We are officially one month old! It seems like much longer, but we launched on 11th October and have officially been up and running in public for one calendar month.
How are we doing?
Thanks to an interview on Kotaku on our third day of existence (follow-up here if this is your first time seeing that) we’ve had over 15,000 visitors since our launch. At the time of writing we are now pledged to receive $570 per month through our Patreon thanks to 148 patrons to whom we are extremely grateful. This puts us just $30 away from our second Patreon milestone of $600 – not bad considering we started a month ago with no community and no name recognition.
We have a way to go until we are sustainable though; being able to pay everyone involved for their writing, editing and tech support work on top of existing running costs will require more like $3000 per month. However, our first patrons have taken (greatly appreciated) leaps of faith, as we ourselves did on this project. Like any early adopters they have demonstrated both commitment to an idea and a willingness to remain patient and enthusiastic as we learn and develop. They are giving us the feedback we need to professionalise AniFem so we can appeal to an even broader range of people.
We bootstrapped as much as possible just to get AniFem live and demonstrate that there is a market for this kind of content. Now that this has been proven, it’s time to convert our minimum viable product into a fully and smoothly functioning operation. Our next milestone is $1200, and to get there we know we have to show you our commitment to that process. Let me take you through a few key ways we have begun this work already.
It’s no secret that I’ve been reluctant to host comments sections under our posts. I didn’t want to deal with moderating conversations when I have seen how quickly comments on feminist websites can be derailed, become flooded with negativity and/or turn toxic. I also don’t believe they’re necessary to start or facilitate conversations. My preference was to wait until I could pay someone else to deal with it then set up a dedicated discussion forum and outsource the whole job.
However, there was a strong push right from the start, both externally and internally, to make comments a feature of the site as soon as possible. As a result, we put a moderation system in place, prepared a comments policy then tested our first post with comments on Wednesday – and it worked just fine. None of my worst fears came true, and the post has benefited from hosting additional insights. So we’re going to start making posts like this more often, and build up the kind of community we always intended to. Our commenters will be the cornerstones of that community.
It only fills two paragraphs here, but a significant amount of discussion, debate, research and preparation went into that decision. That it was a success feels like an enormous triumph. I’ve never been happier to be proven wrong.
If you’d asked me a month ago what the biggest challenge was in setting AniFem up, I would have said the actual process of setting up a website (which one or two of you maaaaay have noticed isn’t my forte – now we have a professional on board who can fix my mistakes please give us feedback on how to improve our website design!). One month in, my answer is without a doubt: managing contributors.
Want to know something that seems ridiculous now? I never expected people to want to write for AniFem. Not until we could pay, anyway; I just assumed that wouldn’t be a tempting prospect for anyone outside the team I had already gathered in September, so I made zero provisions for it. Big mistake.
I ended up with an inbox packed with emails full of fascinating ideas by enthusiastic people and no process to handle them beyond “Email me and I’ll do the best I can!” which was not the greatest idea I’ve ever had. Our earliest contributors have definitely felt the impact of my lack of foresight, and I can’t apologise enough for that. I’m grateful to all who have continued to be supportive and understanding through what has been an extremely steep learning curve.
Now we have a process, and we’re just setting up the infrastructure to support it. We have a little more work to do to before we can open this up and start managing contributors properly, so please bear with us just a little bit longer. And if you have already emailed us and are waiting for a response – that’s 100% my fault, and I’m very, very sorry. This process ensures I will no longer be a bottleneck, and once it’s up and running I expect the contributor experience to improve beyond recognition.
More than that, thanks to early feedback I am certain this will end up being a very positive experience for contributors. For example, I had been managing submitted pieces as my own submitted pieces have been managed elsewhere in my freelancing career, but we’ve now made our process less top-down and more collaborative. We want AniFem to be a site people are happy to write for, especially marginalised people with voices we want to signal-boost, and that means being receptive to feedback and adapting in response.
Launching this process is our highest priority at the moment, so watch this space for more details very soon!
Along with organising our contributors better will come a more reliable publishing schedule. We are working towards a point where we have most content planned for the upcoming three weeks or more, with the flexibility to accommodate time sensitive response posts and a store of non-time sensitive posts in reserve which we can use in case planned content needs to be postponed.
Our Patreon gives a rough idea of how much content you can expect with each funding level, but that was written when I was steeling myself to do everything single-handed if necessary. Now we have a strong team in place, more contributors than we could have hoped for so early on and comments apparently working fine, we can plan content a little differently. We’re almost at $600, which going by our own Patreon goals will provide one commentary piece on airing anime + one link roundup + two features. In other words, four posts per week. Until we hit $600 we will aim for three, on a Monday/Wednesday/Friday schedule.
On Mondays we will set up a discussion post about the previous week of currently airing anime, so our commenters can tell us what they think we should be talking about, put up any links they have found interesting and, most importantly, talk to each other and start building up a real community. On Wednesdays and Fridays we will post features. These may be conversation starters, reviews, opinion pieces, roundtable discussions, comparative analysis, interviews, an editor’s update or something else – we haven’t yet created a link round-up, full season review or podcast, for example, but those are all types of content on our radar.
As an editor I want us to quickly reach the point where we can properly curate our content, ensuring our focus is distributed evenly between anime, manga and other Japanese pop culture, featuring the voices of contributors offering a diverse range of marginalised perspectives, educational backgrounds and personal preferences. It may take a little while to get there, but at least that gives us time to raise the funding necessary to pay people to create the content we need to ensure that balance.
Can I be real a second? For just a millisecond? Let down my guard and tell the people how I feel a second?
Three months ago I had barely or never even spoken to most of the team currently working on AniFem. Two months ago I was still dealing with backlash after my article on moe went up on The Mary Sue and unleashed the wrath of fandom. As a result of both these things, this time last month I was desperate not to be the face of AniFem.
I came up with the idea for this site, but I was really hoping someone more qualified and experienced (and with a thicker skin) would want to take over. No-one did, and I don’t blame them. At AniFem, we are judged harshly, constantly, by people misreading our intentions and/or expecting us to act like a fully matured professional operation from day one. I am personally held to unrealistically high standards and routinely, publicly lambasted for not meeting them. I frequently apologise to complete strangers for actions that felt like the best decision at the time. At best, it hurts my pride; at worst, my belief that I can do this job well.
I have never worked as an editor, only as a writer. A significant amount of this project is trial and error, fuelled by gut instinct and good intentions. I do what feels like the right thing in the moment, make mistakes, ask the team for advice, take measures to avoid the same mistake in future, do what feels like the right thing… and the cycle continues. Meanwhile, every one of those mistakes is scrutinised, publicised and criticised while the good intentions are often assumed to be absent.
My biggest qualification for this job is that I am willing to commit to that process of trial and error and stick with it even through the darkest days. It could have been anyone else, and some days I wish it had been. On other days I am so, so proud of what we have accomplished and excited by what I now know we will achieve in the future.
This would be absolutely impossible without the amazing people working on AniFem behind the scenes. One month ago, I didn’t want to ask anyone on the team to do anything. Not because I didn’t trust them, but because I knew I couldn’t pay them and didn’t want to risk exploiting them. It’s taken a month for me to finally realise that they are happy to help when they can and I can achieve more by delegating to willing volunteers than I can trying to do it all myself.
Not only that, but we are each other’s biggest supporters – much needed on those darkest days. We bounce ideas off each other, offer to proofread each other’s work, share congratulations on the good days and commiserations on the bad. There is zero chance whatsoever I would have made it this far without this warm, creative and generous group of people, and I’m pleased we finally have a team page up so that those willing to be publicly identified can get some credit (and you can see which anime each of us is most enjoying this season too!).
The progress we have made over this past month may not be too obvious from the outside, but it’s all gone into the foundations. Now we can build on those foundations, and what we create is more likely to stand solid. Over this next month you can expect regular posts, a completely overhauled process for contributors, the launch of new ways to communicate with us and each other – and, I’m confident, making it beyond our next Patreon milestone.
Thank you all so much for the ongoing support. I look forward to sharing more of our progress with you in another month.