The Pool – Tides of change.

Last week, news of The Pool’s impending closure made its way around the Stir office...

A website brought to my attention by the vast number of colleagues who became avid readers of its regular newsletters and digestible content.

The news was perhaps not startling due to the current state of affairs in the media. The likes of Shortlist removing its print issues from stands and Buzzfeed struggling with the impact of social media services stepping into the news arena. But still, the closure hit the office hard due to its high standard of journalism. 

Launched in 2015 as a platform for women “too busy to browse”, it grew at a frantic pace, commanding upwards of half a million unique users in the first 18 months. It is an impactful, openly funny, relevant website that relied on the hard work and creativity of many freelance writers, a large number of whom subsequently haven’t been paid. 

News of the collapse of The Pool follows further negative press for BuzzFeed, also needing to make heavy staff cuts. A standout of both titles is that every piece of content is available for free, resulting in the platforms relying heavily on advertising and investment. A delight for readers, but less so for the businesses themselves.

The Mundial method

Though it’s not all doom and gloom. A title that bucks this trend is the quarterly football lifestyle magazine Mundial, beginning its life as a one-off print edition for the 2014 World Cup. Five years on, its owners have grown profits on revenues of £345,000 in a challenging media market1.

Mundial made the decision to not rely on print advertising when it launched, instead focusing on print sales, e-commerce and brand partnerships, demonstrating how its business model works in a market where many print and digital media outlets are struggling. In addition to its four issues per year, it has a popular website, newsletter and sells its own merchandise online, which all make up half of its total revenue income. This is not dissimilar to Men’s Health strategy of selling nutritional products and supplements.

Speaking to the Press Gazette, Owen Blackhurst commented on Mundial’s approach; “We have never seen ourselves as just a magazine, we have been conscious from the day we started Mundial that we wanted to become a trusted football brand, delivering quality content to a highly engaged audience through a variety of platforms and mediums. Another decision to remain quarterly was that we never wanted to be entirely beholden to print advertising revenue. Of course we carry print advertising, but our business does not and will not live or die on whether or not we sell traditional advertising.”

Perhaps future aspiring media channels will look at the Mundial model as a recipe for success, enabling quality journalism to shine for all to be rewarded in full. But for now, we wish everyone at The Pool and its wider network of freelancers, the very best in the coming weeks and hope they will all find their own resolutions, in this changing media landscape.

Richard Thiardt