If you’ve been reading Autostraddle for long enough, you know what a miracle our continued existence sometimes seems like. We recently celebrated our tenth birthday, a milestone we didn’t necessarily expect to reach. We’ve always been just barely getting by; we’ve always been a labor of love, the beneficiary of many hands holding many digital dollar bills. We’ve asked you for help so many times in so many ways over the years. And you have helped! Whether it was contributing to an Indiegogo, joining A+, buying merch, donating a few dollars when you can, or sharing our content and our community with others, you have helped us survive more times and in more ways than we can count. We are endlessly grateful.
But there’s no other way to put this: We cannot ever do more than just that — surviving — the way we’ve been going.
We’re launching a major fundraising drive that’s the key to Autostraddle’s future.
It’s been a harrowing time for digital media in general — we’ve recently witnessed the shuttering of Rookie, The Toast, The Awl, Design Sponge, The Establishment, Lenny Letter, Nerve, Racked, Everyone is Gay and The Hairpin. Websites like Everyday Feminism and Feministing still exist, but haven’t published new content in months. Even venture-funded mega-sites like Vox, Buzzfeed, Vice Gawker Media and Mic have had to make major layoffs or sell to bigger companies. Then there was AfterEllen — well… we… all know what happened to AfterEllen.
How have we outlived them all?
Simple. In the grand tradition of women and other marginalized people since time immemorial, we have settled for salaries and pay rates that are outrageously lower than what we could make elsewhere. We don’t have an office or a support staff, keeping overhead costs as minimal as possible. For many years, we ran basically as a collective of friends (providing a VERY limited selection of voices to our readers), which comes with its own complications and challenges.
Last year 92% of our revenue came from readers in some form — through A+, donations, camp or merchandise.
Yet at a time when publishers and digital media are shuttering women’s and LGBT websites all over, Autostraddle is still here, still queer, and still independently-owned. It would be easy to decide our prospects are more dire than ever — and certainly there are days we feel that way! But more and more, we’re acutely aware that the reason we’re still here when so many are not is exactly because we’ve been able to rely on you — you, our community, and also you, personally. Our future as a magazine and a community space has never depended upon the rise and fall of a digital media economy; we’ve always depended on each other. And more than ever, we know that we can rely on each other to not just survive, but thrive. We can make it through this challenging time, and more than that, we can grow.
We haven’t shut down, despite the odds. We haven’t laid off our employees; we’ve actually managed to raise our rates every year. Where we used to get cold shouldered by advertisers at every turn, this year we’ve finally started getting traction with campaigns we’re proud of. We haven’t gambled your trust or your financial support on digital media fads — instead of launching with generous rates and then shutting down a year later with unpaid debts, we’ve never promised anybody money we didn’t already have in the bank. We’ve been financially conservative, kept overhead low and worked extra hours instead of hiring help. We never pivoted to video, or partnered with Facebook. The only risk we’ve ever taken is starting this damn thing to begin with.
When we’ve had wins — when you’ve supported us, when we’ve had sponsors for theme issues and when advertisers have given us a shot, we’ve always turned around and put it right back into our community – increasing writer rates, hiring more queer staff, and expanding what we can offer you. The money you give us has always gone back into the pockets of queer and trans people — even our accountant is a lesbian! We’re more confident than ever that with a big push for more solid financial ground to stand on, we can take control of our future in a real way.
With your support, we can enter a new era that’s about growth, not just scraping by.
We can hire essential new part-time staff members, like a dedicated program manager for A+ and new tech professionals; increase our editorial budget to hire more writers of color and trans writers and pay them what they’re worth; fund exciting new podcast projects; and finally take care of those pesky administrative needs that will allow us to run a more efficient, better Autostraddle for us all.
We have a few options for you to support us during this campaign: if you wanna just give us money you can totally just give us money with no strings attached. If you want a perk of some kind we’ve got those too! There’s special limited-edition merchandise: a To L and Back sticker, an Autostraddle nail file (AHEM), a lil Bag for Your Bag, and other perks, like us actually answering your advice question in a timely manner, a live Bitches Brew in New York with Heather Hogan this very August, us writing whatever you want us to, Rachel sending you an affirming voice mail, a little thank you message from Carol, custom L Word fanfic by Riese and other things to come in the coming weeks!
Ultimately: asking for money is hard; writing posts like this is REALLY hard for us. We’ve been talking about doing this for AN ENTIRE YEAR, and we want to hire people who can help us get to a place where that’s not our timeline anymore. When it comes to A+, we have a lot of ideas and you had a lot of suggestions on our Big Queer Money Survey and I think this could get really cool. We might even get some sleep, or take care of our own bodies and social lives. We’ve spent years — our whole lives, sometimes, it seems like — talking about what our community could look like if we weren’t spending all our time and energy on just staying alive, a feeling that queer and trans people know all too well. With your help, we’re excited to find out what thriving looks like.