As an English major at Western University in London, Ont., Tanja Grubnic was interested to see how poetry shared on social media became an important form of engagement among users and poets looking to create an online presence.
This led the PhD candidate to explore ‘InstaPoetry’, focusing on how social media is changing the way literature and popular culture are consumed and how writers are keeping up with ever-changing trends and algorithms.
“The heart of my research looks at how social media is changing the role of the author, how it’s turning them into a new type of an online media celebrity and allowing them to have more influence in their communities,” Grubnic said.
She says although writers branding themselves on social media can eventually become published authors, many must continue to maintain their large online presence.
“The way social media has intervened in our lives in almost every way imaginable is in keeping with the way literature is also consumed,” she said.
Through studying the works of Instagram personalities such as Rupi Kaur, and Tenille K. Campbell, Grubnic’s found that authors can connect with audiences in ways that authors in pre-social media eras may not have been able to do.
Rolling with the changes
Grubnic believes comment sections allow poets opportunities to engage in ongoing meaningful dialogues with their audiences. But with trends shifting to an emphasis on video-based media like TikTok and Reels, poets used to traditional print forms may have to find dynamic ways to maintain their brand value, she said.
“There’s this increased emphasis on a ‘Celebrity persona’, so looking at how someone like Rupi Kaur turns her entire self into a brand with a very significant social media presence,” she said.
Grubnic says changing algorithms present a unique challenge that makes it harder for new voices to gain the same amount of visibility, requiring them to go the extra mile aside from their writing.
“Some poets struggle to have their content made visible on their followers’ feeds, for example, so less people are viewing their work, I think we’re seeing a new set of issues unique to social media that authors are learning to navigate.”
What peaked Grubnic’s interest in studying Campbell’s work was the way the Dene and Métis author used her platform to highlight her community’s unique stories.
Campbell, who is from the English River First Nation in Saskatchewan, uses her #IndianLovePoems to share stories about Indigenous love and relationships, which was published into a book in 2017.
“I wanted it to be something easily searchable and shareable, which came very naturally on Instagram at a time where we could connect and find like-minded people to have these discussions, which opened up possibilities for the book and poems to reach,” Campbell said.
Before publishing her book, Campbell released excerpts of her poems on Instagram, which allowed audiences to look forward to her work, and with character limits on posts, viewers could consume her content at a rate that works best for them, she said.
A big question that remains for Grubnic is whether social media is a sustainable environment for new authors to gain momentum at the fast rate at which it’s changing.
To delve further into this, she’s been awarded a Fullbright Canada scholarship for a nine-month exchange at Duke University in the U.S., where she’ll look at how Canadian literary trends compare to American trends on social media.
Migrant worker battling cancer in urgent need of MSI
Halifax, NS (December 6, 2022) – In a video released today, migrant worker Kerian Burnett speaks out about her ongoing struggle with cancer. While she is supposed to start cancer treatments soon, she has no health coverage in Nova Scotia.
Kerian is a 42 year-old woman from Jamaica. She is a mother of 6 and grandmother to 2 children. In April 2022, she came to work in Canada through the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program (SAWP). After 2 months of working on a strawberry farm, she fell sick and was unable to work. In September 2022, she was diagnosed with cervical cancer, which required two different surgeries. She was advised by her doctor to remain in Canada to undergo life-saving treatments.
In some provinces, migrant workers have access to public healthcare on arrival. In Nova Scotia, migrant workers must have a one-year work permit to be eligible for public healthcare (MSI). This means that SAWP workers are not eligible, because their contracts are only up to 8 months. They would only have access to private health insurance, which is tied to their employment.
Due to her illness, Kerian’s job ended and her private health insurance was terminated.
Kerian is calling on Health Minister Michelle Thomson to provide MSI coverage to herself and other migrant workers in Nova Scotia.
“There are lots of Jamaicans here and other migrant workers here, which come here for work. Nobody wants to be sick, but eventually, you get sick. Now we are working for like $13.35/hour. There is no way if you get sick, and you have a bill at the hospital, how are we going to pay these bills? So, actually, I’m not really doing this for myself alone. I’m doing this for every farmworker that doesn’t have access to public healthcare here in Canada,” said Kerian in the video.
To date, a GoFundMe campaign in support of Kerian has raised over $9,000 of the $15,000 goal.
Guelph drag queen sees all-ages shows targeted by social media campaigns
A Guelph drag queen says their shows are being targeted by two Ontario-based social media campaigns, resulting in the cancellation of one event and the performer feeling uneasy about an upcoming show.
Last month, Crystal Quartz had a drag brunch organized at Kelseys Original Roadhouse in Burlington. But following threats made to the restaurant, management was forced to cancel, the restaurant confirmed to CBC Kitchener-Waterloo. Restaurant management couldn’t disclose information about these threats due to an ongoing police investigation.
Since then, a link to Quartz’s Dec. 11 all-ages brunch at a Boston Pizza in Hamilton was shared in a Facebook group, asking members to purchase tickets to sell out the event in a bid to prevent “sick parents” from bringing their kids.
These incidents come shortly after a mass shooting at a LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs, Colo., that killed five people, and have left Quartz feeling unsafe.
The drag queen posted an impassioned video on social media about the anti-LGBTQ threats that they, and other performers and promoters, have received.
Guelph Police Services are investigating the alleged incidents Quartz brought up in the video.
In the meantime, Quartz told CBC News they’re raising funds for an ID scanner, self-defence classes and said that they’re looking into other security options.
“I want to get an ID scanner so that even if the people come in there, we know what their names are at least,” said Quartz.
‘It was absolutely terrifying’
Hamilton drag performer, Hexe Noire, was also confronted during a drag storytime last month at a public library in the city.
There were people protesting the event, but also counter-protesters with a heavy police presence — something Noire hadn’t seen before.
“This is the first time in my drag career that I’ve been affected directly by this,” Noire, a cis woman, told CBC News. “It was absolutely terrifying.”
Noire explained she received online threats as well.
“I’m a mother with four children who goes into the library dressed as a drag clown to teach children about diversity and that it’s ok to be different,” she said.
“Had I had a program such as this for myself as a young queer child, I would have flourished and I don’t understand what the issue with reading books to children is.”
Quartz said that this type of harassment is new as the LGBTQ community becomes more visible and more mainstream.
“Before we were hiding who we were, right? So now we’re being seen more and these people just, they don’t want anything to do with that,” Quartz said.
“And that’s fine. If you don’t like me, that’s cool. Just go on your merry way and I’ll go on mine, right?”
But this harassment isn’t just aimed at drag queens, according to K-W-based trans activist, Cait Glasson. The transgender community is being targeted too.
“They’re definitely well and truly emboldened, the transphobic people,” said Glasson. “They are very emboldened. I get threats on my Twitter with some regularity.”
“My personal belief is that the best way to fix it is education,” she said, stressing that understanding about the trans community comes from knowing someone who is trans.
A study done of LGBTQ people in Waterloo region in 2018 found that 10 per cent of those surveyed have experienced violence due to their sexual orientation; 26 per cent faced violence due to their gender identity.
Heading Into 2023 Media And Tech Companies Are Tightening Their Belts
Over the past few months, Disney, Paramount
Global, Warner Bros. Discovery, Comcast
and AMC Networks
have all announced employment layoffs, hiring freezes and/or restructuring heading into 2023. Coming out of the pandemic the goal is to continue to grow revenue, reduce debt and increase market value. With viewers steadily migrating to streaming video, media companies have been looking for a moneymaking revenue model as the lucrative linear TV revenue model, that had generated billions for decades, is slowing down. With inflation and concerns about a slowing ad market, media companies, are looking to impress Wall Street as the media behavior of consumers continue to evolve.
These employee cutbacks are not limited to “traditional” media companies, such digital titans as Meta, Amazon
, Alphabet, Microsoft
and of course, Twitter have also been looking to drive down costs and grow revenue as the digital advertising slows and their market value declines.
Below is a breakout of some recent announcements on the belt tightening taking place across the media and tech industries.
AMC Networks: Ten years ago, AMC Networks was one of the most popular cable TV networks airing The Walking Dead, Breaking Bad and Mad Men. Since then, the cable TV industry has been besieged by cord-cutting as viewers migrated to streaming video. In response AMC launched its own standalone streaming service AMC+. In the latest quarter, AMC+ reported a year-over-year increase in subscribers of 44% and now totals 11.1 million. Nonetheless, for the quarter, AMC’s net revenue dropped by 16% to $682 million with a decline of 10% in ad dollars for the quarter.
AMC Networks Chairman James Dolan noted the revenue losses from cord cutting were not being offset by the gains from streaming. As a result, the Wall Street Journal reported AMC will lay off up to 20% of the estimated 1,000 total employees. Also, it was announced AMC CEO Christina Spade was stepping down after only three months at the helm.
Disney: In early November, Disney’s then CEO Bob Chapek announced cost-cuts (i.e., curtailing business trips unless absolutely necessary), a hiring freeze with potential layoffs. The announcement came in the aftermath of a disappointing quarterly earnings report with Disney’s stock price falling to a 52-week low. In the earnings report Disney noted their streaming services had lost $1.47 billion, more than double the loss from the previous year. Chapek maintained their streaming unit would be profitable by 2024. Ten days later Bob Iger, in a surprise announcement, returned as Disney’s CEO replacing his handpicked successor. Chapek had served as Disney’s CEO in February 2020 just prior to the start of the pandemic.
The 71-year-old Iger agreed to return as CEO for two more years and will look for another successor. Besides developing a new organization chart, Iger announced Disney’s hiring freeze would continue. The CEO will also place a priority on making Disney’s streaming unit profitability instead of focusing on subscriber growth. (In its latest earnings report Disney said that Disney+. Hulu and ESPN+ had 235.7 million global subscribers, up from 221 million in the previous quarter.)
Warner Bros. Discovery: When Discovery acquired Warner Media earlier this year, CEO David Zaslav shared with Wall Street plans to cut costs by $3 billion each year for the debt-ridden company. The merger approval came during a tenuous time, as investors were beginning to take a more hardened look at the revenue potential of streaming providers. In addition, Zaslav told investors the ad economy has been weaker than it was during the pandemic and the merger was messier than previously thought. As a result, the market value of Warner Bros. Discovery has been cut in half this year.
Since the merger Warner Bros. Discovery have undergone a sweeping series of layoffs. In August, 70 people were let go at HBO accounting for 14% of the entire staff. In October, the studio group Warner Bros. Television laid off 82 people which was 19% of the staff. Sports was impacted, in mid-November when an estimated 70 people, primarily at Turner Sports and Bleacher Report, were laid off. With the current NBA media rights contract expiring after the 2024-25 season and the possibility fees could triple, Zaslav has said they would stay disciplined when renewal negotiations begin, saying “We don’t need the NBA.”.
Most recently massive cuts were made at CNN with a reported 400 layoffs. While the direct-to-consumer CNN+ jettisoned within one month of launch, new CNN President Chris Licht announced further layoffs at the venerable news division. The layoffs were made across most CNN units from on-air talent to operations to CNN International. Among the CNN units hit hardest was Headline News which will no longer produce live content. Prior to the cutbacks CNN had a staff of between 4,000 and 4,500 workers.
Warner Bros. Discovery notified the Securities and Exchange Commission that it could cost upwards of $1.5 billion with cutbacks on content that were already approved and severance packages for employees laid off.
Comcast: In September, Comcast announced it was looking to cut $1 billion from its traditional TV networks entertainment division at NBCUniversal. The funding would be allocated to bolster other parts of Comcast’s portfolio such as streaming (with 15 million paid subscribers Peacock has room to grow).
The cutbacks would impact both staff members and programming budgets forcing the network to develop lower cost unscripted shows instead of more costly scripted programming. It’s been reported that 37 employees were laid off at E! Entertainment which was restructuring. NBCU has recently shuttered G4 cable network with 45 people losing their jobs. Additionally, Comcast has reportedly been offering retirement packages to long-time employees. Besides declining linear TV ratings, Comcast continues to be impacted by cord-cutting and broadband subscriber growth has been slowing.
Paramount Global: In November it was reported Paramount Global was cutting back on its ad sales department with fewer than 100 positions in New York and Los Angeles being eliminated. The media company has also made a number of organizational changes in recent months such as the scripted original division of Paramount+ becoming a part of Paramount TV studios resulting in a loss of jobs.
Roku, a streaming device, announced in mid- November they were planning to lay off 200 employees or about 5% of their 3.000 full-time workforce. The company cited the current financial conditions prevalent in the streaming industries and a sluggish ad economy. During its third quarter earnings report Roku executives told investors to expect a challenging fourth quarter.
: After reporting a decline in subscriber counts, Netflix earlier in the year announced layoffs. In May, 150 employees saw their position eliminated as well as a number of contractors and part-time workers. The following month Netflix followed up with 300 additional employers laid off. At that time Netflix had about 11,000 full-time workers worldwide.
Digital Media: Even digital media companies are pulling back in these uncertain economic times and sluggish earnings reports.
The mass layoffs at Twitter have been well documented, the micro-blogger site has downsized from 7,500 employees to fewer than 2,500 in just a few weeks.
In mid-November Amazon reportedly was going to lay off 10, 000 workers or roughly 3% of its 1.5 million global work force. Cutbacks will be more prevalent with devices such as Alexa.
In early November Meta announced 11,000 employees would be let go accounting or 14% of the entire workforce. The cutbacks were across all divisions and included Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp. Also, Meta decided to move out of their 250,000 square foot office in Manhattan’s Hudson Yards section. Meta has been focusing on the metaverse and has been incurring startup costs.
In August Snap announced a reduction in their workforce of 20% from what had been 6,400 employers. Snap said the company would be restructuring. The company has been struggling post-pandemic and its stock price had been down 80% since the first of the year.
In October Microsoft announced globally nearly 1,000 workers were to be let go. Similar to other tech companies, Microsoft has seen its stock price tumble this year. Globally, Microsoft has 221,000 employees.
More traditional media are also reporting cutbacks. Gannett
, the nation’s largest newspaper publisher, announced that 200 additional workers (6% of the workforce) would be laid off. Washington Post recently announced that after three decades they would no longer publish a Sunday print magazine, resulting in a loss of ten positions. The last issue will be on Christmas Day. With a cutback in revenue from sponsors, NPR is looking to cut $10 million in costs (3% of their budget), announcing they would severely curtail any hiring and would cut back on any discretionary spending. By doing so NPR is hoping to avoid layoffs. Vice Media announced they will lay off 2% of their staff or roughly 12 members in its sales, branded content, editorial in the U.S., Canada and Europe.
Economic slowdowns and market valuations are transient and a hiring binge in media and tech companies could take place relatively soon as a workable business model evolves. Another silver lining is there are now thousands of experienced and talented workers now available for hire.
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