This Business Of Me Talking About Myself
This fix is late because on Tuesday, writing this was stressing me out and then today, I swear to the sweet goddess of all that is beautiful in the heavens that I have been interrupted by somebody on Slack about every seven minutes since I sat down at my mother’s kitchen table (aka “my office”) this morning!
Anyhow. It’s weird that this was stressing me out to write, ’cause doing this fix was 100% my idea — I love consuming media about media, and I wanted desperately to invite the rest of you into the conversations I’ve been having in my head. I’d also hoped talking about What Media People Are Talking About might help more of those Media People notice we exist. Plus, I knew this column would help me stay vigilant about being on top of trends and important stories in online media. It has. It has definitely done that. But these last few weeks, that vigilance has left me feeling more cranky than informed.
I wonder if I sound like a broken record to y’all sometimes, like every story I share comes back to me pointing out one of the following things:
- Reader support is crucial to indie media’s existence, because ad-blockers
- Reader support is crucial to indie media’s existence, because everybody else has more money than us!
- Facebook is ruining everything
Usually, I’m preaching to the choir, too — the reader numbers for these posts are pretty low so it’s likely a good half of you are already A+ members, A-Campers, or merchandise buyers.
The more I engage with these stories, the more I feel like a jogger writing a column about high-speed rail and sometimes, gathering links feels like a broke person walking through the mall. Yeah, those jeans seem cool but nope, not in the budget! E-mail newsletters are all the rage? Lenny is making ten gazillion dollars? That’s neat, I wish we had time for that! Podcasts are really taking off, Slate has like 20 podcasts? Oh cool, yeah, it takes us like six weeks just to put together each A+ Podcast. Gawker is gonna unionize? We don’t even have health insurance yet!
The nature of the internet tends to obscure the differences between rich sites and not-rich ones — if your design is good enough, readers will happily compare your site to one working with $360 million more dollars than you have. When we launched Autostraddle, the LGBTQ and feminist web was mostly indie blogs like us with small-to-non-existent budgets — Feministing, Feministe, Crunk Feminist Collective, Racialicious, Pam’s House Blend, CherryGrrrl, Grace the Spot, The F-Bomb, Bitch. When I started doing Autostraddle full-time, everybody was shocked — writing online was something people did on the side! It wasn’t a REAL JOB! Now, people are more shocked by how little money we make for working full-time than the fact that we work full-time at all. There was no Vox, Buzzfeed LGBT, Huffington Post Gay Voices, Fusion, Mic, Bustle, Broadly, xoJane, HelloGiggles, Rookie, The Daily Dot, Upworthy or Refinery29. Magazines like Nylon and Cosmopolitan hadn’t yet found their internet footing. And nobody really wanted to talk about LGBTQ people. Now all of those places exist, and reading news related to them is feeling less and less relevant to what we do here.
So going forward, I’m trying to keep that in mind! Yes, I’m a competitive person with big dreams who wants to pay more people and pay people more, but I don’t deserve to feel sad about what we do or how we’re doing or what we have. I’m not a business woman, but I’m proud of how I’ve built this business and how the community has supported us. I’m a hustler at heart, I was selling my crayon drawings of Jackie Robinson for $1 alongside 10-cent lemonade at my Lemonade Stand back in ’86. Despite its faults, what I loved about the Broadly article was that it was the first to point out and amplify the fact that we have survived financially against all odds. (A primary “odd” being the small size of the LGBTQ women’s community to begin with.) I feel like we need a big sign on the homepage that says: WE DO THIS ON THE CHEAP, JUDGE ACCORDINGLY. Our monthly budget is obnoxiously tiny compared to our competitors, which is the other stupid thing: why are we “in competition” with them for writers and readers in the first place when we have one-twentieth of their resources?
The world is unfair but the best I can do is shore up, refocus, and have gratitude! Bless us, everyone.
This Business Of Online Media
+ This really amazing website Autostraddle.com has launched a new A+ level that hopefully will be more accessible to everybody! It’s called Cobalt and if you sign up for an annual membership, it ends up costing a mere $2.50 per month! Already SO Many people have signed up for that level and others, and it’s really exciting and we’re happy about it.
+ The Columbia Journalism Review has a story about how women’s media isn’t funded as well as men’s media is and it explains why The Establishment‘s launch budget of $1 million dollars is so tiny in comparison to what competitors like Bustle and Broadly launch with. $1 million is approximately $1 million more than what we launched with, and yet! And yet. And yet they’re absolutely right: in this landscape, it does suck to launch with only $1 million. (Also an article that asked “Who’s funding women’s media?” would’ve found an interesting answer if they’d reached out to us!) (Answer: YOU!) (Real talk: this was the main article that made me depressed this week)
+ TIME bought Zooey Deschanel’s women’s website HelloGiggles in a deal that could be worth $30 million dollars and then Time went ahead and also bought xoJane and xoVain for an undisclosed amount of money.
+ The Toast’s redesign is amazing, I love it, it gave me a lot of ideas for our next redesign. As one of the few remaining feminist indies, it’s also cool that they’ve been totally transparent about how they funded it (Nicole Cliffe’s husband paid for it as a birthday present).
+ How defensible is viral content? How do we keep up with new viral trends? Apparently, right now “People with X background do something from Y background’s culture and comment on it” is all the rage.
+ Is there an ideal time of day to read the news? PERHAPS.
+ The Huffington Post, which is valued at over fifty million dollars, still doesn’t pay its bloggers.
This Business of Business
+ The New York Times asks if diversity has lost its meaning in a fascinating piece that looks at how diversity is assessed and measured across industries:
“Bragging about hiring a few people of color, or women, seems to come from the same interpretive bias, where a small amount is enough. It also puts significant pressure on the few ‘‘diverse’’ folks who are allowed into any given club, where they are expected to be ambassadors of sorts, representing the minority identity while conforming to the majority one. All this can make a person doubt the sincerity of an institution or organization — and question their place within it.”
+ The New Yorker visits Esty headquarters to talk about what impact Amazon Handmade might have on the company that started the whole handmade thing to begin with.
+ Uber’s Surge Pricing: continuing to benefit nobody.
The End Times
+ The hyperlink is dying in favor of Facebook Instant and Twitter Moments
+ Facebook will be mostly video in a year or two?
+ Apparently “platform ambassadors” are a thing websites need now because of all the nifty platforms that exist besides the platform of a website.
+ Facebook Instant articles get shared more than regular links. How curious that this happens on a platform OWNED BY FACEBOOK.