This Business of Art Fix #5: Prepare Yourself For The Extraordinary Instant

Welcome to the fifth “This Business of Art / Media / Web Fix,” in which I share with you things I read that I loved relating to the work I do here — online media, business, entrepreneurship, women in tech, start-ups, journalism, publishing, management, queer visibility, and so forth. You can expect this sucker to drop every-other Wednesday.


 

Instant Articles Are Gonna Getcha

Blastfrompast

Last week, publishers “braced themselves for the impact” of Facebook Instant Articles, “quick-loading stories from companies including The New York Times, The Guardian, National Geographic and BuzzFeed that load on Facebook’s flagship app 10 times faster than before.” These articles are hosted on Facebook’s servers, which means “if the format proves successful, and Facebook maintains its dominance in distributing news online, publishers could become ever more dependent on a platform they can’t control.” Not to mention that only the largest and wealthiest publishers even have the option to participate, anyhow. Basically this plan allows you to never leave Facebook, which in and of itself seems like a pretty terrible way to live, but I digress. I managed to feel stressed about this for only a few hours — we’re independent and we’re a genuine community, not just a news feed or content farm, and our revenue is driven more by engaged users who buy merch, go to camp, join A+, and buy through affiliate links than it is by amassing pageviews for their own sake. I don’t think Facebook Instant is for us, even if we had the tech support and connections to enable it. Besides, Poytner assured us that it’s not the apocalypse.

Regardless, the Instant conversation is an interesting one, especially within the wider dialogue around publishers’ (including us) dependence on Facebook for traffic. A while back, in anticipation of Instant, The Awl wrote The Next Internet is TV, a terrifying treatise on the idea that “for a publisher that wants to grow dramatically, websites are unnecessary vestiges of a time before there were better ways to find things to look at on your computer or your phone.”

Following the actual rollout of Instant Articles, The Awl gave a nice long look at what could go wrong and reminded us that we’re playing a dangerous game if we forget that “Facebook is an advertising company that answers to its shareholders” and has no real interest in journalism. Fortune Magazine called Instant Articles a Faustian bargain that gives Facebook immeasurable power, noting that “The big risk is that Facebook plunders the relationship that news companies have—or should have—with their readers, and then destroys their business model almost accidentally, while it is in pursuit of other things.” ReadWrite thinks we really ought to “resist a slide into a scenario where the Web consists of little more than a handful of major players, and where anything outside their walls withers and dies.” AMEN.

In conclusion, I’d like to give The Rumpus a hearty pat on the back for the copy accompanying its link to a story on Instant Articles: “The New York Times and Buzzfeed published directly to Facebook, just like your mom.”


 

This Business Of Online Media

"Younger" Episode 103 (Airs April 7, 2015)Liza (Sutton Foster) shows Kelsey (Hilary Duff) the new tattoo that Josh did for one of his customers. "Younger" airs Tuesdays at 10pm ET/PT on TV Land.

+ So Slack has a podcast now, and it’s gonna be good, they say.

+ In No Comment, Rachel Newcombe shares real fears and insecurities regarding nobody commenting on her stuff, which then becomes a story about how she fell in love with The Rumpus. Perhaps you can relate.

+ This isn’t online-specific, but it’s really interesting nonetheless: Is It Time For Literary Magazines To Rethink The Slush Pile?


 

This Business of Queer Business

listen-to-bette

The Business of Planning Same-Sex Weddings: “Smith posits that because same-sex weddings are nontraditional, they have the ability to reenergize and inspire the planner who might be languishing amid cookie-cutter trends of design and the flow of events. Above all, Smith believes, these clients are not taking the right to marry for granted. “It’s a breath of fresh air,” she says.”

+ Teens are taking over Silicon Valley — and it’s killing the Bay’s queer culture:  “Moving to San Francisco used to be about a quest for identity and a chance to live in a place where diverse identities are embraced, rather than persecuted. It’s been a bastion of queer culture since long before the 1970s, when the Castro—formerly a primarily working class Latino neighborhood—became the epicenter of a growing gay community…Today, however, that’s changing. For many, moving to San Francisco, or the Bay Area at large, is no longer about finding yourself. It’s about chasing Silicon Valley’s gold.”

+ Transitioning in the Corporate Workplace: “Transitioning gender in the workplace is like playing a chess game while spinning plates and herding cats.”


 

This Business of Journalism

+ Mental Floss (a very excellent magazine) gives you a little bit of lady-journo history in When Feminists Confronted the Men in Charge of Ladies Home Journal, about that time a bunch of women from NOW, the Redstocking Liberation Group and other women’s rights activists staged a sit-in at the LHJ offices. Fun fact: pretty much every single women’s magazine in this country was once run and written entirely by men.

+ Math for Journalists Made Easy: This is a free Massive Open Online Course anybody can take via the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas. I use so much math in my job. Like, every day I bow and thank the heavens for ignoring my insolent adolescent claims that I didn’t need to know any of this shit. I needed to know all of this shit. 

+ Listicles, Aggregation and Content Gone Viral: How 1800s Newspapers Prefigured Today’s Internet: “If you think BuzzFeed invented the listicle, you haven’t spent enough time with 19th-century newspapers, because they’re everywhere.”

+ What Think Piece Writers Get Wrong About Lobotomies: “Would I recommend that everyone get a lobotomy? Of course not. That would be an inexcusable act of brainsplaining. Moreover, having the ability to immediately translate every bit of pop culture ephemera into impassioned essays can be a curse. Hell is not other people (at least for the lobotomized). Hell is not being able to watch reruns of The King of Queens without writing a think piece on eldercare.”

+ She’s Not Annoyed, She’s Just Busy: Advice On Finding Mentors and Role Models in Journalism For Women, via Poytner.


 

This Business of Business

yas-queen

+ What if Everybody Didn’t Have To Work To Get Paid? This is a really fascinating idea! Basically, there are many advocates for the concept of “Basic Income” who “believe that governments should provide every citizen with a monthly stipend big enough to cover life’s basic necessities” and that this will lead to more creative and fulfilling work.

+ Check out The Morning Rituals of 10 of the World’s Most Inspirational Entrepreneurs (Infographic). I’m definitely gonna follow Richard Branson’s advice to take a morning swim around my island.

+ This Mom Will Review Your Website for $75 – Spoiler alert: it’s not my mom.

+ Glassdoor has The 25 Best Cities for Jobs, which, like most rankings like this, isn’t really terrifically accurate or useful and everybody’s response has been, “this is wrong.” However, my future home of Detroit is #1 for cost of living, and my current home of the Bay is #49, which is a perfect explanation of why I am leaving here for there.

+ Silicon Valley’s Startup Castle Is Looking For Roommates and the requirements are completely bonkers (Fusion)


The Businesswoman’s Special: Advice On How To Work Better Etc

CJ

+ In 24 Ideas To Change How Your Remote Team Works, Next Web has gathered some of the best web-writing on this topic into a delightful post for your education and enjoyment. Highlights include Buffer’s How We Connect, Celebrate and Have Fun As A Remote Team, Contactzilla’s 7 Tips For Communicating With Remote Workers and Helpscout’s Why Remote Teams Are The Future.

+ The Perfect Workspace (According to Science) (99u)

+ 25 Businesses that Make Life Simpler for Other Businesses (Entrepreneur)

+ Companies Drain Women’s Ambition In Two Years (Harvard Business Review)

+ 8 Tips To Be An Awesome Networker At Conferences (Entrepreneur)


I know you’re probably looking for the “things I wish people would pitch us” but I’m holding back on that this week ’til Laneia has time to catch up with the submissions inbox seeing as we’re about to be gone for quite some time due to A-Camp 6.0 starting NEXT WEEK!

Instead I’m gonna ask you a question! How do you feel about video ads embedded in posts? You can see what I mean by reading this post — as you scroll, you’ll notice a video ad suddenly appears and starts playing (sans audio) underneath that second picture of ScarJo and some dude. We were offered some of these today at twice the rate we normally get for ads but I said “nope,” because SWEET JESUS doesn’t that shit totally kill the reading experience? Wouldn’t you hate it? Messy Nessy Chic uses them and it’s intensely jarring every time (but I’m not mad at her for using them, I know bloggers gotta pay the bills, and it hasn’t impacted how often I read the site. But I still don’t want it here.) What if a Target ad showed up in the middle of a personal essay? We’ve always been particular about what format of ads we run — no pop-ups, no pre-roll, no video-to-see-this, etc. — but since starting A+ it feels extra-important to make this site a nice place to hang out instead of a commercial assault on your senses. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Which ads annoy you the most?

Riese is the 37-year-old CEO, CFO and Editor-in-Chief of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, blogger, fictionist, copywriter, video-maker, low-key Jewish power lesbian and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and then headed West. Her work has appeared in nine books including "The Bigger the Better The Tighter The Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image & Other Hazards Of Being Female," magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 2658 articles for us.

37 Comments

  1. Videos that auto-play WITH AUDIO are the absolute worst, hands down. Also, when you click a link and a full-page ad appears and you have to click “continue to [insert website here]” to make it go away.

    However, I usually use the Ad Block chrome plug-in…does anyone know if autostraddle still gets any ad revenue if I’m using an ad blocker? Because I am willing to ‘whitelist’ autostraddle (aka allow ads to show) if it means y’all get a bit more $$ 🙂

      • No, if you use ABP you don’t see the Amazon account and banners, but of course you see AS online store and the “Shopping online? Use…”

        I’ve been using ABP for years now, so I didn’t know how AS looked like with the ads on. It’s not as invasive as it is in other places, so I’m gonna disable ABP for AS, because it feels like I’m doing a shitty thing. But, please, no auto-play videos.

        • thank you! and yes we try really hard to keep the ads as non-invasive as possible — honestly, even just for me personally, i visit this website upwards of 200 times a day and would go insane if we had audio auto-playing every time!

          • No problem, is the least I can do. I get soooo much from this place, I can deal with some ads.

  2. Riese, every single time I’m amazed at how many of these articles I want to read, considering that I am not in any way involved in the business of journalism, publishing, media, or online journalism, publishing or media. And yet, I now find myself with a dozen tabs open.

    Re: ads – Do what ya gotta do. I, personally, have never stopped reading a site because I didn’t like their layout, as long as the content was still top-notch.

    However, if given a preference (and you are ABSOLUTELY the only CEO in the world who would ever ask their readers about their thoughts on ads, so THANK YOU for that) I’d say a big NO to anything auto-play. I also would prefer to not have any ads in the body of an article, because you’re right, it totally ruins the flow and the mood the author is trying to create.

    Maybe you could put ads in the body of articles on things like the fixes, or Also, Also, Also, or Sunday Funday, where the “mood” isn’t as important, but still keep ads out of the body of First Person articles and other essays?

    • “Maybe you could put ads in the body of articles on things like the fixes, or Also, Also, Also, or Sunday Funday, where the “mood” isn’t as important, but still keep ads out of the body of First Person articles and other essays?”

      Ooh, that’s a good idea for a possible compromise.

      As for the audio-less embedded auto-play video ads, only if they offer you ten times your regular rate and it’s for a limitted amount of time and then you do a whole extra series of articles about bisexuality with the unexpected windfall. I mean, I can’t stand facebook’s auto-playing videos, and those are things that people in my feed have posted!

    • Ditto this. After auto-play with audio, my biggest ad peeve is the ones that blink & flash (always with some really ugly image). Aughhhh! But otherwise? Do what you have to. And, yes, I use ABP.

    • Thank you for all these feedback! When Alex and I were talking about it, I was like, yeah maybe these could work in certain posts like, it could work in linky posts, but we weren’t sure how we’d make that work (especially retroactively, as it’d likely involve tagging a bunch of posts). It’s really good to know that you came up with the same idea, that means it could definitely be one looking into if we do end up going that route.

      I totally agree about the audio — there’s nothing that makes me stop visiting a website faster than auto-play audio!

      • This is exactly what I thought, too. I wouldn’t mind at all having video start automatically on posts like the daily fix, also also also, listicles, etc. But if I was reading something really deep and personal like the First Person series and suddenly in the middle of someone’s intense life experience a video started playing showing someone getting all excited about their new laundry detergent I’d be pissed.

        And definitely not audio, please for the love of Tinkerbell. When I hear audio start automatically I close my browser and never to back to the page).

    • hmm… if most people are using adblock then we wouldn’t be making money off of those ads anyhow? like advertisers don’t record any impressions from people using adblock, so we don’t get paid for them. i didn’t realize use of ABP was so widespread.

  3. if you have to put a video ad you should make sure 1) it stops playing once you scroll down ( ala Facebook) 2) NO SOUND and finally 3) insert it AFTER the article, before the comments if you can.
    something inside the article breaks focus while I’m reading and will piss me off, while when I’m done reading and scrolling down to look at comments it would be okay.

  4. Regarding the video ads, I’m sure in the comments we can happily confirm your bias against evil autoplay things and plead for the sanctity of the website.

    But, being hard-headed for a moment, have you worked out how many views you’d have to lose to negate the increased revenues from those ads you’ve been offered, if you’re worried it will drive people away?

    Is the extra money a significant enough chunk that you could use it to make positive change elsewhere?

    I guess the other thing is whether you could create an ad-free/reduced experience in A+ and use horrible ads to drive membership!

    Anyway, I find any tidbits about these kinds of decisions you have to make fascinating, because the whole AS model seems pretty unique. Maybe your ultimate monetisation should be writing a how-to book on staying afloat without ad or investor cash.

    • No, we haven’t worked out the numbers ’cause I don’t know them! Like I don’t know where to begin or like, how that kind of math works, really. And yeah, sometimes we’ve thought about no ads as an a+ perk, too… the drawback to that being that we’re then cutting access from potentially really quality advertisers (including queer small businesses) to some of our most engaged / heavy users.

      “Maybe your ultimate monetisation should be writing a how-to book on staying afloat without ad or investor cash.”

      that would be so meta / metal, i will dedicate it to you

  5. I’m all about basic-income (hell yeah, let’s take the step outside of the capitalist box/consciousness), but fuck no I don’t want the state to be in charge of it.

    So many great articles here!

    About the ads: Ads that automatically play video (with or without sound) can drag out a whole page loading, ugh. Not all of us have high-speed internet.. That being said, I wouldn’t access AS any less if it happened, because I appreciate & respect transparency, and y’all deserve million$.

  6. I don’t have ad blocker- I had actually never realized it was so common to use before scrolling through these comments??

    So as someone who doesn’t currently have a software to block ads (and wouldn’t want to get one if it would keep my favorite sites from gaining revenue), I am going to have to join the chorus against any video with autoplay AND ads that are in the middle of an article. That has become an increased trend on a few websites I frequent, and I agree with you Riese that it is really jarring and takes away from what I’m reading.

    That said, if you absolutely gotta do it pay the bills, I like the compromise suggested by Allison about saving the “in body of article ads” for Also, Also, Also and the daily fixes. Those pieces depend less on “mood” and ads could be placed before/ after each mini section of the article, making it less intrusive.

    Still, one of the reasons I enjoy AS as much as I do (and come here often) is because the ads are some of the least annoying/ intrusive on the internet. I’d rather you do what you gotta do to keep the lights on above all else, but I would be sad to see the current ad layout go.

    • I know someone said this before, but I think it’s really cool of you to ask for reader feedback as you are making that kind of decision. I can’t think of any other website or print media that would do that. It’s just another reason why Autostraddle is special! Makes me feel good that I spend my money here 🙂

    • If you decide to get an adblocker (which I recommend because makes YouTube 1000x more bearable for instance, pages load quicker, etc), it’s extremely easy to set it so that it doesn’t block ads on sites that you don’t mind viewing ads on because you want to support them. Usually you just go to whatever website you don’t want ads to be blocked on and then click on the adblocker logo on your browser and select “disable on this page” or whatever similarly-worded option the blocker you chose provides! I’ve done this with my favourite blogs and webcomics (who don’t have intrusive advertising anyway), and the rest of the internet is so much less irritating to look at / interact with : )

      • Thank you, your comment helped me remember why I started using ABP. It was because of the constant ads bombing in YouTube, no long after it was bought by Google.

        So, in a sense, I think that Google ruined several bussiness/sites, because once you get used to no having ads it’s kind of difficult to go back.

  7. Also, anyone using adblockers should whitelist AS for two reasons:

    1) it’s an easy way to ensure the site gets paid without you actually spending anything

    2) there are frequently completely weird adverts. Not sure if blocking elsewhere screws up AdSense or something, but the results are often entertaining

  8. Oh my god Douche Castle what the hell. Those requirements don’t turn out a low maintenance, non-self-absorbed person. They turn out the worst kinda straight white techie guy.

  9. Question re pitches:

    Another Straddler and I are working on a joint pitch for the Queer Science column, and she has a first draft of the first column in the works. We were planning to send it to you this weekend – should we wait, or should we hurry?

  10. I /hate/ video ads. Especially the kind with sound. but honestly it fucks up my reading experience especially the kind that suddenly appear then scroll back away, it moves the page I’m on and makes me have to hunt for my place again.

    The increasing prevalence of these things is almost enough to drive me to install an ad-blocker.

  11. The startup castle is mostly just so, so confusing. I don’t think they actually know what they want. Aren’t startups all about social media? So why wouldn’t you want someone who’s plugged into that? And if they don’t have a trust fund, how are they gonna get their plan off the ground? And I’m pretty sure Zuckerberg himself has listened to at least a couple songs with explicit lyrics in a day…

  12. Ad technology is a bit ahead of everyday processing that many computers do. Yes, a lot of people have iphones and androids and macs, but a lot of other people are still say, using a basic ASUS from staples to get on library wifi and a video loading that you didn’t ask for could really slow down your whole browsing experience and be really frustrating. You don’t want to alienate people just because their computer cant handle your advertisements

  13. I use an adblocker, but after reading the comments on this post I disabled it on Autostraddle because I want you to get all the ad revenue you can from my eyeballs seeing the flashy things. However, it made my browser run really slow. Now if I have a few tabs open in firefox and one of them is Autostraddle my computer gets really laggy.

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