Come On Jeff, Get ‘Em: A Day of Work

A Day of Work zooms in on the daily routine and work habits of Autostraddle team members. Read about the coffee, the cats, the Slack meetings, emails and minutiae that makes Autostraddle go.

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Right now on 6/28/21 we are still in the midst of our June Member Drive. Thanks to this community, we’ve surpassed our drive goal of 300 and our stretch goal of 350! With just 3 days left in the drive at this point and all our posts planned, we’re going to keep going to see what could happen! We set our goal based on how many members we thought were possible to welcome during this drive, but you’ve shown us that so much more is possible than we dreamed! Thank you and onward, into the queer future!

And without further preamble, A Day of Work with Riese Bernard:


My alarm begins alarming me of my duty to awaken at 8am, and sometimes I rise to the occasion and sometimes I press snooze a lot, or wake up but remain in bed, reading on my New York Times app / doing the Spelling Bee game. Then I feed my tiny dog Carol, drink my Nespresso, and take her on a mini-walk, usually while reading a book on my iPhone Kindle app, lest I ever be alone with my own thoughts for a single second! Right now for reading I’m rotating through a lot of queer literary fiction (which I usually buy in print with money) and mainstream thrillers (which I usually obtain as ebooks through my local library) to help me with the book I’m trying to write but haven’t finished yet because lol let’s talk about my day!!!

It’s a Friday and a ”Things I Read That I Love” day, so before entering Slack I go into WordPress to finish and schedule it. Often I’ll feel like there’s a certain type of piece missing and I like to hit all of the marks, so I’ll add one last piece and also pick a quote for a headline.

I say hi on Slack, check my updates, and then immediately flee Slack for my morning workout — I do a strength training video from MadFit or growingannanas and/or a Yoga with Adriene video. If it’s a strength training video, I tend to watch TV on my laptop at the same time. Today I’m doing a KILLER LEG DAY and my favorite part is when the instructor also can no longer do the workout because it’s too hard, and I’m like, are you okay, is someone making you do this? I think about mortality and my heart rate while Carol sits underneath a chair staring at me.

Directly post-shower is my favorite part of the day. The morning is fresh. I’ve just exercised, the day is full of possibilities. Slack is at a casual clip. Usually I absently work on something non-urgent while I dry my hair and get dressed, while slowly experiencing creeping anxiety about inevitably opening my email. Every day, so many emails! WINNERS ANNOUNCED FOR [AWARDS I’VE NEVER HEARD OF]. [MOVIE] DIRECTED BY [PERSON] OFFICIAL TRAILER AND POSTER (is it gay? who knows!), GLAAD OFFICIAL RESPONSE TO [ACTOR] DOING [OFFENSIVE THING?]. RE: CONTACT I MADE AND THEN FORGOT ABOUT. Maybe 50 PR agents with requests for coverage of their club/talent/show/movie/podcast/cause/book, ppl with article corrections, paypal issues, affiliate marketing offers. Always something with one of the dozens of online services we employ to make our world go ’round. Salespeople!

I get frustrated with the TV/Film stuff sometimes. Like, what if instead of emailing me six times to ask if I can cover your show, you advertise your show on our website!?? Then maybe we can make enough money to hire someone to cover your show! These shows have budgets that dwarf our own. We’re anticipating ad revenue picking back up this fall but for now, we’re grateful to A+ members who’ve steadied us through a time when that revenue fell.

Today there’s a lot of emails I delete and a few emails I attend to: making plans with the producer for our upcoming live podcast event, Jennifer and Nicole trying to get a VAT code to send our UK members their perks, Smitten Kitten about them trying to pay us through Gusto which isn’t working (this has been a back-and-forth for what feels like 75 years). The SEO service Ubersuggest is informing me that “Bummer…. 4 page 1 positions were lost” and that 630 pages on the Autostraddle website “have issues” that need to be repaired and we have 75 “critical errors.” I look into some of them, delete some old posts with duplicate titles, get overwhelmed by all of this technical stuff I don’t understand, and then proceed to archive about 70 emails without opening them.

SEO and analyzing traffic and optimizing one’s website for SEO is an entire department at most publications — here, it’s a task we mostly avoided until last year when we got hit hard by a google penalty. We’re very happy that because of A+ members, we’ve been able to hire outside experts and sign up for services like Ubersuggest. But despite leaving editorial leadership in June 2020, the SEO stuff is still on my plate and I’m still doing the monthly traffic reports for our senior staff. Then there was the massive project of reorganizing the site. With your help, I was able to pay Kayla to help me execute a lot of it! But there’s still so much more to be done! Carmen is doing a kickass job putting these plans into motion, but she’s also drowning in so much other work. I’m very eager to hire a new Deputy Editor who can take over SEO and traffic from me and help the Editors with their Editing load, which we can do with your help! Like if you joined A+ right now!

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I move my operations from my bedroom to my desk. My workspace is squeezed into a corner of my apartment, with a monitor for when I do accounting and need ten thousand tabs open. On the walls and cabinet doors I have notes from A-Campers and friends that remind me I’m good at my job or a good writer. Opposite my desk is my work library, where I keep the reference books on LGBTQ and feminist topics that I’ve collected over the years.

a picture of riese's work library

My work books! My other books are on a different shelf in a different part of the apartment.

I drink a Pressed Juice (Citrus #2, my favorite) and eat an English muffin while watching and taking notes on the L Word interrogation tapes for tomorrow’s Saturday recording session with Carly at 11:30.

Today’s first editorial task is updating the 25 Movies With Hot Lesbian Sex Scenes in Them to enable it to rise from the ashes to its rightful place atop the SEO mountain. Once I’m in WordPress, I see some stuff that needs fixing — not everybody’s fluent in the new categories/tags system I created (it is EXTENSIVE), so I make a few tweaks. I also delete some spam comments.

Drew suggested some films to include on the updated list and I put on “Je, tu, il, elle” in the background while I work. My desk faces the living room so I can half-watch things from a distance. This is a very Drew movie. It’s in French. There’s a girl lying naked on a mattress because her heart is broken, which is gay. Eventually she stands up. Good for her!

Picture of the TV in Riese's living room playing a french film where a black-and-white French film is playing

My desk is not this close to the TV but I didn’t want you to see the part of my wall that is a piece of paper that says NEW PICTURE GOES HERE so I had to get closer.

I have a 30-minute meeting with a guy from Getty Images about getting a Getty Images account. Dreams do come true! (In several weeks we will actually land on a contract with Getty Images WHICH I AM SO EXCITED ABOUT and which of course we would not be able to do without your help.)

My arm’s already bugging me — I have destroyed it somehow and it gets numb and tingly when I work, a result of some pinched nerve situation from typing and repetitive hand movements. It got REALLY bad in February — I couldn’t take care of Carol or type and only survived the week ‘cause my friend hooked me up with muscle relaxers. I’ve since seen my doctor about it and now I’m in physical therapy, but it’s not improving and sometimes I’m like what if I can never type again forever!?!?!? Maybe I could be a boat captain.

I think stuff like this is what weighs on me most days, lately: I thought I could sacrifice my health and other life goals (writing a book, starting a family) to midwife Autostraddle into the universe, but 12 years later the pace of work hasn’t slowed, but my health and life goals are more pressing than ever. Since stepping down as EIC I’ve been able to take more time off, though, which has been great!! It’s wonderful to have the site in Carmen’s hands because I love and trust her with my whole heart. I’m hoping some new hires will help all of us have a better work/life balance also!

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A friend texts about happy hour next Tuesday, I decline ‘cause I know I’ll be up late prepping for my Business Team Meeting on Wednesday. Also the concept of a weekday evening hang remains incomprehensible to me in this Era of Pandemic?

In the Sex Scenes post I need to affiliate link a movie but the Amazon affiliate link bar isn’t showing up on my screen. I log in and log out. It’s… gone? I’m confused. I’ve had this affiliate account for literally 14 years when I put a tiny book widget on my personal blog and was CONFIDENT I would be getting rich in short order. (I made like $2 in two years.)

I search my inbox and there it is — YOUR AMAZON ACCOUNT HAS BEEN CLOSED. We have been ejected, there is no process to appeal, and all the commission they currently owe us will go unpaid!! We’ve also lost over a decade of data on our past revenue breakdowns, what our readers tend to order, etc. We don’t even have access to the data that would show us how much money we’re owed that will now go unpaid. WOW!!!

Amazon’s evil, we all know that. But… so are a lot of retailers, and it’s the only account we had for films. Our revenue from Amazon Affiliate has gone down over time — from a high of $40k to around $5k last year. Our biggest dip Y2Y was 2019 to 2020, as we stopped linking to Amazon in 2020 whenever an ethical alternative existed. I wasn’t prepared for that $10k Y2Y dip (read more about it here), but 700+ people joined A+ during the fundraiser and helped cushion that loss.

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Amazon made a LOT of fucking money in 2020 and so did all the websites who linked to them copiously and I honestly do wish some of it had gone to us! It’s always been our most popular affiliate marketing connection because even though we all hate it, a lot of you still shop there, especially during pandy — and when you follow a link to a lesbian movie on our site to Amazon and then buy a mattress in that same shopping session, we get $$ from the mattress sale! A miracle! That said, we’ve been short on shoppable posts and Amazon often lowers commission rates without warning all the time. Sites that depend on that revenue have flatlined following a commission adjustment. We didn’t, because we have you, we have our A+ members.

So why did this evil company reject us before we could reject them? Well, it turns out:

  • The Amazon browser extension we created in 2013 violates their policies. Cee SCOURED their policies to ensure it was okay before they built it, so something changed. Most websites have entire departments dedicated to affiliates, and someone would’ve caught this. We don’t and we didn’t.
  • “An account belonging to you (or a person or entity connected or affiliated with you) has previously been rejected/closed for violations of the Operating Agreement.” This is a mystery and I am honestly here for it.
  • “You are incentivizing others to visit the Amazon Site via your Special Links by offering donations to charity, or other incentives.” I deduce this refers to us telling you that we get a kickback when you shop through our links.

So, now it’s Put Out the Fire Time!!!

I submit a github request to Yikes (our very dedicated and wonderful tech team that YOU help pay for) to ask if there’s any technological way to wipe Amazon links from the site. (There is not.) I don’t want to lose any of our other affiliate marketing partners, and it looks like a lot of our shoppable posts don’t have the affiliate disclosure text on them that they should. Laneia volunteers to do it manually herself and says she can get it done by Wednesday. This is not the life I want for Laneia so I surf the web in search of a better way.

Also Carol has been following me around all day??

Four pictures of a small chihuahua Carol following her Dad around all day. She's on the bathmat, she's under the chair, she's on the rug, she's under the desk, she's everywhere!

Carol is hot on my trail

After an hour of research I find a plug-in we can use to implement the affiliate disclosure to automatically appear on affiliate linked posts. I create a tag for affiliate linked posts and go back and tag about two years of shoppable posts with that tag. I inform everybody of the new policies and run the new automatic disclosure notification by Sarah to make sure she likes how it looks, and she gets rid of the sidebar links. Teamwork!

Meanwhile in the film, this girl is in a truck with a man???? In this economy?

I take Carol on her Long Afternoon Walk and text my girlfriend about Jeffery Bezos and order food via Postmates because all I’ve had today so far is a juice and an english muffin! Thriving!

Riese sitting at her desk making a peace sign

Me at my desk

I deduce in this moment that we desperately need someone to manage our affiliate marketing partnerships and shoppable content. It’s an opportunity other sites have made big $$ on. We’re really good at taking a setback like this one and using it to clarify our goals and determine new directions or re-evaluate old policies. I think that’s part of what’s kept us in the game all this time.

Carmen suggested once that we become the “Gay Strategist” and I love this idea for us.

In short: we need more manpower behind these revenue streams, and I have more ideas on what to do with those than I do time to do them myself, and so does everybody! Sarah can’t do all the ad sales and affiliate stuff on top of her Design stuff, and I can’t do it on top of my CEO/CFO stuff or my writing. I’ve been spearheading this SEO project not because it actually fits with my current job description but because there’s nobody else to do it. Everyone’s busy and burned out. We need to make some new hires. I just wish making those hires wasn’t such an enormous short term financial risk! We are so grateful that we have A+ members to give us the base of support we need to take those risks, and every new member makes them a little less risky.

So this15-minute sex scene occurs at the literal end of this French movie. It is the last scene! Is this a metaphor? I go read the post Drew wrote about it in 2019 and add it to the post.

I spend the next two hours or so on the sex scenes post, finishing up around 9pm, which is a typical Friday night for me. I’ve gotten better at taking weekends off, especially since my arm very much needs a rest!

Trying to decide what really counts as a lesbian sex scene is not a bad job to have, you know?

Before you go! 99.9% of our readers don't support Autostraddle. Still, it takes funding to keep this indie queer publication running every day. And the majority of our funding comes from readers like you. That's less than 1% of our readers who keep Autostraddle around for EVERYBODY. Will you join them?

Riese is the 39-year-old Co-Founder and CEO of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, blogger, fictionist, copywriter, video-maker and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and then headed West. Her work has appeared in nine books including "The Bigger the Better The Tighter The Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image & Other Hazards Of Being Female," magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 2885 articles for us.

22 Comments

  1. I’m trying hard to register the content of this post especially the horrific revenue drop because Amazon is Amazon, but honestly I am held back by needing a higher resolution photo of that bookshelf please

  2. Amazon is truly the worst, my gd, and I’m sorry you’re having to deal with that.

    Riese, I do want to say thank you, though, for taking a chance in launching in Autostraddle and continuing to fight for it – it’s such a necessary space, and I’m grateful it’s here.

  3. Also (please forgive my total ignorance about how this works) – when I buy a book you’ve covered, I always use your bookshop.org affiliate link. But if I were to use the link to navigate to bookshop to buy something else, do you still get the commission? Because if so I will 1000% do that.

  4. Reading the Amazon horror story made me finally join A+ and I am so grateful! As a disabled bisexual babe (who had an awfully ableist sexual experience a few months ago) I am particularly excited for my copy of “A quick and easy guide to sex and disability ” :D and I am so glad I can support you. Autostraddle is by far the best place on the Internet that publishes stellar pieces of writing by writers too often unheard. It’s also been a safe place since my babygay days when my first queer love showed it to me.

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