A+ Members can always submit questions to the Autostraddle team using the A+ Priority Contact Box. We answer A+ member questions in Into the A+ Advice Box and general questions in Some Answers to Some Things You’ve Been Asking Us. A+ starts at $4 a month and your money goes to supporting Autostraddle and the work we do here every day! Will you join?
Nicole: Hey! Can everyone hear us, see us? Throw some stuff in the chat, if you can. No? Are we visible? This is the most awkward start ever, but I’m just gonna own it. Hi, I’m Nicole. I know that I have… In the caption for my window, I have Autostraddle, because I’m running the account. I apologize in advance. A thunderstorm has just rolled in. So if we have technical difficulties, Rachel is going to take over for me. Other than that… I’m Nicole. Good to meet you. I am the fundraising and membership director here at Autostraddle. And… Do you all want to introduce yourselves? Welcome to the Town Hall!
Carmen: Rachel, you’re on mute!
Carmen: I can go. I’m the editor in chief of Autostraddle.com. And my pronouns are she and her. Which I realized too late to try to fit onto my name there. So… There’s that. But my pronouns are she and her. Is that everything, Nicole? For an intro? Great, great. Hi, everyone! I’m really happy to be here.
Nicole: Yeah, that’s good.
Laneia: I can go next. Can you hear me? Cool. I’m Laneia, the executive editor.
Shelli: I’m Shelli and my pronouns are she/her!
Carmen: We perhaps lost Rachel for a second. Well, I will tell you… Rachel is the managing editor. And also remember to put her pronouns in her name card. So… Rachel is she/her.
Nicole: Yes. Oh, no. I didn’t pronoun myself. I use they/them. Sorry, I just put Autostraddle. A bit of housekeeping to start us off. If you want to ask a question during this event, we already took some questions. And we have those questions, and the old form is now shut down. You can — there should be a little “ask a question” button. At the bottom of your screen. And you can put questions there. This is gonna run for about 90 minutes. But… We’re gonna try to get as many questions in as possible. But we might not be able to get them all. But if you have a question during this event, you can definitely put it in there. This event is for editorial questions about… Autostraddle.com. The direction that we’re going in, editorially. In terms of what we publish on the site. And also… Totally not biased plug. We are running a member drive right now! Because our A+ members literally keep us around! And fund this site. So… If you would like to join, I’m gonna drop how you can do that in the chat. And also, you are welcome to ask any questions you want about A+, which I would love to answer.
And that’s what this event is for! Let me see if Rachel is back. I do not see Rachel right now.
Carmen: Rachel will come back one day. Oh, Rachel!
Nicole: Are we back? Where?!
Carmen: Thank you all for your patience!
Nicole: Yeah, thank you so much.
Carmen: We’re doing great. Indie queer media. Emphasis on indie.
Shelli: We’re doing fantastic, is what I feel. I think we’re doing great…
Nicole: While we’re here, if you want to scroll up… If you need the realtime captioning service, you can open that link in a new browser tab. We also have it here. In a window. But it’s a little delayed. As they said in the… Let me try reinviting Rachel. They’re a little lagged on the screen. And it will run much more in time with what we’re saying in the moment if you open that in a separate browser window and view both browser windows simultaneously. Okay. I’ve reinvited Rachel.
Nicole: Next up… We have… A welcoming for Carmen! Our new editor in chief!
Nicole: Did you want to talk a little bit about your goals for your role? Or just… Like the rest of the year? Or anything you want to say about that?
Carmen: Sure! First is: Thank you all for coming out. I’m really excited. There’s 52 people here! I’m stunned by that, actually. I don’t know what else to say. I’m really excited to be editor in chief! I should have better prepared. To be fair, Nicole warned me about this. So that’s my bad. I think when it comes to stuff for the rest of the year, what I’m most excited about is… My key phrase for the year has been “sustainability”. I’m really invested in Autostraddle growing, because we have a lot of growing to do, very fast, if we’re gonna make it to the next spin around the sun. But I do want to make sure that we’re growing in such a way that everything we say we can do we can keep doing. That is a key part of my dream. And for me, part of that… Is that it continues… It’s not just about how we’re gonna grow financially or editorially. It’s about the fact that it took us a year, but now we’re at a place where over 50% of our website is published or written by people of color. I want to see what happens when we get that from 50% to 60%. That’s my goal for this year. Breaking news. I guess I just announced it. I want to move that from 50% to 60%. I know we’ve had a lot of people who have been very patient as we’ve figured out things around accessibility that we were just not doing well. We weren’t doing alt text well, we weren’t making sure we had captions for live events. We’ve been figuring that out. My next big goal is to get a real accessibility audit. That’s something I really want us to find. And I’m giving a list of stuff.
But I really think that there are places where we’ve been able to really mark where we can grow. We’re going to try and do that, putting trans people of color first. That we haven’t always been about. I think it is so key to where we’re going. And I should have better prepped this, but my main point is that I really want us to keep… On this path of where we’ve started and have been for the past 18 months. But I think what’s moving forward for us is being able to do it in such a way that it becomes part of our life. Just something that we keep doing. And the main way we’re gonna be able to do that is with the support of A+ members and with the support of people who are able to give during fundraisers, but also keep us accountable. We’ve been really lucky to have such a community that’s so willing to do that. And continue with us, even as they want us to be better. So please keep that going. Keep the same energy!
And I think… That’s maybe enough for right now! Also… Well, I had something else I was gonna say. But somebody else asked a question.
Carmen: Oh, also… I apologize to our captioner. I know I talk so fast. I will make a point to talk slower.
Nicole: (chuckling) Okay. Well… Next we wanted to hear from… Also congratulations, Shelli, our new culture editor. Is there anything you want to say? Just about like… How it’s been going? Or… Your goals for the role? I know you talked a little bit about that in your recent A Day of Work post, which was awesome.
Shelli: Thank you! Yeah. So I’m super excited to be culture editor. I think it’s super dope. And I’m gonna apologize too right now. Because… Not apologize. But say pardon me. But… I have laryngitis. I got diagnosed yesterday. Because… Your girl sleeps with the AC directly on her! And… (laughing) decided to… Um… Not change the filter. And so… Change your filters! And don’t sleep with your AC directly on you! But anyway… I’m super excited to be culture editor. It’s been going fucking… I’m sorry. Can I cuss? Probably not? I’ll keep it to a minimum. Okay. I… Um… Funnily enough, that’s also how I accepted the position. Yelling curse words in the Slack. There’s that. And then a day later I was like… Oh, wait. I should just say “I accept”. But anyway… It’s been going really, really, really dope.
I love it. I’ve been having a really great time. I thought that it would take me a little bit longer to get my bearings than it did. But… What the main thing I wanted to do was… Same thing. Along the lines that Carmen was talking about. I wanted to get more Black and Brown focus on the site. And not just in the form of like… What we write about. But who was writing it. You know? I wanted to give people a chance. I wanted to give new writers their first byline. To be at Autostraddle. And realize that… As a Black person, they didn’t have to — Black queer person — they didn’t have to write about trauma for it to be their first byline! Because that’s unfortunately how I got my start. I thought I had to only write about queer trauma in order to get my foot in the door. And at Autostraddle, we don’t do that. You feel me?! So it’s been going super well.
I had the chance to work with some really great writers. I’m learning how to be a better editor. And I’m just… Culture is a big umbrella. Right? Like… But it’s everything from things like pop culture, media, and film, also to, like, subcultures. Things that are happening in people’s areas. Like… New trends and stuff. And my big goal is to really get us in… Get Autostraddle’s foot in the water, when it comes to beauty and fashion. You feel me? Because queer fashion and queer beauty and makeup is a thing. You know? And I want to get our foot in the door there. I have big dreams of, like, a once a year printed zine. Yeah, I’m the OC, in the Slack, is what I’m saying. I’ll be like… Hey, let’s do this gigantic thing, and everyone is very supportive, and I fucking love it! So yeah! It’s been going really great. And… I just… I was very nervous, if you ask Carmen, to take — even apply for this position! But I’m really, really glad that I did. Because it’s just me doing what I wanted to do. I love it. I hope y’all have been liking the stuff that I’ve been trying to push out and put on the site. And I love the team too. So… That’s it!
Carmen: If I could just jump in real quick and sing Shelli’s praises on this one point — she said: I have been learning faster than I thought. And I just wanted to say that… When Shelli accepted the position, she said: Oh, it’s okay if it takes me a month or two, like, a learning curve, right? We’re like sure! Whatever! And then her first month, she had edited like four features. It was like… Oh yeah! Remember that “learning curve”? ! She just ran for it! I just really wanted to plug that. Because I think she was very kind and she was like… Oh, I learned faster than I thought! She’s just adapted beyond any of our wildest dreams. It’s been amazing to watch her. And so… I’m really excited I get to say that on camera.
Shelli: Thank you! It’s recorded! It’s in the notes!
Nicole: Yep! That’s forever!
Rachel: It’s set in stone!
Nicole: I love that. Okay! We are doing great. And… So I’m gonna… We have more questions than I originally thought we would, when I made the schedule, which is wonderful. So I just wanted to… Wrap the two questions I have for everybody to go around and talk about. But just… We’ve been talking a lot about what work fills our days and what our roles look like as part of our job. And I think it’s really interesting to peel back the curtain, and show people what it is you actually do. And what you’re concerned about. And what would make your life infinitely better. At work. And so… I just wanted everybody to kind of answer: What have the past few weeks been like for you? What are you looking forward to? But also… What challenges are you facing? In the role? You don’t have to have an answer for that challenge.
Shelli: So I can go first! I’ll go first. That’s fine. Also, I do want to reiterate that we are doing fantastic right now. Like… This is chill. This is dope. It’s a really… It’s just chatting with people. We’re an indie publication. They’re chilling at the crib, watching us. You know what I’m saying? We’re all literally doing… Honestly, fantastic. Nobody has got any issues. And if you do have an issue… Then… Come on! But anyway… (laughing) Sorry.
That’s what I’m saying! And that’s all you can ask of people. You feel me? We’ve been working hard. This goes to the question too. We’ve been working hella hard during the membership drive but also during Pride and all the stuff we’ve been doing, with the world in the shape that it’s in. We’re busy. We’re a small team, you feel me?! So in doing this at the end of our work day, even though we did plan for it and stuff like that, it can still be a little hard. You feel me? So that’s that. But what I’m looking forward to… Is honestly… Just like… And this is not about the site. I’m looking forward to getting out of Pride Month. Because… Of the hella hella hella corporate factor that’s really been pumping this year. And I’m looking forward to it being a wrap so I can just be gay any other month. Like… I kind of just want that to happen. And I can imagine the… Like… Wild pressure that sites that don’t have a direct queer audience are probably… They’re freaking out like crazy. We’re just over here like… Yeah. We’re… Just gay. It’s fine.
But I’m ready to like… Low key wrap that up. And what I’m excited about… And can I say, like, a kind of column? Or piece that I’m excited about that’s coming out? Okay. I’m really excited, because we have been talking for a while about tattoos. And queer folks. And our attachment to our tattoos. Trans folks and attachments to tattoos, and just how it can make you feel more complete in your body. And I found an amazing artist here in Chicago. That just so happened to be a dope writer as well. And I’m really excited for them to put together… Their first piece is coming out in a few weeks. But I’m hoping that… It’s hopeful that we talked about it turning into a column. Maybe a once a month kind of thing. Which is all about tattoos. And that may sound small to many people. But I don’t think so. For our community, it takes… A lot. For tattoos and shit. And they mean a lot.
So I’m hella excited for that to come out. Because I really want… It’s a culture! You feel me? Like, it’s a — tattoo culture is a big thing for us. So I’m hella excited about that. I forgot the other question, Nicole! I went on a tirade. That’s the wrong word. But I went on one of them. So… Ha-ha!
Nicole: No, it was great. It was like… What have the past couple of weeks been like?
Shelli: The past few weeks honestly have been pretty… Work-wise, they’ve been pretty busy. Like… To show y’all that… This is what my calendar looks like. But I can only imagine what the other people on stage… Like, this is my work calendar. You feel me? So… I don’t want y’all out here thinking that we don’t be doing work. You know? Like the people… I know that no one doesn’t think we be doing work. But we be out here… Look at this! We be out here like…
Rachel: Oh my God!
Shelli: Working! You feel me?! And this includes Friday, Saturday, and Sunday! You know? So we be working for y’all. And we love it! But… So the past few weeks have been busy. But for me, it’s been a good busy. So… That’s it! Does everyone also like my cup? Put in the comments how much you like my Alice cup.
Carmen: I’m so jealous of it.
Shelli: I think that I am Alice, most days. So… There. That’s it. I’m finished. I’m gonna go on mute and drink this.
Nicole: I love that so much. Who’s next?
Laneia: Oh, fuck it. I’ll do it. Um… I wanted to say that the thing that I’m most excited about, that has come along, because we’ve been able to kind of… Partition out our jobs and have a little bit more time… Is the folios that our writers are doing. I keep going back to this. But I cannot stress enough how… This has been something that we’ve been wanting to do for like… Two years? Maybe more? And… We’ve just never had the time. It’s like… Hang on. I’m echoing. Okay. Nope. I can still hear myself. It’s fine. I’m just gonna talk over it. We just finally have the time and the energy to dedicate to it. And it’s… Exciting, because our writers are very good writers. Right? Extremely good. So talented, so smart, full of so many ideas. But they’re also incredible editors and incredible leaders. And their ideas for content — like… I just… I want it. I want to see all of it. And I’m so excited for what’s coming up this year. It’s… Honestly, I think it’s very… It’s spanned so many weird places. And it’s so exciting to give everybody a chance. Sort of… Have a say. You know? In what we’re doing. I just feel like that’s really important, to have a say. Because you do get to have a say, as a writer. Just to… Write what you’re gonna write. But to pick out what other people get to say is… Yes. I want that spread out. I want that power spread out. And I’m so excited for that to happen. And it’s come about, because we have been able to finally sort of give certain jobs to other people. And now… Our editors can actually be that point person for these folio editors. Whereas before… They were slammed. I mean, they’re still slammed. Don’t get me wrong. But slightly less slammed. So… That’s me. That’s where I’m at.
Rachel: I think I can go. Can you hear me at this point in time? What great news. I love it. I think I got cut off earlier. I’m Rachel, the managing editor. My pronouns are she and her. I do a lot of managing of things. And people. Which has been… A lot of my last few weeks. I think if you’re kind of involved enough that you’re here at this event… Thank you. You are probably sort of clued into the fact that we have the basic kind of major things we have going on. It’s Pride. We’re in the middle of Pride. We’re in the middle of this member drive. Which we’re having this event for. You know, we’re onboarding editors, we have a lot of things going on. So there’s sort of just a lot happening. It’s sort of my main experience. There’s a lot of layers. And I think probably we all feel this way. But definitely kind of a lot of how I’ve been feeling on the job lately is there are a lot of simultaneous things happening. And they all need attention. And they all kind of need equal attention. But they’re also… Not really touching each other. You know? So like… There is a need to kind of be in a lot of different places at once. And kind of giving any one of those things your full attention means that it kind of feels like you’re not getting a lot done on other things.
So I’ve been actually really loving reading Laneia and Shelli’s days in the life, working here, and it’s actually been so validating for me to read those. Because I’m like… Oh my God, same. Like, of course. Duh. Literally same. We work at the same place. But it is really validating to feel… Almost seeing very much how we’re kind of skipping and moving from different elements and different directions. So… Right now, I’m feeling much like Laneia is saying, so excited about people’s folios, so excited about the work that Shelli is doing. We’ve also been able to launch a new newsletter, recently, More Please, the sex and dating newsletter that our editor is leading. They’ve also taken over Slick, our A+ erotica series. Great news for anyone who joined A+ to attend this event. You now get access to a full erotica series on A+ that Ro is now editing. I’m working with them on that. As Laneia talks about the newsletter, if you’re able to read it, kind of figuring out what Pride means this year. What does it mean to talk about Pride as a concept, Pride as an event, is it corporate, is it something more… Values-based. What does it mean for us to do this as a website that is gay 365 days a year? Is that kind of a meaningful choice?
So I think in terms of managing events and also thinking about day-to-day content… We’re all… Kind of trying to work on that. And so I’ve been feeling really kind of… A lot of tension. Which is exciting. But also tiring about kind of answering those big questions, and also day-to-day… Literally just… This person needs their email answered. Where is their email? I can’t find their email. Do you have their email? Which is… You know. It’s an exciting and also just a lot going on. So I’m excited to… It’s actually really nice to be here, because it feels… Sometimes it’s easy. Especially in those moods when I’m trying to balance a lot of things, I forget that people are out there and really excited and waiting for what we’re doing. And the work that we do and the content that we’re able to produce and what we’re able to help other people produce kind of lands somewhere and goes home with you guys.
Which… Is so nice. So thank you, everyone, for being here. And reminding us of that. I do want to share, because I got so excited, listening to Shelli’s tattoo column… I do want to share a little piece that I’m super excited about. Which is like… I’ve been working with a writer for a long time now. And she has connections with a bunch of leather players in New York City and has been working with them on really in-depth conversations and interviews and this really beautiful wide ranging recorded conversations, all verbatim, and we’ve been talking about how to package it into a series, which is a project that dated from before Pride. I don’t know where y’all are at. I’ve really been feeling the way that I feel about the whole Kink at Pride discourse. So I’m hoping to publish the piece that dives really deep and makes a lot of space for people exploring how they feel about leather and the way it interacts with their whole personhood and relationships, and being able to just really own that and lean into it, and also in a way that is not reactive or defensive, but very much like… Authoritative and confident, and really kind of… Coming from a place of ownership and history. And being really centered in community. So I’m really excited to share it with y’all!
Carmen: Okay. I think that just leaves me. It’s actually been… The past two weeks in particular have been really kind of crazy. I’ve had the longest, I think… Most attention on me, stretch of… My life, probably. May going into now. So the first thing I’m looking forward to is… July. I think. When I can go back to what I like to do best, which is write on the internet without people seeing my face. I’m very happy for all of you to see me right now. But I think what I’m most looking forward to is in two weeks, when I can go back to being behind the scenes of our website that we all love and making it come to life. That’s probably number one. I think what has been really interesting about the last two weeks in particular… I think kind of stemming from going into our… Going into the announcement of me being editor in chief, and the love that has poured out in the days since, is… How much our community is really rooting for this website.
It is such… It is such an overwhelming feeling, sometimes, to remember that it’s kind of what Rachel was saying. You know, we’re all working all the time. I don’t even… I’ve been so busy, I haven’t even had time to write out the calendar like Shelli’s calendar, for the last two weeks. I just leave messages for myself in Slack and set reminders for the next morning. That’s where I’m at in my life right now. Every day I wake up and there’s 20 of them. And my first most immediate goal is to get it back down to single digits, because every single day since May has been… I wake up and it’s 27 reminders, 24 reminders, 22 reminders. I’ve been living in a perpetual pile of that. So I’m digging out of that. And I think when you’re in that pile, and you’re trying to make this website run as… I mean, some of you know… We’re a little short staffed this month. So I’ve been also doubling up as leading our TV and film criticism for the month of June, in addition to new responsibilities as editor in chief, in addition to the membership drive.
So it’s definitely… We always say if you work at Autostraddle, you have three jobs. But I have never more felt like I have three jobs than I do right now. And I think… When you’re on the other side of it, what’s been really wonderful is seeing how many people are just really rooting for us, and how many people have been so kind to say things like… I really like the direction Autostraddle is going. Keep going in it! I really like what I’ve been seeing, in terms of changes over the last six months, the last year. Keep moving in that direction. I think it’s really rewarding and exciting, and I know we’re all tired, and the pandemic has been exhausting. And Pride is really fucking exhausting this year.
But… This is my Pride event. And it’s really amazing. So I’m really glad to be here with you guys. I think that’s pretty much it. To answer Nicole’s question about what’s been hard… I definitely think… The running three jobs has been hard. I definitely am at Autostraddle probably 9:00 am to 9:00 pm, 9:00 pm to 10:00 pm most days of the week, and I hang out with Nicole Saturdays and Sundays too. Yeah, we’re fun. And Nicole and I are also, I think, unabashedly the nerdiest people on our team. So today we were scheduling a meeting and Nicole literally was like… I love scheduling! In the most pure voice. And I really enjoyed that! I really enjoy having someone else on the team. Who is super nerdy about things like that!
Sorry. I’ve gone off subject as well. But my main point is to say the last few weeks have been insanely busy, and you guys make it worth it. That’s the too-long;don’t-read of it.
Nicole: Thank you. That’s definitely true. If I would just talk about the past few weeks. I feel like everyone is always… At least on the team, y’all are very aware of what I’m up to. Because it usually involves you. And starting to like… Need your time. And need your help. And… Need to… Needing to organize the things like the member drive, or recently the fundraiser. And so… I think an interesting thing about Autostraddle that maybe not a lot of people realize with my role is like… Yes. There’s like the very high level… You conceptualize the member drive and you plan it. And do the writing. And like… Help everyone else do their parts of the writing. And… Organize it. But then also… Like, each morning with my coffee, I’m like… Manually updating that tracker. That’s just… That’s not a machine. That’s just me.
And so we have all of these little things that each of us has to do in our roles, because we don’t really, like, have a support team. So we do for every person who works at Autostraddle, does like… All of the most high concept part of the job and all of the gritty little parts of their job. And that’s just… What it is. With a small publication. So I work here all the time, working. And then like… Yeah. I’ve been here 7 days a week, for this member drive. But also… You all inspire me so much, because then we’ll be like… What, we’re four or five days into the member drive? And we’re like… Tracy is like… I bet I could automate that for you next time, Nicole! Thank you. (laughing) That would be cool. Um… But… I wonder. Because I have to, like, move the… I have to even move the little stars each time.
But… Ha-ha! We could talk about it. Oh, where was I going? Oh, I was telling you guys how awesome you are! You all inspire me so much! Because we can be like five days into this drive. And like… We only have 99 people to go, until we meet our goal. Like… It’s amazing. The amount of support that we’re seeing from people. Who really want this website to survive and to be here for… Like, everyone who needs to find us — and people keep finding us every day. I just got an email from someone who just started reading a couple months ago. And I feel like… After the past year and a half we had, yeah. We don’t… Want to see Autostraddle go out. Like… It’s not the time. Not today!
So yeah. I feel like there’s… That’s just my day. It’s really inspired. Really tired. Tired and inspired.
Carmen: That’s it. Really inspired. Really tired. I just… I wanted to just hop in for one second, because one thing you said, Nicole, reminded me of something. I would want people to know. If you are someone who reads our TV/film coverage, you might have noticed over the last month we’ve had more interviews with actual creators. People I thought we would never get to interview. In the last month, we’ve interviewed Lena Waite, and Stephanie Beatriz, and we are working really hard to line up an interview with Jen Richards, we were able to interview Mae Martin. And we interviewed Daniela Sea. For the captioner, because I was coughing. We just had all these really amazing opportunities. What Nicole was saying reminded me that… How often when we’re just starting to get our foot in these doors, after being here 12 years, with some of these major PR people… Or major networks, and like… I was talking to a connection I have at Netflix.
And legitimately, they were stunned that it was just me. They were like… They were like… Legitimately! Oh, put us in contact with whoever does your blah-blah-blah. And I was like… Uh, that person is definitely just me. We don’t have… Like… I have no secretary to share my information with you. It’s just me. No assistant! And that money that you guys are able to give us, or that support, even if you’re not able to financially support… It is making our website… It’s such an outsized impact. It maybe took us 12 years, but, like, we’re finally starting to get to a point now where people are like… Is this gonna be something that matters? This is the website. This is how we reach that community.
And… They are continually floored, when they turn around, and it is just us on the other side. You know what I mean? Whenever I’ve been able to be… And I haven’t had — I’m not taking major interviews with Netflix, but whenever I’ve been able to get in touch with any PR person, they’re always like… It’s just you guys, right? Yeah. It’s just us. It’s like… That’s who’s here. And I think that is really key. I just wanted to share that with you guys. The impact that you’re giving us — we’re really trying to run with it. So thank you for giving us that chance.
Nicole: That’s really interesting. I did not know… That makes sense that you would get that reaction. But I did not know about that.
Carmen: Every time. They’re like… Oh, put us in touch with an assistant. And I was like… Enh… We do not have one of those.
Rachel:I actually like… If you have a second… I’m curious. Because I am so… And this is actually for us. We don’t always have time to get to compare the day-to-day stuff in our role. I handle most of the books coverage at Autostraddle and have for the past two years. And Carmen was so kind recently. I think it was actually before she was even editor in chief. This is just who Carmen is as a person. She reached out to me privately in DM and was like… I just think it’s amazing that the books coverage has been so great recently. I feel like we’ve been able to get so much access, we have all of these new kind of exclusive things. And we’re getting excerpts, we’re getting reviews, we’re getting reached out to. And I think the work you’ve put into this is amazing. I was like… Wow. Thank you, first of all. But also, I didn’t do that. That’s absolutely not me. To be honest, we’re in a place now where presses are actually reaching out to us. Like… I just got an email today, asking to do an exclusive cover reveal for a new F/F YA book, which actually sounds great. And the person doing the new (inaudible) book reached out to us. And reached out to Autostraddle. I want to take credit, but I haven’t done shit to earn that. It’s not like I’ve been hitting the pavement. This is all of you. The level of work and sharing and authenticity that you’ve given us as a devoted audience, that people at Netflix and even big publishers like McMillan — you have become dedicated and clearly engaged enough that people really do want to court you. And have just by the force of your kind of… Very clear investment and engagement and devotion to us… And also kind of like… What discerning and critical readers you are… You know, it’s not something like… No offense, like a BuzzFeed Quiz reader. Where you’re like… I know, BuzzFeed is so dumb. But whatever. I read it. Just like the quality of… And… You know, discernment of the audience we’ve created has actually made us a destination for that, in a way that… Because of the various forces in the digital media industry, we could never have done on our own. But the impact is so… Like you’re saying, Carmen. The impact is so outsized. And it’s so clear that it’s such a cool feedback loop.
Where you know… Every time we’re able to work with a new advertiser, a new sponsor, partner, a new… Anyone else in a different industry. Partnering up for something like — they end up actually being amazed at the impact they’re able to have. They’re like… The engagement on that is incredible. We heard from so many new people. The feedback on that was incredible. I’m like… I know! We told you guys! They’re great! And I feel like you have stuck with us long enough that we’ve really… That’s really become visible to other people outside of the circle. You know? Which is amazing. I honestly didn’t think we would be allowed kind of long enough to see that phenomenon happen. But it really is. Which is so cool.
Carmen: I truly never thought I would be… In this position. And I love indie media. I love it. I truly never thought I would be in this position. To ever see someone with a Netflix.com email me. Never in my life. I was like… That is something that only exists for people who are owned by Conde Nast. They will never show up here. That’s you guys. What Rachel said is true. That’s just you guys. Them finding us, finally, after us standing on rooftops with bull horns… That’s because of your engagement. And you guys just keep showing up. Engaging. So thank you.
Shelli: Can I say one minute on that too? Because… I thought that was so fucking dope too. Because what happened… And it just shows… Like… The work that we’re doing is paying off. And y’all are paying attention and sharing it. Because… When we did the coverage for Niecy Nash, we were specifically like — we want to show more Black and Brown queer people, coming out, on shows. Even if it’s something like a clip or something — we want to cover that. Because we want our leaders to look at it and share it. So when we did that coverage on Niecy and Jessica, all of a sudden, after that, the red tabletop then came to us. Two times after that, when we had red tabletop stuff on the site, it is because somebody there at Facebook or — because that’s where Red Table is at — are like — yo, where can we get queer coverage where this audience is gonna be there and want to look at it? And they reached out to us about the Willow Smith and Paris Jackson, which is incredible. Two Black queer people talking about being Black and queer! And then the polyamory. We got to release that piece first, about Blackness and polyamory, being talked about at the Red Table. And queerness as well. One thing my dad always says is: I’ll do my part if you do your part, but I can’t do your part for you. You feel me? So we’re doing our part by being out here. Trying our hardest. There’s five of us here now. Like… Yo, we’re a small team. Even with all the other amazing writers and editors and stuff at the spot. And we can only do so much. And pour so much of our heart and labor and time and tears and… Naps and stuff into it. And then it’s up to y’all. And we hope that y’all share that work and stuff. And you do. And then… We get… Like… We benefit from it too. Because then we get more connections with these types of people. To break this news and break this trailer and break all this kind of stuff.
So it’s super dope. And… I hope that y’all keep on like… And y’all are A+members. All y’all got social media. One retweet is all it lowkey takes for an article. Sharing something to your story… That little arrow button on Instagram, just be like… Yo, share to story. Because you don’t know who follows you. I know who follows me, because sometimes I be looking and I’m like… Oh my God. Why are you following me? It’s cute. But you don’t know who follows you, that may have been looking for us. Or a site like us. So if y’all keep doing that kind of stuff, especially as A+ members, y’all are gonna help our wheel keep moving faster and faster, and getting us to the point that we want to be at. Quicker and quicker. You feel me? So… That’s it!
Carmen: That was excellent.
Nicole: That’s awesome. Thank you! Yeah. And the great thing about… You know, I’m not in editorial. But just as a spectator, as a reader, the great thing about us getting the breaking news is like… I want to hear what the Autostraddle writers have to say about it, how the Autostraddle writers want to cover something. That’s worthwhile. Okay. We’re gonna take audience questions now. Is everybody ready? I have them in the document. And I’m gonna… After a quick mini-announcement… I’m gonna read them off, one by one. We’ll kind of grab… Multiple people can answer. In conversation. Up top, I did want to address… We got several questions about A Camp. And I’ve never been to A Camp. But… Right now, all I can tell you is that… We don’t really know anything. And we don’t have any definitive plans.
But if we did have more information… Or knew more about the future of A Camp… We would… Or will let you know. Right now, it’s still a pandemic. I’m sorry to bring that up. In such a… You know, like a happy space. But… That’s our reality right now. So I really appreciate all of your enthusiasm. And… All of your love for that space. But right now, you know, right now we can answer questions about… The website. About our future. About A+. About what we’re doing for writers and artists like our comic illustrators. And what we’re doing in terms of coverage. And maybe some business stuff. Depending on who… What kinds of questions those are. Okay? Okay.
I feel like… It’s letting people down. So I’m sorry. But thank you for listening. Okay. Here’s a question! What’s the difference between the different types of Autostraddle editors. Like… What do your fancy titles mean? Does anybody want to go and explain your title?
Rachel: I don’t know the answer to this.
Carmen: I know. That is an interesting question.
Rachel: Do we like…
Carmen: Go ahead, Rachel. Please.
Rachel: I’m wondering if we know the answer to this.
Laneia:No. We don’t. No.
Rachel: I mean, I think it’s a really… I think it’s in flux. It’s an organic, living definition. I think it’s…
Rachel: You know? I do think we could like… Probably go through and just say quickly what we feel like we focus on that’s unique. I mean… I guess I can kind of preface and say… As somebody who’s been at Autostraddle a very long time — not from day one, but for a long time now… We definitely are kind of… A self-structured unit. Where a lot of times what any individual person’s job ends up being is like… You know, my job is largely the things Rachel is good at. And is sort of something that grew organically out of that. Rather than from an external job definition. And I do think that has been… Largely… For instance… I’m interested… I don’t know, Shelli, if you want to talk about this… When we did hiring for editors, we didn’t put out a call like… We need to hire a culture editor. And Shelli was who applied. What we put a call for was: We need to hire a new editor who handles a new vertical. So part of Shelli’s application was pitching the vertical she runs and the kind of content and work that she does. So that’s a pretty… That’s pretty representative of Autostraddle’s deal in general. So I don’t know… My title is Managing Editor. I’m not totally sure if what I do day-to-day is also what a different managing editor at, like, Vice or Jezebel or Bitch would also do on a day-to-day basis. But definitely we can talk more about that.
I think… To be honest, I’m also curious about this. I think us and our own writers don’t always have a great sense of what everyone else is up to. Does anyone talk about… What they do at work? At their jobs?
Carmen Part of what makes that question so interesting and why I laughed is because… I think, Rachel, you’re actually right. I think a lot of our time winds up being like: What are these roles that we’re doing? Last summer, we spent a whole time when I first became editor interviewing everyone to be like… What do you think you do here? And taking notes. We had a sense of how this machine works. And I think… One of the things that is so beautiful about Autostraddle is that it is very self-structured. It is kind of based around two things: One, what do you enjoy doing. And two, what does the website need to happen? I think once at one of our team meetings, I don’t remember which senior staff person said it, but there is kind of a sense of like… And the trash still has to be taken out on Friday. Which doesn’t mean like there’s part of our jobs that are trash. But there are parts of our jobs that are responsibilities.
So it is a mix of: What’s the stuff that you’re really good at? And then what’s the stuff that has to happen, for the train to keep going on the tracks? And I think everyone’s job is kind of a hybrid of those two. Based off of their best skillsets. So like… That would be my answer to that. But I also don’t know… That any of our jobs would be easily matchable to like… What you were saying. Someone at Bitch. I have no idea what a managing editor at Bitch does. I know that… Like… Our managing editor is someone who takes care of probably 50% of what’s on our website. I would say… Anywhere between 40% and 50% of it is edited by Rachel. So that’s something I would say — our managing editor does. You know what I mean? I would say that our managing editor helps (audio drop) also does a lot of our event planning. A lot of what you’re seeing at virtual events is (audio drop)
(guitar tuning up in background)
And that’s not for… You know what I mean? I think there’s that. (audio drop) I stepped into a position that was available. And tried to do what I could do with it. And see if it matched my personality well. And so I did that. And I think that’s… For better or for worse, that is Autostraddle. Right? I don’t know…
LaneiaSomeone has some music. Can everyone mute if you’re not the one talking? So… I guess I’ll say what I do? Um…
Nicole:Yeah! What does the executive editor do?
Laneia:Well… It’s a great question. Interestingly, this is something that I’m trying to figure out right now. Like… For the past couple of years. Has been like… Very slowly but very clearly becoming something very different. But I will say to begin with, the executive editor did things that Riese didn’t want to do, but that I could do. There are things that Riese didn’t want to do, but that I could do. That I took as much as I could. And then… I swear to God… If you come out of your bedroom right now, I literally… I’m literally talking!!!! This is why you don’t have children! You can think that you’re gonna want children. And then you’re gonna really want to think about… When I’m on a call! When I’m the only one speaking! Literally everyone else is muted. And I’m the only one talking. He’s gonna walk out of his room and he’s gonna wonder if he can go into the kitchen. And the answer is… No! The point, though… Is that what I do for Autostraddle is… I have done a variety of things, like I’ve gone through… I was the person that was in charge of all the submissions for a very long time.
I was the person in charge of… Like… Rallying all the team for a bit. Like, a daily situation where we’re talking in an email and then that got moved to Slack. And then the majority of my job for the past little bit has been… Little bit? It’s been a while. Has been… Like, building out structures. So that we do have a way to do the things we need to do. So, like, AirTable is a big… Can’t think of a day of my life where I don’t talk about AirTable. AirTable is a big thing. Where we’re just like… It’s a beautiful place. But also you have to make it work. So… Like… We’re using one base to gather so much information and to also share so much information at the same time. And the whole point… In my opinion… When I was building it out, was to create… Independencies within it. Which is difficult. Because we are all in different time zones. We’re all over the country. Ideally, we’re all able to do our job without needing to wait for somebody else to come in.
Which isn’t always possible. But… So my job for a long time… That was honestly a huge focus. Which I’m not sure that anybody else really… Wrapped their head around. Or really could say for sure that that’s what I was doing. But most of my job has been figuring out a way that everyone can do their job without needing to wait for someone else to come through. Which is… Like building out a lot of check boxes and a lot of… Zaps on Zapier. I don’t even… Isn’t it fun to have cute names for your website, but nobody actually says it out loud, because we’re all on the fucking internet, so we’re just reading it?! Anyway. That website. I use that. So it’s like… Daily, all the time, that’s how everybody gets their notifications. About what their posts are doing in the calendar. So… Yeah! I’m back there. Doing that stuff. And then also… Currently… I am… Cussing out Photoshop every Saturday. So that you can have your quizzes! Because genuinely, I want you to have your quizzes.
And then… What else? Oh, the newsletter. I do the newsletter every week. And then I do the call for the Insider. Wait. Zah-peer? Okay. Good. Thank you, Riese. I do the Insider stuff. So that y’all have the collage of what everyone is doing. And… Ostensibly, I am fully in charge of deciding what the theme is. And… I’ll tell you what! Sometimes it’s slim pickings. I don’t know. How many are we at now? Like… Several? A hundred and… How many? Who knows! It’s been a while. So I’m fresh out of ideas. If you have any ideas for what we can do for an Insider Collage. Just send them to me. Laneia@Autostraddle.com. I would love to hear your ideas. Thank you!
Carmen: I was just gonna say, in case some of the people listening don’t know AirTable, it’s the place where our publishing calendar is, and it was completely created out of Laneia’s brain, and it’s beautiful. So just to really clarify that, for people who maybe don’t know. It is… You may use it for your job. You may not. AirTable can be in many ways what you want it to be. It’s a base that allows you to build out things. And Laneia used it to build out the home of our publishing calendar. It’s also where we keep all of our freelancer rates, all of the passwords for literally everything we need, that we have to share across all of our…
All of our invoices.
Where we put our time away when we need to have medical leave or vacation time. It is… Truly… The backbone of Autostraddle. And you guys never get to see it. So I really just wanted to make that clear. That it is… It came from her brain. And it’s very special.
Laneia: Thank you!
Rachel: There was a new update that took away the color coding a few weeks ago. And we were honestly a wreck. No one could function.
Carmen: I could not manage anything without the colors! I was like… I don’t know what to do!!
Laneia: Color coding is super important! Listen. My middle name is at-a-glance. I just want everyone to be able to walk into a space, look around, and get it. Whatever it is. At a glance.
Carmen: And also our accessibility. If you’ve appreciated the changes we have been able to make, Laneia is the person who built a checklist around that. Also Laneia and I found accessible forms. So when you want to submit to Autostraddle and it’s screen reader-friendly. The checklist makes sure that we have alt text on all of our images before they go off to social media. I don’t know if this is interesting, but just so you guys have a concept, any piece you have on our website, it passes through there. Some pieces pass through more. But an editor accepts a piece. That’s one. The editor edits it, gets it up, that’s still them. But it has to be checklisted on AirTable. Anything that’s being socialed, it’s gonna be socialed by… Most likely Valerie or Heather. Or Sarah or myself. Sometimes. That’s now a third set of hands.
So the idea that we’re able to keep a piece uniform through all of that… That is… That is a lot of work. It’s pretty special.
Nicole: Thank you!
Shelli: Do you hear me? My Airpods… So for the question, I want to answer to the person who submitted the question… About my experience as a subject editor. But also… On the other side of it… I don’t want you to leave here. I don’t want anybody to leave here thinking that we’re just out here, picking names out of thin air. And being like… That is gonna be the name of what I’m doing, just because we’re an indie publication. Because what happens is: We always have our roles. Right? But I don’t know if you listen to everybody that talks. Everybody kept saying the word “also, do I this”. “also, I do that.” “also, I do that.” So it becomes really hard to be able to say what your one role is, when you’re doing A, B, C, D, E, and F. You feel me? So our roles mean things, but we are not… This is not Conde Nast. You feel me? At those bigger places, their executive editor can — if you ask them that question, they would be like… Oh yeah, I do this and that. Because they have four other people under them who do all the things that Laneia or Rachel or Carmen is doing. You feel me?
So it’s not that we’re just like picking these roles out. I mean, and just being like… I need a fancy name for this shit I do every day. Nah, G. It’s not like that. They just do so much. It becomes a harder question to answer. So don’t leave here thinking that we’re picking fancy titles so we can put them in our IG and Twitter bios. That’s not the case. It’s not like that. And then like… Because even earlier to that point… It’s just like… When Carmen was saying… Netflix emailed her and then was like… Oh yeah! Send me to your secretary! I don’t have one of those! I am my own secretary! So she’s not only editor in chief. She’s also her editor in chief’s secretary. You feel me? So it’s like… Our roles mean things. But I just want to reiterate the fact that we are a small actual… Like, think of the ’90s. We’re an actual indie publication, G. Like… We all do so fucking much! That… We’re just like… Let me pick this main title! So that at the bottom of my email, when I’m sending out stuff, it doesn’t say: Oh yeah, and this. Oh, but this too. And this. Also, here’s my phone number and my IG. Like… Nah! It’s not that. So it’s a harder question to answer from our team at Autostraddle. Than if you answered that question at a bigger publication. And what they were saying to you earlier, as a subject editor… It is mad different for me. I thought it was cool. We’re an indie publication. Buzzword. You’re gonna hear that, because that is who we are, we’re true to that, and that’s tea. That’s just gonna be the deal. The application process is — we’re hiring for a subject editor. Right? They didn’t say: We’re looking for a culture editor. It was exactly the process that they said.
I, within my application, was like: One of the questions was like: What are some of the things that you want to focus on? And then, as the process moved forward, and I maybe got a second and a third and a fourth interview and stuff like that, it became clear to me that that was what I was actually speaking about, was culture. You feel me? And then I had to do research. I was like… Type in “culture writer”. Excuse me. I was like… Oh, that’s a thing. I typed in “culture editor” at all these other places and saw all the stuff that was under what they were creating and editing and writing was the things that I said. So I was like… That’s what sticks for me. And as a culture editor, it also has a big umbrella in itself. So I write about… And ask for pieces and edit pieces about pop culture, but also subcultures, but also beauty, but also plants. Like… All these things are different cultures!
So that’s what I write about. But my focus is always Black and Brown people. You feel me? So just like we have… V. Sorry, Vanessa is our community editor. You feel me? So it’s all that kind of stuff. What I guess I’m trying to reiterate… And I’m gonna shut up and, like, as soon as I hit 103-35 or something… Is the fact that this is an indie publication. It’s the type of shit that I always wanted to work at. Because I was a zine girl when I was a kid. I grew up in the Tumblr era and shit like that, but I always loved the printed zines and I always wondered who was behind it. Who was behind it was probably like three friends who were taking all of these shit and taking all of these roles. Can you do Photoshop? Nah, but you can. And I can do this, and I can write, and I know this printer. So between those three friends that do those zines, it’s like 20 jobs. Imagine that on our scale. It’s not that we’re complaining about it. Because we love it. We would rather be indie than be having a bunch of other people telling me what to do. Please.
And telling me… Explain to me why I should let you have this on the site. Absolutely fucking not! We do that, but to a more… Comfortable friendship. But also professional scale. In Slack. I don’t want to be a corporate. And we don’t want to be that way. But we’re not complaining about all the work that we do. Because we’re doing this, because we love it. And we love y’all. And this is the type of shit that we want to do. But it’s just that we do so much. And there’s only five of us here. Even the writers… Do so much. There’s writers who pick up pieces in other verticals for us too, who happen to be fucking incredible at it, because we have great writers! Like… You feel me? But we’re not a big team. And I don’t think we’re asking for much to be telling y’all like… Just understand that we’re really, really working hard. Yes, it’s been 12 years. That may sound like a big number. But the world changes, and we try to change with it. And that’s the kind of shit that we want to do. That’s why I’m here. I’ve only been at Autostraddle for two and a half years. And I’m changing with it. I’m helping to change it.
And in ten years, when Autostraddle is still around, hopefully there’ll be another me that I probably helped… You feel me? So I’m done. I’m… What is the word? It’s not tirade! Rant?!
Nicole: It’s like… A sharing! I think it’s a narrative! I think it’s… You know?
Carmen: It’s a narrative.
Rachel: From a place that’s informed. It’s from the heart.
Nicole, do I have two minutes to say something else about what Shelli said? It’s okay if the answer is no. And if I should wrap it up.
Nicole: Yes. But then we have to promise we’re gonna go through a couple more questions. Like… At a clip.
Carmen: Okay. At a clip.
Rachel: Okay. I swear. Scout’s Honor. But I do actually… Especially what Shelli just said about how it changes. Because I think that’s another thing that’s kind of hard to capture if you’re not in the industry. Is like… Because… It has been 12 years, but also because digital media is such a quickly changing field. Like… Even kind of week to week, like… Heather or Valerie or someone who works more closely with social media will come in and be like… Oof. Womp-womp. Big news, guys. There’s been an algorithm change for Facebook or Instagram. So now we used to do this. We have to do this. Although there are some constants, like… On the whole, we have grown up so much, but also, we’re working in a different world.
And as Carmen said, I do a lot of event planning at this point. Nicole totally fucking boss handled this event. But… There are other things that I’m planning more of. I’m working with more of the sex workshops. If y’all are free on Friday! Ro is gonna teach you — how to use a strap-on and harness. Don’t miss it! But… You know, that wasn’t part of my job a year and a half ago, because that wasn’t something we did a year and a half ago. But obviously, digital events are not… It would be bananas to avoid doing them at this point. They’re part of our landscape, and they’re… We really need to be constantly growing and changing. And… Encompassing more ways to connect with people. If we’re gonna survive. And so that is now actually a huge part of my job. That… You know, if you had told me initially, I would have no idea.
But social media has changed. When Heather first joined us, from After Ellen, if anyone remembers that stage, a big part of what Heather brought to us was saying: Hey, so I notice that you guys just have a plugin that autofeeds your titles or articles to Twitter and Facebook and calls it a day. Did you know that you can actually write custom copy for each Twitter and Facebook share? And then more people will click on it? And y’all, I know it’s embarrassing now. But we were genuinely blown away. Holy shit, are you serious? Huh! What a world! And that was at the point — that was the cutting edge of our social media strategy. If we describe what the article is, or even share an image, instead of just showing Lindsay Lohan inhales Samantha Ronson’s entire face! It turns out more people will click on it. And now we’re having full meetings.
Heather is sharing three-tab spreadsheets that are like… I wanted to show you guys the engagement, the clickthrough, the organic shares… Everything. On these. That I wanted to… If we could have a full meeting to talk about what the actual conversion rate was on these, that would be really helpful, because I want to form a different strategy. And like… Oh, actually, now Facebook has a different algorithm. Actually now… We can’t use the word “queer”. There’s a new update every week. And honestly… It could… And in most places is… A full-time job, just keeping track of that, and forming and reforming the strategy around that every week. And Heather is doing that on top of… Handling… You know, what… 80%, 90%, of the TV coverage and also managing the space of the TV team. She’s handling… Just an incredible amount.
And that was something where like… If you had looked at Heather’s job description at an earlier point, that doesn’t… There’s no way to describe that narrative. But part of what has happened and what Shelli is describing happening is like… That there are these needs that grow along with our jobs. And our jobs end up having to kind of grow to encompass them. Which is part of what makes this so hard to describe. Right? Thank you so much for giving me that space, Nicole. I will cede the direction of this over to you.
Nicole: Yeah. It was… Yeah. Heather’s hold on social media is amazing. She actually… Like, while recovering from surgery… Popped in the other day, to help us diagnose why the membership drive posts were taken down. It turns out someone was flagging us for using the word “queer”, which I’m not loving. But yeah. You know… She figured that out really quickly.
Carmen: She did. And we were all stuck. It was my tweets! I was the one who used queer in our tweets. I’ll own that. Three days ago, you could, and it was just fine. And then we did some testing, and we could all use queer in our personal accounts, which is how we figured out someone was definitely targeting us and marking them as slurs. But… It was taking us… The point is it was taking us an hour to figure it out. And Heather, who I just lightly scolded to get back out of our Slack… Because she’s recovering from surgery… In like ten minutes, figured it out. And it had taken us an hour. But yeah. I think… Everyone has described really beautifully… I’m just really happy to work with you guys. You all described what we do really beautifully.
Nicole: Okay…. Let’s do a couple more questions. This one is… I’m curious about how the white senior staff conversations about undoing racism are going. Is there a particular structure you follow? What’s working well? I want to preface that by saying our conversations are… We call it the dismantling White Supremacy meetings. Because… They are about dismantling the tendency to supremacy in the workplace. Definitely not… Undoing racism. But… Dismantling White Supremacy within Autostraddle. We try to meet weekly. Sometimes it comes down to every other week. But it’s about… I invite the other white staff members to speak to this too. But it’s been about having it as… A practice. And having those conversations as… A thing that you do continuously. As people who are… I mean… Honestly, I think any workplace that has white people in it should have this. So I don’t know what qualifiers I could say. But… Like… It’s about having it as an ongoing intentional practice in the workplace. We built a curriculum for ourselves. Just to give you a glimpse into that, we had a unit on performative allyship, for example. So breaking it down into themes has been… Helpful. As we just like… Move through the tenets of White Supremacy. And talk about them.
Rachel: Yeah. First of all, I just want to say that… When Nicole says “we” put together a curriculum, they’re being self-effacing. Nicole put together a curriculum. Nicole has put together an incredible amount of leadership in that space, which I’m grateful for, because they’re really well suited to it. I think to me, there’s two kind of ways that we work through that kind of… Some issues in that space, which are helpful to me. First, in that curriculum, which are centered around specific themes or ideas. Okay. We all understand how these phenomena exist in the world. Let’s look at some reading and some more context on them. And then… Let that lead to a conversation about the ways in which we might see these happening in our workplace in particular.
And really get into a concrete conversation about like… What does that look like? What does it look like in practice? What could it look like in theory in the future? What are ways to interrupt or think differently about that. And also I wanted to talk a little bit about a framework… Because I think in one of the last spaces we were able to be in physically together, we were able to have a really great dismantling White Supremacy training. Carmen found the trainer that we worked with, who I loved. Lisa I want to say was their name. And shared something with us which has been really life changing for me, which Nicole pointed to — tenets of White Supremacy in workplace culture, which are less maybe about specific microaggressions and more kind of about… What are socially held values or priorities of a White Supremacist or a culturally white kind of background. Things about… Kind of urgency over all else. Prioritizing productivity over personal relationships or wellness. Really prioritizing certain types of documentation. Or evaluation. Rather than kind of holistic ones.
And so a lot of what we’ve also been able to do, I think, is to kind of talk more broadly about our workplace culture in a way that is… Includes kind of talking about what are ways people might be enacting harm or experiencing microaggressions, but also kind of talking about… A larger sort of toxicity or a larger sort of set of values that we don’t actually want to be aligned with. And talking about… Where we’re seeing this cropping up. You know, what are ways that these are impacting all of us. And… Are there other models, other ways we could see that functioning differently.
Nicole: Yeah. It’s a space to… Diagnose problems when we have them. And be able to work through things. And hold each other accountable. All without, like, having to rely on the labor of our coworkers of color to do that for us. So that’s like… Another purpose of having a separate group. I hope that was helpful. I hope you have one at your work place. Does anybody else want to say something about that? This next question is about traffic. Can you capture post clickthroughs? I think that for the… Traffic folks here, that’s views. If yes, what types of posts are driving traffic to Autostraddle? And what is the editorial team doing to increase traffic?
Carmen: I can take that. Yeah. To the point of talking to getting through them at a clip — I can try that one. I think to answer… The most direct answer to the first one is yes. We can monitor down to the single digits every click that every post gets. We use a variety of systems to do that. WordPress has something called Jetpack that allows us to use it. We use it on a day-to-day basis. We also have Google Analytics. Riese uses that as well. And I think we try and keep an eye on that, because it is what most often advertisers and people who are interested in the financial well-being of our company use. We also have something called Chartbeat. I think Rachel and I have that open all day, every day.
And it… It’s our dear friend. And it monitors kind of on a very microlevel what every post is doing. Not just for the day. But at any given moment. The other day, Nicole was interested in how many people read Autostraddle in a minute. And I could figure it out in like a matter of seconds. Because you just have to open up Chartbeat. And Chartbeat will tell you: Not only how many people are reading each post, but how long they’re reading it for. Down to the second. Down to the millisecond. And which posts are gaining or losing. And how many people who are clicking it are regular readers of your website or brand-new to your website or semi-frequent readers of your website. It’s all right there for you.
So we have multiple ways that we’re able to monitor what people are reading and how often. In terms of traffic drivers, I think it probably won’t surprise most people hear — television and film is a major traffic driver of Autostraddle.com. Celebrity gossip, always a traffic driver. Never a better day than the day that Elliott Page comes out. Every time Elliott Page comes out, it’s a big day on our website. Last year, Elliott came out in December and we took the last of the day off. We were like… Well! That was the last work day. In the middle of the afternoon, I watched a movie. I was like… We’re done now. Today is a wrap. Those are the big traffic drivers. But I think also… We did a whole… Riese helped me — after the last fundraiser, as you know, we were talking about traffic a lot, which is where this question came from. And we decided to try a traffic initiative. Try new things. See what’s working. See about how to improve the SEO. And out of that conversation, Riese helped me build an entire trend report about what kind of post get is an average day for us. What do we consider great, what do we consider medium, what do we consider underperforming. I’m pointing that out, because we often think celebrity gossip, TV/film. But the bread and butter of Autostraddle is often sex and dating posts. A really beautiful personal essay. The kind of thing that you want to share with a friend. That thing where you read it and drop it in your group text. Group chat.
That is the bread and butter of our website. It doesn’t always have to be big breakout hits. I won’t lie. We’ve started putting quizzes on Sunday because the clicks of that get us right through Tuesday, man. Some things are on purpose. A Sunday quiz has a traffic bump that will lead you right into the middle of the week. So some of that is on purpose. But a lot of this stuff is stuff that you think maybe… Oh, that won’t matter. It matters a lot. And because we’re also independently run, as Shelli said, keyword of the night, we’re able to publish a lot of stuff that we publish without any expectation of traffic attached to it, but we publish it because it’s important. So that is also a key part of Autostraddle too. So we’re not… If we wanted to, we could just run… Kristen Stewart was on La Jolla, drinking green juice again. We don’t, and the reason we don’t is because we’re not beholden to just a corporate overlord. So we are able to publish pieces that speak to communities of color, trans communities, that are about mutual aid, that are… We have this really beautiful series right now, running about how to survive in a post-COVID world. And some of those pieces are doing phenomenal for traffic. Some of those pieces we’re publishing because they’re important.
And we want people to have access to that information. We want people to have access to what to do if you’re facing eviction. And so that is also part of it. And part of how we make those decisions. But to answer the main question, yeah. We can see every single time you click on something. And we know that you spent five minutes reading that Gen Q recap. So don’t worry. Cool.
Shelli: I wanted to say that… What was really cool… And Carmen already hit on it was that… I’m sorry. Pardon me. Was that… Yes. Some of the shit we do, right, is because — you know, it’s on purpose. But the shit that we do that’s on purpose doesn’t sacrifice content. You feel me? Like, we’re not over here being like… Oh, let’s make a quiz about this random thing that literally has nothing to do with Autostraddle. Just because it’s on purpose. It’s never that. So… We’re even thinking of our audience, when we’re doing the stuff that has to pay the bills, that has to be on purpose. We’re still being like… This has to have an intent and a focus on what our audience would like. And so we think about that kind of stuff. It’s like… Yeah. We need to keep the lights on. But how do we keep the lights on without sacrificing who we are as Autostraddle?
So we’ve been thinking about y’all, G. It’s not like we just be out here like… Let’s make some quizzes for no reason whatsoever! And who cares what it’s like!
Carmen: The thought that goes into those quizzes, man. And they are. They’re purposefully made to be interesting, to be fun, to be light. There’s nothing wrong with having fun on a Sunday. You know what I mean?
Carmen: They don’t have to be… I think one of the ways we look at it is… We don’t want to make… You know, we want to make quality quizzes that you want to share with your friends and enjoy your results on. We’re not just trying to put out clickable stuff, because it’s clickable.
Nicole: Carmen, I’m sorry. I wasn’t looking at the screen after the last question. But Sadie, my partner, slipped a note, under my door, saying that you looked like you wanted to say something.
Carmen: No. I’m good. Thank you, Sadie. I’m perfect.
Nicole: Who was apparently watching from the other room. Okay. I just wanted to check in.
Shelli: I was gonna say… Yay, Sadie! That’s dope. Like… Ha-ha!
Nicole: This little note!
Shelli: Yeah! Everybody get you a partner like Sadie.
Carmen: I will just say… I was just gonna provide a transition point. Which is why I wasn’t worried. Nicole just kept moving. I was gonna say that the main reason I had asked for the dismantling White Supremacy meetings is because… They were something that came from… To be honest… Demand was strong, but a requirement of me stepping up to be the editor in chief. Is that… I did want to move to a place where Autostraddle… And I know that it’s also controversial… To have a dismantling White Supremacy group that is only for white people. And not all people of color agree about that. Some people of color believe that you should have people of color in those spaces. I just don’t want to make it a part of my work day. That is not my priority. And so for me… The first step for that was to provide a professional trainer, who was a person of color. And then once we had a professional person of color who came in, who was a trainer, who is an expert, and I spent three months finding that person… And I knew that our team had the workbooks and had the ability. For me, the next step was to say that: This is become an Autostraddle lifestyle. This is not gonna be a thing we do once. For it to become a lifestyle, there has to be accountability from the group. I have too many things day-to-day. It would make me leave if it became emotional labor I had to do. So just to be honest with you, that’s what that’s about. So that was where that came from. I also provided some of the original stuff for them to look at. When I was like… You guys should probably think about making this group. I included that… For those of you know, I have a PhD. I included stuff from my past life. I included stuff that friends recommended. I included stuff that I’ve read, since working at Autostraddle, that made me be like… Yeah. That’s what is it like to work in this kind of workplace. And I threw that all into one very big Google Doc and dropped it three days before Christmas to Nicole and was like… Good luck with this group in 2021. Here’s what I recommend. And when you guys are ready to talk about actionable items, I’m here to do that, but the emotional hand holding part, as you work through it, is not gonna be part of my job. So that’s all I was gonna say about that. I see the person said: Thank you for explaining. You’re very welcome. Cool.
Nicole: Yeah. Thank you so much, Carmen. And thank you for those resources to get us kicked off. It’s surprisingly… The guide from AllState…
Carmen: The guide… Seriously… If you think about starting one of these at your job… The AllState Guide, as in AllState Insurance, the best one. I have no idea why. It’s an Excel sheet that’s five pages long and it’s filled with one of the best resources. I say that as someone who used to… Funny, because critical race theory has become a buzzword, but someone who legit studied critical race theory. They have some of the best stuff about white privilege in the workplace you will find. AllState!
Nicole: They created a monster doc. It’s amazing.
Carmen: It is. It’s very good. It’s very accessible. You can Google it. You can literally Google AllState and White Supremacy in the workplace. You’re in good hands with AllState! That’s what I’m saying.
Nicole: Thanks! Okay. So we’re coming up on 9:30. How are we doing? Do we want to… I’m gonna ask… For the purposes of our captioning, should we wrap up? Or do we have a couple minutes? Okay. You’re cool? Okay. Aw!
Nicole: Okay! So like… Let’s take five more minutes. And answer… One more. Okay. So we have… A couple of content questions. Basically there are two… I’m gonna ask them both at once. Because I think… They’re both sort of like… Based on different identities. So somebody… One person is asking about… You know, are there plans for our content focused on butch women and another person is asking… About plans for content for people from Gen X and beyond. And if we have any plans around that.
Rachel: Wait, Shelli, I think you’re on mute.
Nicole: I don’t think Shelli is on mute.
Rachel: Oh, no!
We might just not be able to hear Shelli. This is an unexpected wrinkle.
Carmen: Nope. You’re gone.
I’m here. Okay. Yeah. Okay. Cool. My AirPods or whatever. Okay. So around the like… Gen X content, and for those readers and things like that… I don’t want to speak for V, or Vanessa, but I know that that’s something that came up in our subject editors’ meeting. That Vanessa was like… On. You feel me? So it’s like… Please just be… Give us the grace to create the content. To get the time to create the content. Because even though we know you want it, what we don’t want to do is again, sacrifice and just put out some shit that’s just like… Oh, this is just because we know we’re trying to get the Gen X in, the Millennials in, like, ’90s babies-type vibe. You feel me? So that’s that. Which I think is super cool. And we’re just coming up with some super dope ideas surrounding that. Because me and Vanessa were talking about that. I’m always very, like, into capturing the like Gen Z kind of vibe. Because I do want to bring younger readers to the site. Not just because of some ageism shit, like younger is cooler. But I want them to have a space where they can come for the kind of content that they need. You feel me? I want them to have a space where they can come for sex content and dating content and we review books and shows and stuff like that, that is actually… Made for those readers.
But we’re being the ones that are reviewing it. So I’m trying to meet those readers. And then at the same time, and this just happened maybe a few weeks ago, when we had this conversation. And then Vanessa was like… That’s awesome that you say that. Because I’m trying to meet you from the other side. You feel me? And get those other readers and stuff like that. So… We’re trying. And we’re coming up with content ideas. We’re only so many people. You feel me? But that is why I want to tell y’all too. As A+ members, and as you have homies who aren’t A+ members, I’m not opening everybody’s DM, but if you’ve got some shit you want to see on the site, you can message me, or you can @ me on Twitter. Tell me what the fuck you want, G. You feel me? I’m not gonna know. Or send a question. Send an email. There are so many ways for y’all to be out here contacting us. Saying what you want.
You feel me? Are you gonna get a response? All the time? Maybe not. But at least I know what you want. So I just feel like y’all can be contacting us. Hella more than you already do. Because we can’t read your mind. You feel me? And we don’t want to be putting out shit that you don’t want, and we want to find the right people to do that. So I suggest messaging us, when you want content. Through, like, Autostraddle and… Like, there’s DMs there. @ us. Use social media. You feel me? Use events like this. And as an A+ member, you have the option to reach us… In literally — just drop it in the chat. You have the ability to reach us quicker. So if you want this kind of stuff, and bother us. G, if you’re like… I asked you this question a month ago. Where is this butch content? I asked you a month ago. You know what? You’re right. I’m here. If you want it, you asked… And on that butch content too — sorry. I was saying: I’m working on a dope piece, that none of y’all even know about this! LOL!
Shelli: I have been thinking of that as well. Because I have a lot of butch homies and stuff like that. So I’m working from the realm of fashion and beauty. Because I write what I know. And I reach out for what I know. Or for a realm that I’m invested in. And my first way of doing that and meeting butch content is through fashion and beauty. And skin care. And stuff like that. So I have been doing due diligence, trying to find somebody in the butch realm, specifically Black butch realm, to help me out with that. So — and that’s just where I’m coming from. If you don’t want fashion, beauty, skin care butch content… Send us a message. Tell me what kind of butch content you’re looking for. And then we can kind of try our best to get on it. So… That’s it!
Carmen: I would just add… I think part of what… I know we just did a divorce version of the advice box for A+. I think part of that also came out of an interest that we had to make sure that we’re starting to represent more older content. And I think we… Yes. I think it is less specific about topics. Oh, but also hiring older writers. That’s a great note. I think that’s something that I’m really interested in. That’s what I was gonna say. Part of… If I can just make it to July, where I can disappear again, behind the website, one of my first priorities is to… I’m interested in more conversation around family planning. And I’m interested in conversations around… We made a dream list of content we wanted. But we haven’t had a chance to do that yet. But on that list is how to make queer friends when you’re older than 35. And I think I want that post still. Obviously these are all posts that will involve having older writers. I also want to point out to the person who’s asking this that: Heather — in this conversation, Heather said: Oh, it’s really my time to shine. We have writers who are in their 40s.
Shelli: I was gonna say. A lot of us that are…
Carmen: Not to be outing people’s ages. But Heather and Riese are both on that other side now. And I think… So… Part of it is to also know that… You may not always know that when you’re reading someone’s byline. I’m actually turning 35 next week, Sunday. Which is for whatever reason… Sticking to me, as my first real adult age. There’s no youth attached to 35 anymore. But like…
Carmen: Riese would like to clarify. Still 39. I apologize. But my point still stands. Is that particularly looking at — longtime Autostraddle writers, we’re growing up with you. If you’re looking at any of those writers who are the old mainstays that you loved, we’re all growing up with you. So we’re writing from your exact age perspective. I’m also interested in content that’s adult content. Those are all gonna require adult writers. So just give us ’til the end of the summer.
Shelli: I also wanted to say…
Carmen: Tracy too!
Shelli: I think a lot of us are older than you think we are. Maybe let me just say that. You feel me? Like…
Rachel: Yeah. I also do want to add a little bit from my perspective, as an editor who’s been here for a long time and has had a lot of asks related to… What’s the plan with the specific demographic? How are you kind of planning to represent this specific experience? And one thing that I really feel like I feel so solid in now at this point in my career is like… How important it is to not rush that process. And sort of really as a publication… Find the trust of any community that you want to work with. And I’m really feeling that this Pride month especially, where… You know, congrats. We went mainstream. Everybody wants Pride content now. Everybody has Pride content. But it’s really… Thoughts on all the calls for submission that I’m seeing that are from HuffPo, Bustle, they’re kind of… Oh, really especially looking for BIPOC writers who are willing to talk about their queer identities for Pride. It feels so exploitative and I’m feeling like… Who the fuck wants to write for you? Why would I do that? Why would anyone trust you with that? And it is as an editor a complex challenge. Because really what earns the trust of any community is already seeing good, ethical, like, kind of really respectful and thoughtful treatment of their experiences. So there is a question of how do you get that, when you haven’t already been able to do it.
But I think it’s so important to me at this point to not kind of… Come from a place of anxiety or scarcity or… Guilt and kind of be like… Oh, I have to put something up. I want to… Before I take on any of those stories, it’s like… Oh, this is a community that hasn’t seen itself represented. Maybe I’m working with communities where somebody isn’t a professional writer, they’re writing about their stories for the first time. Have we really set ourselves up to be a publication where that can be a safe, positive, sustainable process for them, where they’re gonna have a good publication experience, our commenters are gonna respond well to them, I’m gonna be in a place as an editor where I have time and attention and care to give to them. It’s shitty to write about a really vulnerable experience and then have an editor who… Right now, I am this editor… Legitimately cannot get back to you for two weeks.
And so I think that’s also… And this isn’t about making excuses, but I kind of want to give a window into the experience on our end of like… Yeah, no. What does that look like? How do we set that up so that it’s a process that we feel good about and reflects our values? And we’re creating a relationship with a group of writers and a community, as opposed to getting a check mark. You know?
Nicole: I want to say with regards to letting us know what you want, we often survey you, and if we put out a survey, take that survey! We read the responses. We can export the list of things that you write in, that you tell us you want, and we can review those. So… You know, and I’m not an editor, but I’ve seen the… Process. And like… Sometimes it takes months to get a piece on the site. Like… Sometimes it takes months! So you might respond to the survey, and like… We’ll see it. And we’ll be like… That’s a great idea. Now you have to find a writer who’s right for that. And right for Autostraddle. So… It can take a while.
Carmen: It can. I appreciate also our captioner was like — 40-year-old butch here. I just want to say that I love that. That’s all.
Carmen: And yeah. It can take a while. But thank you. And I do want to see… I also just shared that. I want to see more butch content on our website too, and I want to see more older content on our website and I want to see those writers represented. Just give us a little more time. Please. We’re getting there.
Nicole: Thanks for all of that. Okay. We’re gonna wrap it up. Thank you to everybody for coming out tonight. We really appreciate that. We really appreciate you being here to just talk about Autostraddle on a Monday night. Thank you! Yeah. We love you! Thank you! We’re running a member drive right now. If you’re already a member, a great thing to do is just: Boost our tweets and our Instagram posts about it. And our regular posts. And just… You know, thank you for reading. Thank you for coming. Anybody else want to say anything?
Carmen: Just thank you!
Shelli: Yeah! Thank you!
Laneia: Thank you!
Nicole: Have a good night, everybody. And thank you to our wonderful captioner.
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