Introducing Autostraddle Plus Cobalt Level: Support Us For Under $3/Month!

“As shameful as it feels to ask for money on the internet, it’s how you develop a committed community. People do pay for writing. They do all the time. They have always paid for it, since the first typeset books nearly six centuries ago. People tend not to pay for writing that exists for the sole purpose of holding our attention for just long enough for a page to load. But we actually have incredible stories to tell.”

Tyler Reinhard, editor of Mask Magazine

In July of 2014, we introduced Autostraddle Plus. It aimed to be an easy way for readers to support beloved independent LGBTQ media in a landscape increasingly dominated by enormous, well-funded, corporately owned websites with deep pockets and a sudden desire for some queer content of their own. Without our 1,300 A+ members, we’d have shut down earlier this year. We’ve been doing the work against all odds for nearly seven years — going without health insurance, living with our parents, paying self-employment taxes on small stipends, racking up debt, working 60-80 hours a week, cutting corners wherever possible — to grow and maintain this beautiful, thriving community. Our competitors have entire teams devoted to social media, advertising, SEO and content partnerships. They have accountants, lawyers, marketers, merchandise developers, advertising budgets, video crews and tech teams. We don’t. The senior editors do everything we can do ourselves, on top of our writing and editing responsibilities, because we need to free up as much money as possible to pay queer people to write and draw and photograph things for you. We have one designer and one tech director, each juggling a workload normally performed by dozens. We’re also desperately in need of a redesign… but can’t afford the time or the expense.  Because of A+, we’re now proud to say that we pay all our contributors. But it’s not enough, not just yet.

The internet is changing, and it’s changing fast. Social media is the primary traffic driver, and those who can’t invest financially in social media are suffering. Ad-blockers are making it so that while big publishers cash in on native advertising and Facebook deals, it’s quite possible that no indie publisher will survive without charging members for content. We’re “lucky” that we stopped being dependent on ad revenue a while ago due to advertisers’ general disinterest in the LGBTQ women’s market (we make about $50/day on advertising), but we also face a very different challenge: our community-oriented focus means paywalled content is much trickier to respectfully integrate and promote. Whereas a premium program like Slate Plus can entice members with several paywalled posts a day, we can’t — we have to walk a fine line between actively recruiting new members and not alienating those who can’t afford it.

Today, we’re introducing a new A+ level that we hope will make supporting us easier than ever, even if you’re low-income or only mildly interested in our site to begin with. We call it:

Cobalt Level!

It can be yours for only $4/month or $30/year (that’s only $2.50 a month!)

To maintain and improve Autostraddle through 2016, we need more money. We’ve hit an A+ plateau. Last week we put out a call for writers and the response has been phenomenal, exceeding our wildest dreams. Right now my inbox feels like a Sunday afternoon at the used bookstore, just aisles and aisles of brilliant possibilities. We’ve gotten more applications from people of color in the past four days than we have in the past four years combined. We want to be able to bring you as many of those voices as possible, but we’re stretched tight financially already (did I mention that we need a redesign but can’t afford it? We do!). THERE ARE SO MANY COOL PEOPLE IN MY INBOX PLEASE HELP US BRING ON MORE OF THEM. (Also if you wanna just contribute to us straight-up, please do!)

Not gonna lie, we’re downright jealous of the writing that sites like Broadly, Bustle, and Buzzfeed can afford. We don’t have the investment capital or lucrative ad contracts that they do. Just look at this graphic we made you in March about the accumulated investment capital other media companies are working with:

Most of the companies on this list have gotten most of these investments in the last 1-3 years, whereas we've been around for six! Also, The Huffington Post (which has a gay vertical) was purchased for $315 million in 2011.

Most of the companies on this list have gotten most of these investments in the last 1-3 years, whereas we’ve been around for 6.5! Also, The Huffington Post (which has a gay vertical) was purchased for $315 million in 2011.

So, let’s talk about Cobalt Level. Cobalt Level gives you access to everything Bronze-Level A+ members can access, the only difference is you won’t get an A+ sticker in the mail. This includes:

Now, here’s the thing: if a bunch of monthly bronze members cancel their memberships to re-join at the Cobalt level, this whole plan will fall to pieces. In fact, everybody I suggested this idea to warned against it, convinced that a massive downgrade could occur. I said Autostraddlers aren’t like that, they want to support us financially as much as they possibly can. If you come to a crossroads in your life where the choice is to cancel A+ altogether or switch to Cobalt, then we’re glad this option exists for you! But if you can afford Bronze, please don’t play us like that and downgrade.

Plus!

  • We’ve unlocked our most recent episode of the A+ podcast to ALL A+ members, not just silvers and golds. So go listen to that now.
  • Jenny Owen Youngs and Julia Nunes recorded a cover of “Walking With The Ghost” for you, it’s really spooky, and you’re gonna love it.
  • You can upgrade at any time, and when you upgrade from an annual membership you’ll get credit for what you’ve already put towards it.

Where Does My Money Go, Huh?

Good question! Here’s an infographic for you of where all of the A+ money we have collected since July 2014 has been spent. (Also, although it’s not illustrated here, a lot of the work that goes into making A+ function, like the programming, design, the Insider, the questions and so forth are done by the senior staff as part of their regular jobs, which isn’t included in the 3.4% below.)

a+cobalt

Still Don’t Wanna Join A+? Here’s how else you can support us:

  • Buy some merchandise from our new-and-improved store! We’ve finally (as of yesterday, truly), ironed out all the kinks and you can now expect fast shipping and all that jazz.
  • If you’re already shopping online, do so via our affiliate accounts. It’s super-easy. Our Amazon affiliate account specifically is a huge revenue source for us — we know it’s an evil company, but if you’re gonna shop there anyway, you may as well do so through us! Cee even made you a broswer extension that’ll enable you to automatically shop through our affiliate account whenever you visit Amazon!
  • If you can’t support us financially in any way, all hope is not lost! Following us on Facebook, twitter, instagram, tumblr or pinterest also helps us out a lot. Specifically, a lot of web traffic these days depends on Facebook, and as we can’t afford to spend thousands on “boosting” our posts, the likelihood of our fans seeing all our posts depends almost entirely on how many likes, comments and shares the post gets. Your “like” is a huge help!

As always, thank you to everybody who has supported us over the past 6.5 years. We have long to-do lists, but very high hopes.

Riese is the 38-year-old Co-Founder and CEO of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, blogger, fictionist, copywriter, video-maker, low-key Jewish power lesbian 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 2843 articles for us.

136 Comments

  1. Also one of your won an account people, but I could in-real-life pull off cobalt without worry and am very happy to see you offering it. So, I shall now go figure out how to give up some of my birthday money. Some of me just wants to stick a check in an envelope and put a stamp on it as I never remember passwords for things like Paypal…

  2. I live in LA, as in Latin America, not Los Angeles :P and my income is less than $600/mo. I’ve come to AS almost daily for longer than I can remember and literally could not imagine my life without this space <3
    Since amazon and the merch store were out of reach for me, this is the first time I'll be able to contribute and I'm so happy! I'm signing up when I get my next pay.
    Thanks for all your hard, life-saving work.
    <3

  3. I’m currently a bronze supporter, and hope to go up a level soon! Just wanted to add to the love and support shown here – you guys rock! I’m only at the start of my queer journey, and it’s like autostraddle has held my hand through everything, a friend when I needed it the most. I’m starting to find my community locally now (with your help!), but would have been miles behind if it weren’t for your amazing articles, I can’t thank you guys enough! xxx

  4. I first came to AS in 2010, when I was coming out to myself and working up the courage to come out to friends and family. AS helped me so much in figuring out who I am and understanding that there are so many awesome queer women out in the world, even though there weren’t many in my immediate vicinity. It would be another few months before I came out publicly, and another two or three years before I said “Autostraddle” out loud, finally discovering others who were openly queer and liked the site. I am ashamed to say that I haven’t given a penny until today. I just signed up to be a Cobalt member and I’m hoping to buy a scissoring tshirt soon! I know that I would not be where I am today without the help of Autostraddle. Now, I have a large group of queer friends and an amazing girlfriend who also enjoys AS and frequently texts me links to articles. After years of lurking with the occasional comment, I’m also excited to start contributing to the community. Thank you for all that you do. If I ever get a raise or a higher paying job, I promise to move up to bronze.

  5. I don’t have a lot to say except that I love Autostraddle: its writers, its topics, its ethos, its goals. You guys are doing a great thing and for some weirdo reason I was reluctant to sign up for a recurring payment because even though I should be able to afford it I’m comically bad at budgeting/impulse control….but this is actually a great way to incentivize myself to be better. This is what’s important to me, not stress-shopping for candy or nail polish or…. honestly a surprising amount of my money goes into stress related candy/nail polish purchases. I could live without that stuff. But I don’t know where I’d be without Autostraddle, and specifically, an Autostraddle continuing to be able to build on its ideals of inclusion by being able to pay a wider range of writers. So I’m moving contributing Autostraddle into the mental “non-optional” category with rent and groceries as long as there’s room for it at all– which hopefully with Cobalt as backup for the Silver subscription I just bought, will be always…and impulse drugstore buys can go back into “optional if not totally wasteful” where they belong.

  6. Oh man, I love Autostraddle so much. I’m sticking with my silver membership but love that you’ve made the cobalt option and also that you trust the bronze level folks to keep supporting you. What would we do without you <3

  7. I’ve been reading Autostraddle regularly for about a year now. It’s an incredible website that’s run by amazing people. I finally signed up for an account and the bronze subscription today. I’m currently an unemployed student, but hopefully, I’ll be able to upgrade in the future! Good luck with everything!

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