Women Weave the Web
As the boundary between audience and content gets thinner, readers become the curators and publishers of content. Publishers and their audiences are moving in the direction of becoming partners, rather than producer/consumer. More of that relationship is happening online. And the importance of literacy -- print literacy, digital literacy -- grows.
Pretty much everyone I know is digital-savvy, from my four-year-old niece to my 92-year old auntie, along with all my friends, colleagues, and acquaintances in between. That's pretty much standard for the US, where 90% of American adults have a cell phone. The mere fact that 15% of our entire population doesn't use the internet is considered news-worthy.
In other parts of the world, the picture is different. Unsurprisingly, the total international skew is not in favor of women. Worldwide, only 41% of men are connected to the internet; for women, that number drops to 37%. Two hundred million more men have access to the internet than women. And in more than a few countries, women are actively discouraged from using technology.
This is what World Pulse (Worldpulse.com) tells us -- an organization that connects women worldwide through its digital network and provides a platform to give their voices a global reach. And they are inviting us to participate in the initiative they have launched to help correct the gender disparity: Women Weave the Web.
Women Weave the Web aims to participate in creating gender equality by helping provide that equality online. They do it by asking women to use their voices online; to provide locations where they can use technology safely, in order to create a worldwide map of women-friendly places to connect; to create connections with other women through photos and stores posted.
My friend Kate Byrne, formerly leader of publishing giant Future US's tech portfolio and a current board member of Exceptional Women in Publishing, called me to talk about the opportunities that exist to get involved.
As publishers we might ask, why should this be our problem -- or anyone's for that matter? Why should the challenges of building digital literacy across gender and international barriers matter?
But actually, like all forms of literacy, digital literacy does matter. At its most basic level, empowering women makes economic sense. According to the World Bank, countries that invest in promoting the social and economic status of women have lower poverty rates. After just one extra year of secondary schooling, girls increase their future wages 10-20%.
For publishers, as soon as the leap to digital is made, so too is the transition to a global audience. Anyone who publishes a digital magazine -- or posts a blog, or even tweets or creates a status update --soon learns that responses will come from all over the world, bringing with them fresh ideas, new perspectives, and different contexts. By building digital literacy, we continue to tap the rich resources that audience can bring to our products.
World Pulse sees Women Weave the Web as an opportunity to help women transform the world by giving them access to tools that will empower them. They invite us to log on, to submit our stories, to donate, to connect. They invite us to join their community. They invite us to share.
Linda Ruth, as president of PSCS Consulting (www.PSCSConsulting.com), offers communication companies worldwide the keys to magazine launches, search engine optimization and audience development online and at retail. She is a pioneer in the fields of Online Audience Optimization (OAO) and gamification for content publishers. Her books, "Internet Marketing for Magazine Publishers" ; "How to Market your Newsstand Magazine"; and "Secrets of SEO for Publishers" can be found on Amazon. Find her online at Google Plus, Magazine Dojo, LinkedIn, and Twitter @Linda_Ruth.