Posted on May 29, 2019 by staff

Meet @holly: tech influencer, nerd and woman of the year


Holly Brockwell knows how to make a name for herself, but quite literally did so after securing the handle @Holly.

The outspoken tech writer, blogger and speaker from Nottingham has earned a huge following online in the overwhelmingly male world of tech fandom.

One way to measure this success is her 128,000 Twitter followers – a number which grows to over 200,000 when combined with her website’s account, Gadgette.

But Brockwell’s figures alone don’t mean much to her out of context, nor does being an ‘influencer’.

“For a while I was flattered when people called me that, and now I think it’s quite wanky,” she told BusinessCloud.

“Plenty of people buy fake followers, which means they might have huge numbers but get zero engagement. Plus, if someone’s got 200k fans but they’re not in your demographic, is that actually any use?”

While Brockwell struggles with being an influencer, she is more than happy to adopt the title of ‘nerd’.

“I’m a huge nerd, and I’m very OK with that,” she said.

“I think it’s important that we reclaim the words that were slung at us in our youth. I was the geek, the swot, the teacher’s pet – and I’ve turned it into a career that I love.”

That career combines her astute understanding of online audiences and her love of tech, and ultimately led to the creation of Gadgette in 2015.

Designed for ‘geeky women and their friends’, the blog’s mission is to increase women’s visibility in tech.

After less than a year of the blog launching, Brockwell took home ‘Woman of the Year’ at The Drum’s SheSays Awards for her work on the website.

Now in its fourth year with Brockwell at the helm as editor, Gadgette has since bolstered the careers of fellow female tech writers.

But despite its much-needed take on the world of tech, the online start-up – which was complete with staff and a parent company at its inception – was squeezed for ad revenue and Brockwell faced the prospect of difficult compromises.

“I don’t want to spend my life finding ways to put even more ads between the words to stay afloat,” Brockwell said.

“It was amazing fun and I learnt a lot running a start-up, especially when it split off from the parent company and I had to do things like accounting and payroll myself.”

Unhappy with the battle to keep the website afloat and the burden of of running a start-up on her own, Brockwell decided to go back to what she loved; writing about tech. She has now written for the Guardian, the Telegraph, Techradar and Gizmodo.

“I guess that means Gadgette’s gone the opposite way to most blogs – it started as a business and is now a passion project,” she said.

While not entirely positive about the future of online publishing, Brockwell said that she has faith in the internet’s ability to evolve out of its publishing-model problems.

“Sometimes, online journalism feels like nothing but hurdles. But it’s easy to forget just how far we’ve come.

“We’re still struggling with the problem of how to monetise now that the advertising model doesn’t work anymore, but encouragingly, the subscription and Patreon model does seem to be gaining traction.

“Despite all the naysaying to the contrary, the internet public will pay for things they want to exist (take any successful crowdfunder as evidence), so as long as you’re delivering value, you can make it work.”