This Business of Art Fix #8: When One Thousand True Fans Isn’t Quite Enough

Welcome to the eighth “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.


This Business of Online Media

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Scratch Magazine is folding. It was profitable, but 1,000 subscribers simply isn’t enough to run a magazine that pays its writers what writers should be paid, even when it’s a magazine that’s mostly about how one goes about getting paid. It was really good, y’all! Scratch Magazine published about 40 articles per year (FYI, we have 1,300 A+ members and publish about 1,000 articles a year — so uh, if you’re not an A+ member, I really recommend you consider it!) From co-founder Manjula Martin’s interview with the Niemen Lab:

OWEN: What was weird/surprising/cool about being a writer-turned-publisher? Did it affect the way you thought about how writers should be paid, for instance?
MARTIN: Well, it certainly affected the way I thought about how editors should be paid! In that I think this is something most writers tend to forget when we feel like our work is not being valued appropriately: At small publications and literary journals, editors are often just as underpaid and overworked as writers. (And at larger publications, most editors are not in control of how much money they’re budgeted for freelance work.) I don’t think that’s an excuse not to pay writers more — I just think it’s important for everyone to really look at and understand the range of financial ecosystems within our industry.
And running my own magazine has helped me become better at pitching. I still hate it, but I’m better at it.

From the Farewell Letter:

So the answer to the question of whether a small, independent, ad-free online publication can make enough money from subscriptions to grow and stay good and allow its editors to get enough sleep and keep making their own work is…well, maybe, I guess, but…not really?

The Billfold also did an interview with Scratch’s co-founder:

On the business side, it takes time and resources to do things like find a new platform or relaunch a website or offer more services or get investors, and I just haven’t had them. I’m not entirely convinced that would earn me enough money to pay people and to pay myself.

And nobody’s figured out how to make money on a digital publication. The people who have figured it out are running ads, which is basically the same model as print was.

They talk about the concept of 1,000 True Fans, which argues that “A creator, such as an artist, musician, photographer, craftsperson, performer, animator, designer, videomaker, or author – in other words, anyone producing works of art – needs to acquire only 1,000 True Fans to make a living.” The theory also suggests that when you are increasing the size of your operation to include more than one person, you’ll need proportionately more fans. According to this calculator, we need 7,000 true fans. So.

The author of 1,000 True Fans reported on feedback to his theory as well, which is full of excellent insights from various creatives about the magic numbers that have worked for them.

+ Neiman Lab has an extensive feature on “The Cult of Vice.” Vice is moving a bulk of their new programming to cable, expanding video offerings in general and attempting to deliver more hard news. Also, Vice has “mastered the mass production of authenticity for profit” and is a “boy’s club.”

“Vice is no longer the edgy digital outsider, but a slick global empire lubricated with millions in investment and ad dollars that, coupled with a brash attitude, make the company a ray of light among the decaying temples of legacy journalism.”

+ Bloomberg’s What Is Code Was A Massive Hit — Here’s Why: “The conventional wisdom is that Internet users have the attention span of a goldfish — the shorter, the better. That’s what makes the runaway success of Bloomberg Businessweek’s “What Is Code?” — a 38,000-word opus on software engineering that took up an entire double issue of the magazine — all the more surprising.”

The Los Angeles Times Embraces the Digital Divide: “‘I’ve been keeping informal track and the LAT’s biggest advertiser now is — the LAT,’ a former senior editor told me recently. In a recent print paper, the editor observed, there were 42 pages and 27 house ads. ‘that’s stunning and unsustainable.'”

Trollbusters: “At a time when online harassment of women writers and publishers, especially black women, is rampant, Ferrier and the rest of the TrollBusters team just launched their new website. The site is already gaining recognition, with the concept winning one of the top prizes at the International Women’s Media Foundation hackathon in January.”

+ As podcasts get more and more popular, the “podcast freelance economy” takes shape.

+ The Verge is turning off comments for the summer because everybody is being an asshole.

+ What Scribd’s growing pains mean for the future of digital content subscription models.

+ The Tech Press Moves Like Clockwork, Fitting Company Narratives Into a Predictable Arc.

+ The Los Angeles Times has hired a reporter to cover Black Twitter.

+ Longform Podcast talks to Jezebel founder Anna Holmes about everything!


This Business of Business

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Why We Need To Talk More About Mental Illness in Tech and Business: “No matter how tough you thought Austen was, getting beat up in the press is hard on anyone. In particular, someone who is prone to depression, you start to get sucked into that. He started to believe that meant the company wasn’t going to work.”

+ If Start-Up funding is so plentiful, why are many women entrepreneurs still struggling? GOOD QUESTION.

Why a meaningful boost for those at the bottom requires help from the top.

+ I Think America Is Out Of Hand: over half of American workers feel burned out, and the typical American workweek is now 47 hours, not 40. What I wouldn’t give for a 47 hour work-week, though…

+ For Cities, Big-Box Stores Are Becoming Even More of a Terrible Deal: “…thanks to a new method that big-box stores are using to game the tax system, Marquette Township owed a $755,828.71 tax refund to the home improvement chain Lowe’s. Essential services like the library, the school district, and the fire department were on the hook to pay for it. The Peter White Public Library would now be closed on Sundays.”


Businesswoman’s Special: Advice on How To Work Better

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+ As a Business Leader: What to Do When You Don’t Know What To Do: “The decision to wait may be the best. Most of the time, problems have a way of working themselves out and waiting may bring additional information allowing you to make a better decision. I have found this is especially true for calendar conflicts and project deadlines.”

+ How (and why) We Rebranded Our Company

+ 4 Barrier-Busting Founders Inspiring the Next Generation of Entrepreneurs

+ The Condensed Guide To Running Meetings

+ 11 Signs Someone is Lying To You


Some Things I Want You To Know About

+ Our very own Carmen Rios is looking for feminist bosses to feature in a story she’s doing about feminist bosses! Are you a female boss with feminist leanings? Well, have I got news for you: you could fill out this form.

+ StartOut San Francisco is holding an event on July 15th specifically for queer women entrepreneurs! You should go.

+ Pitch-wise these days, we’re mainly looking for personal essays and also content for A+ from established writers with followings.


Before you go! It takes funding to keep this publication by and for queer women and trans people of all genders running every day. And A+ members keep the majority of our site free for everyone. Still, 99.9% of our readers are not members. A+ membership starts at just $4/month. If you're able to, will you join A+ and keep Autostraddle here and working for everyone?

Join A+

Riese

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

Riese has written 2910 articles for us.

45 Comments

  1. 1. Before I logged in the ad under your article was “Get Paid to Be a Writer,” which: hilarious.

    2. SO SO SAD that Scratch is ending. I was one of the 1,000 true fans.

    3. VICE is planning some really cool video content that I think a lot of people on here will be interested in. I’m excited for it.

    As always, thank you for this great link round-up!!!

  2. Reading that Ira Glass said “Public radio is ready for capitalism” made me cringe. But like, I feel like that’s the theme of this week: how do all these awesome and deserving people make a living wage when so much of what they’re doing is giving away free content?

    I wish I was in the 1% so I could give away hundreds of billions of dollars to the people that deserve and still afford to live alone in a studio apartment (probably with money left over tbh)

    • I second that 1% comment. Especially now in the age of kickstarter and gofundme and every thing I love being non-profit/paid for by subscriptions I’m always so weighed down by guilt at not having enough money to support everything I want to.

  3. anytime Riese posts one of these, I open about a million tabs on my computer and it takes me ages to get through it all but basically what I’m saying is I am so much more well/wide-read (did I think I’d ever read a tech article full of other tech articles? not exactly…) because of this beautiful website

  4. I cancelled my Scribd subscription in May for financial reasons, so I had no idea they were struggling. Hopefully they recover. I can remember the site before it ever became a subscription service, and then how special it was when a dear friend got me a subscription for Christmas. It’d be so great if a Netflix for books could work – maybe something like a sort of pay to play library would be better. I’d consider subscribing to a service where I could pay 10 dollars a month to read 5 books, etc.

  5. Thanks as always! I like it that someone has formalised the concept of ‘1000 true fans’ which definitely *feels* like a thing.

    On the topic of trolls, megastar business goddess extraordinaire Leonie Dawson just published this post wherein she answers some of the emails she’s had from her trolls.

  6. Related to the first article about how challenging it is to run a business like this and pay your writers fairly, I just want to say that as someone who did like 4 unpaid internships before being like “my work should be compensated and also who can afford to live like this?!” I really appreciate your commitment to compensating your writers as best you can!

  7. I found the VICE article particularly informative and thought provoking. It’s definitely making me reflect on how informed I am about the sources I use to inform myself. It also makes me really upset though; why does everything have to have an agenda? Why does it all have to come down to profit and self interest in the end? How do you learn to navigate through all this to get to the truth/meaningful stuff?

  8. Oh my god. I must be reaaaaally bored, because I read all 38,000 words of that “What Is Code?” piece. I definitely did not understand most of it, and didn’t really even enjoy all of it, but it just seems like such an accomplishment that I had to tell someone I did it.

  9. I like that the Verge put their commenters in time out. Sometimes I think the entire internet needs a time out. This is one of few sites where I ever left myself read comments these days.

  10. Like many people I opened almost all of the tabs. The article on rebranding of a company was super interesting especially after seeing the effects of rebranding/renaming through mergers of different universities. Thanks!

  11. My wish is for every person to have 1,000 True Fans! (the expression True Fans is so funny to me for some reason :P)

    I like the article about talking more about mental health issues – I think that’s true for every workplace. I work at a university and they’ve been very sympathetic to me with my severe anxiety, with allowing me to go on a paid-for-by-work course about mindfulness, letting me take time off for therapy etc. It’s made me feel far better but also helped them too, as it prevented me from taking sick leave, and helped me to be more professional with colleagues.

    The article on “what to do when you don’t know what to do” is great. My tendency is to react immediately and it’s useful to be reminded that taking some time to work out what to do is often the best decision.

    This is an interesting column Riese, thank you!

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