by Keidra Chaney & Raizel Liebler
The Learned Fangirl celebrated its 9th birthday earlier this month.
It stuns us that we’ve been around this long; so many of our contemporaries have shuttered/retired, blogging has died and been reborn several times. What it even means to be a fangirl has transformed, when we started the blog, the title “The Learned Fangirl” was a bit of a cheeky joke about the lack of respect that fangirls received in fan culture, now there are dozens of blogs and podcasts alike that use the term “fangirl” with pride, which is fantastic.
More importantly, it’s amazing that we hit this milestone with more focus and purpose than ever; we want TLF to serve as an incubator for the kind of deep-dive writing about pop culture, technology, and fandom that wouldn’t get much focus and attention in many other places, and we want to focus on the voices of marginalized writers who too often either get ignored or pigeonholed in mainstream media criticism.
We had a goal years ago to grow the publication enough to be able to compensate our contributors for their labor. Especially in a digital publishing environment that’s ravenous for content but doesn’t want to pay creators for it, we decided we’d rather publish less often, put out good stuff and pay people for it.
And to name check ourselves — lots of places say they want diverse writers and would pay if only they could — our scrappy site has done it and our writers also own their work!
TLF was not launched to be a full-time endeavor in “digital content”: it was a labor of love and outlet for creativity that we as founders couldn’t get in our careers. We’ve experimented with all sorts different models of income generation and editorial focus during that time: we’ve tried ads, reader support, publishing almost daily, and publishing long form. Still, with only the two of us “captaining” TLF around what pays us outside, it’s sometimes rough keeping the ship afloat. Personally, we still have no idea what model is going to work for us, but we can say with a lot of confidence that what has worked for us is not pushing as far and fast as the digital publishing industry seems to require.
Now, we’ve grown to the point where we not only feature the regular work of dozens of contributing writers, but (at least for now) we have the ability to compensate them for their work, thanks to the help of our funders and our fiscal agent, Independent Arts and Media. We’ve been able to experiment with creative partnerships with libraries around media literacy education. All of this is more than we ever anticipated from this little website nine years ago.
When we think about the long-range goals future of TLF, we don’t have any set plans as of yet. To be honest, what’s kept us going for this long is our ability to be nimble and loose; to start projects quickly and end or revise them when they don’t work. We’re not eager to give that up in order to “scale up” but we do want to grow, evolve into something with more structure, and ensure that we can continue what we are doing — and do it better.
With that said, many thanks to the TLF editorial crew: past, present and future, especially Kristin Bezio and Vivian Obarski. Thanks to our readers, and the folks who have said kind things about the writing we publish, and our own attempts at figuring out the big picture of digital publishing. Many thanks to our financial supporters and our fiscal sponsor, Independent Arts and Media. Please consider supporting us via IAM or through Patreon.
And especially if you have a connection with or are someone with funds to support high quality writing by people from marginalized groups, this is a genuine ask!