After seven years of sharing essays, art, advice, and writing for (and often by) teenagers, the online magazine Rookie Mag is shutting down. Launched by fashion blogger Tavi Gevinson in 2011 — when she was only 15 years old — Rookie attracted a million views in six days and went on to become an intimate, authentic, and feminist lens for its primarily young female audience to look at and speak to the world.
In a six-page editor’s letter that will be the last post on the site, Gevinson explains that “Rookie in its current form is no longer financially sustainable.” Although she considered alternatives — including selling the site to a larger media company, bringing on investors, or charging readers for subscriptions — she ultimately decided against them and the responsibilities and potential compromises they would entail. “It would not be possible for me to make Rookie work, and do other work I care about,” writes Gevinson.
As Gevinson notes repeatedly in her letter, it’s a difficult time for media at large — including other teen magazines like Teen Vogue and Seventeen, which ended their print runs over the last year in favor of digital-only versions. But shifting to digital and developing a devoted online fanbase doesn’t necessarily offer financial stability or sustainability, especially amid declining web advertising revenue. Over the last several years, beloved independent publications like The Awl, The Hairpin, and The Toast have all shuttered.
“We’ve always been somewhat intentionally small, and scale has become increasingly important for securing large ad deals,” said Awl publisher Michael Macher at the time of its closure. “It’s a structural shift with the way media buyers and agencies relate to publishers — and for better or worse less of those dollars are falling to indie publishers.”
Like Gevinson, The Toast founders Daniel Ortberg and Nicole Cliffe considered alternative funding methods, but ultimately decided against it because of how it would inevitably change “our relatively unique community” and because they found themselves increasingly subsumed with administrative and financial duties, rather than the more creative work they enjoyed.
the awl, the hairpin, the toast, rookie—it's become nearly impossible for these kinds of organic, community-driven, scale-eschewing, ultimately *good* publications to exist in a financially feasible way pic.twitter.com/CTVQuCtYXQ— Jenny G. Zhang (@jennygzhang) November 30, 2018
“It will take a long time for me to process the rareness of this connection, and the feeling that it’s over,” writes Gevinson in closing. “But it’s not over. The changes people create in one another do not go away. The people you grow up with stay with you forever. You made Rookie with us, and its spirit will live on in whatever comes next for us all.”