Online women’s magazine The Pool enters administration

Writers face redundancy after rescue talks fail, in further blow to online news outlets

The Pool: founded in 2015 by broadcaster Lauren Laverne and former Cosmopolitan editor Sam Baker, the publisher is now insolvent. Photograph: David Levene/for the Guardian

The Pool: founded in 2015 by broadcaster Lauren Laverne and former Cosmopolitan editor Sam Baker, the publisher is now insolvent. Photograph: David Levene/for the Guardian

 

Online women’s magazine The Pool, which has previously featured Irish writers such as Louise McSharry and Sinéad Gleeson, has gone bust, leaving 24 journalists facing redundancy and many freelancers facing a battle to get paid, in another blow for the online news business.

Staff have been told that the British publisher, founded in 2015 by broadcaster Lauren Laverne and former Cosmopolitan editor Sam Baker, is now insolvent and administrators are set to be appointed after rescue talks failed.

The Pool’s founders quit the company’s board last year but Baker stayed at the site until two weeks ago. Laverne still has an outstanding £40,000 (about €45,000) loan to the company which could now be at risk, while other investors also face being wiped out.

Staff at the website, which raised at least £4 million from shareholders, were not paid January’s wages and will now have to see what can be recovered by administrators to pay their salaries.

Many freelance journalists are owed thousands by the site, which lost £1.8 million in the last financial year and was known for its relatively generous freelance rates in a struggling industry.

Dominic Hill, the company’s only remaining director, told staff that he has no choice but to put The Pool in administration: “As a director and shareholder, I have a duty to do this as the business is now insolvent and we have exhausted all rescue ideas/plans.” He told staff that the administrator “will explain the process which will include how you can claim for January’s salary and any redundancy payment you may be due.”

It says a lot about a company that even when the team know the business is out of the time, they continue giving it their all

He added: “Like you, I loved The Pool and what it stood for and I’m sorry that I let you and it down. Thank you so much for working and loving The Pool right to the last minute. It says a lot about a company/brand/business that even when the team know the business is out of the time, they continue giving it their all!!”

Most of the board resigned in August, leaving Hill as the only remaining director. He has limited involvement in the media industry and his other recent business interests include a directorship of a takeaway food business.

His other major company is Pink Parcel, which bills itself as the “UK’s No 1 period subscription box” and delivers boxes to women containing femcare and beauty products, although this has also recently been in financial difficulties.

In a recent blogpost, Hill described how Pink Parcel’s former parent company collapsed at the end of 2018 after a major investor pulled out, forcing him to lay off staff: “By the end of October, the company was fast running out of cash, and things internally were in a chaotic state, staff were upset, subscribers were upset, my wife was upset and I’m pretty sure that at this point my kids were upset too.

“In order to try and preserve the business we had to backtrack on our plans, and sadly I had to start making people redundant, but it was too late, the cracks were too big,” leaving the company “in big trouble”. Hill insisted he has since managed to save the business after putting in his own money, although some customers found they missed their period box delivery.

The company’s collapse comes at a worrying fortnight for digital media companies, which has seen Buzzfeed make heavy staff cuts and Verizon Media Group, owner of HuffPost, lay off hundreds of people. – Guardian