achieved and the stories we were able to tell”.

Tributes were quickly being shared by readers and staff after Gal-dem announced the news of its closure.

Culture editor Kemi Alemoru said: “It’s kind of hard to put into words how much of an incalculable loss this is. The path it created for creatives like me, the friendships made, the laughs, the clapbacks, the parties, exhibits, films, podcasts, the conversations we led. I learned so much.”

Vice editor-in-chief Zing Tsjeng said: “Gutted to hear about gal-dem closing. I worked with their amazing team on our Open Secrets series and they are a hugely talented, committed bunch who deserved better.”

The Ferret founder and The Bureau of Investigative Journalism’s community investigations lead Rachel Hamada tweeted: “Devastating news – gal-dem has produced such consistently exciting and important journalism. What a profound loss to the UK media ecosystem.”

Former BBC creative director Pat Younge praised the Gal-dem team, saying they had “punched enormous holes in many glass ceilings and then helped others through to bigger and better things”.

And Metro deputy head of audience Sofia Delgado said: “Big loss. Not the first time great journalism from indies having to close their doors. My hope is that those with resources are paying attention to these audiences and the impact of these publications. There *has* to be a space for this. Gal-dem did break ground.”

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Select and enter your email address Weekly insight into the big strategic issues affecting the future of the news industry. Essential reading for media leaders every Thursday. Your morning brew of news about the world of news from Press Gazette and elsewhere in the media. Sent at around 10am UK time. Our weekly does of strategic insight about the future of news media aimed at US readers. A fortnightly update from the front-line of news and advertising. Aimed at marketers and those involved in the advertising industry.
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