Home » It’s Been Eight Months Of The Autopian: Let’s Talk!

It’s Been Eight Months Of The Autopian: Let’s Talk!


As we enter our ninth month of existence, your friendly Autopian staff continues to work hard to improve the site to make it the ultimate car-enthusiast publication on the internet. How are we doing? Come join us in the comments and give us some feedback, ask us some questions, and maybe answer a couple of our questions.

To Answer Some Pressing Questions:

  • Project Cactus is coming next week with a whopper of an update. Thank you for your patience, it will be rewarded.
  • Yes, the podcast is coming back next Wednesday! We were off for Thanksgiving Day.
  • Shirts will start shipping soon, you can still order them here.

A Big Question!

Our goal is to share more stories with you by more writers, to buy more terrible cars for more wacky adventures, to host more events so we can meet you, and to ultimately be a place built on enthusiasm for automobiles — something that that can feel like it’s missing from publications that purport to be for auto enthusiasts. We’d like your help.

On Thursday, December 8th, we’re going to launch Autopian membership! This comes after an outpouring from you all asking how you can support this site. The membership will allow you, dear readers, to be a bigger part of this crazy operation. Something similar worked for our comrades at Defector and we’ve been encouraged by the community response they’ve gotten, though our membership will not be mandatory — you’ll still be able to read the site without paying a dime, because The Autopian is for everyone. But only members will get certain perks, like the ability to hang out with the writers on Zoom regularly, and exclusive merch, and custom artwork from Jason and vials of rust from DT (depending upon which tier of membership you choose). We’ll get to the details when we launch, and we’d love your suggestions in the comments; we’re excited!

We’re working on making this not just the best car website out there, but the most long-term sustainable one. And that’s tricky in the tough auto journalism industry. The best way to make sure we can create what everyone wants without compromise is to essentially bring you, our readers, in as partners/customers rather than to rely solely on advertisers. We don’t want popup ads and slideshows if we can avoid them. Heck, getting away from those is part of the reason we exist in the first place!

This is a shot of empty cars in a field

We’re extremely fortunate to have Beau as a founder and partner who has believed in us enough to help us build what we have today, but we can do so much more.

A key part of our Thursday membership launch is that we want to give extra value above and beyond what’s on the page. We don’t want to restrict our posts only to members, and we don’t want to make you pay for having to comment. We want to keep all that stuff free. We also want to hire more people and do bigger projects. If every person who has a commenter account on this site signed up for a membership we’d probably have enough to hire two or three more folks immediately.

[Editor’s Note: If you like Project Cactus, and want more of that, and faster turnaround, become a member! I’ll wrench 24/7 around the world on some of the weirdest cars you’ve never heard of, producing a blog a day (with video!) if we get enough signups. My next trip is Brazil whether y’all join or not, it’s just a matter of whether I’m sleeping in a car or in a bed. I don’t care either way, but my mom tells me I need to take better care of myself. So sign up for her sake? Also, I plan to hire many more engineers and get more technical content on these here pages; that’s a huge goal of mine. -DT]. 

[Editor’s Note: Hey, I want to go to Brazil, too! Have you seen the weird air-cooled VWs there? – JT]

Since we started this site, many of you have asked us to provide a way for you to support our operation so that we can stick around for the long haul; but we will do better than just that. We want to give a lot of value to our members beyond the warm fuzzy feeling you get from being a part of this community. What would appeal to you? What is valuable to you? This is a community, more than anything, and we’ve never done this before so we can use all the help we can get.

Go nuts! Open thread. Oh, and thank you!

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181 Responses

  1. I am open to the idea of membership and having more access.

    Overall the site is doing great and growing. I find myself reading more articles then ignoring and the team here likes automotive stuff, unlike the site that is automotive and shall not be named.

    I look forward to the team moving ahead and this site is now pretty much a daily hangout.

    I did sent in the request to be reviewed for an ambassador for the Autopian parking lot greets. Granted in the Northeast is may be a shorter season but it is very active.

    A couple of points to consider:

    – Enable the full profile settings. I am reminded it is not setup yet cannot do so.
    – Track responses to our comments.
    – Reader’s stories. This can be either articles written by readers or interviews with the writers. The field is wide open here: why do you have that fleet, a car that means something to you, what interesting thing do you do, how has your view of automobiles changed, etc….

  2. Day 1 reader and Autopian fan here. I’m all for revenue to keep you all going. If a 1928 Rolls Royce owner’s manual is worth anything I can mail it to you. It’s actually quite an interesting read and Ive been wanting to send it to Torch or DT for a while anyway. Sell it on ebay? I just don’t subscribe to anything these days. No music streaming, Netflix, Disney, cable TV, you get the idea. When you have a small income stream, every trickle out of it is quite important. Like someone else was suggesting, I could and would happily put a $5 towards DT’s next big adventure, or for Torch’s Chang-Li to get a proper battery, or for Mercedes to get another crazy vehicle I wish I had space for (or a spouse who would put up with that).
    If the site has quirks I’ll deal. It’s worth it. And all our “non daily driver” vehicles have always had quirks too.
    Keep up the great work, it’s been a great 9 months. I’d like to see David update Cactus more often, or at least warn us it would be an eternity between updates. I understand he was busy getting pulled in 5 directions, all while pushing Torch in a shrimp-barrow.

  3. As you continue to expand your roster of contributors, I’m sure you noticed that The Drive recently laid off a few of its best, most Autopian-esque writers. It was awesome to see Stef Schrader turn up here, and I hope we get to see more of her writing. It was also a crying shame to see Victoria Scott get let go just as she seemed to be getting her feet under her—she’s an incredible writer and exactly the kind of automobile-loving weirdo who I think would fit in perfectly around here. Any chance we might see something from her at some point? It would be a loss to automotive journalism as an industry if she didn’t find somewhere to keep writing, she’s really excellent and is sure to get even better over time.

  4. There should be something like Patreon but for independent websites, a big source of friction that keeps people from throwing a few bucks towards their favorite websites is “yet another account/subscription to manage”. I believe I’ll go through it for this site but it gets in the way.

    Of course whoever tries is going to have to do so with the expectation that they won’t be taking over the world and will only be able to pay the bills if they master the art of cat herding…

  5. Im against the membership. There are some issues I have.

    First your longtime Detroit correspondent is moving. Is anyone replacing him in that area? I feel like that is a large hole to fill, the car culture is a big deal especially while the industry is in flux.

    Second, there is little to no racing on this site.

    Third, I would like to see more about motorcycles, Mercedes does a great job writing about them.

    Im happy with most of the content, Happy about most of the staff, and writers. Bring Tim Stevens on more please.

    If you do put up a paywall, im going to be very honest. I will not pay it, I will probably stop visiting the site. I’ve had access to most the writers for free for years. I will not pay for them just because its a new site and they’ve decided to HQ in one of the most expensive parts of the country.

    1. Racing content? No thanks. At least not if it’s at the expense of the types of “car culture” (or more accurately, “transportation” culture) that I get here and almost nowhere else.

      I’m going to guess you aren’t the sort of person who donates to public radio. I get something out of The Autopian… and I realize that it takes time and money to create. I also appreciate that, with the exception of some nice batteries I can’t justify paying for, there isn’t any advertising. I’m willing to support the venture if the quality continues.

      One thing that might be nice/interesting…Forums. I love the forums and community on Rennlist. Great place to learn some stuff from great people.

  6. Reader from day one as well. Huge fan, reading several articles daily. Love the site. I would love to see readers donating towards a shitty vehicle for David or Mercedes to fix and write about (sort of a patron approach). And ideally road trip it.

  7. I think the most important thing is to not overdo it on price. I like content from a lot of sites, but I have limited money available, so I need to spread creator money pretty thinly. There are sites that price their lowest tier at 3 or 5 FCU (favourite currency units — Euros, Swiss francs, pounds, US dollars, whatever, all essentially the same). Tough luck, I’m out. 0.50 FCU? Count me in. Even at the second level at 1 FCU.

    1. Agree with this, I support many podcasts on Patreon, but only normally the ones with a low price for bottom tier supporters, not from not thinking any one of them isn’t worth a fiver a month, but because they all are, so how do I choose?

  8. Well that’s just great news! I’m definitely one of those folks who has said that he’d happily subscribe to the site (especially if it means you don’t have to go crazy with ads) and I look forward to putting my money where my mouth is. Y’all are doing a phenomenal job, and there’s nothing else out there quite like it. If I can help this place survive and grow, I’ll be happy to do so.

  9. I visit the site daily. I enjoy this site …uh…more than, say, others I may have visited in the past that cover the topic in a similar way.

    I particularly enjoy just about anything David Tracy does as well as, “The Bishop”. Huibert Mees did some posts early on that I found extremely interesting.

    This is not a criticism; I would not likely ever pay for additional access.

    Keep going and keep doing what you are doing. I enjoy the distraction, the information and the entertainment your site provides.

    Grand Rapids, MI

  10. If you really want to seize car culture by the lug nuts, you could host a greasy forum and use it as a idea farm for articles and social interactions.
    It happens in the comments, but comments are disorganized and tied to a article you guys have to create.

  11. From the very little I know about internet success, I’d focus VERY hard on user engagement. To me, that means making these comment sections as easy to use and as involving as possible.

    Right now, when I leave a comment, I get no indication from the front page as to whether or not anyone responded to it, appreciated it, or even saw it. To see if someone did, I have to go to my profile, and open every story that I commented upon. Once a story is open, since that click didn’t take me to my comment, I need to Ctrl-F to try and find my user name. When I do that, I may not find my name at all, if it has been included as an “Older Comment.”

    I hate to say it, but the other site does all of this better. It takes too many clicks for me to fully participate. Even to make this comment I had to scroll all the way to the bottom of the page, and anything that presents a small barrier to engagement may lose me. Did that scroll encourage me to read the full story, and then all the other comments before I made my own? Maybe. Probably not. And the potential lose of the engagement isn’t worth it to you.

    We want this site to succeed. Make it easier for us to help you do that. And, yes, that makes an “Edit” capability important.

    1. Those features are extremely easy to implement and often come “in the box” with the software that the site is built with. I have no idea why they don’t have them here.

  12. We, the undersigned, pledge to sign up for one-year memberships at the cost of no more than $25 a year at the Autopian, provided we are granted the following:

    1. A new commenting editor widget with the ability to format text, quote reply, post pictures, and embed content.

    2. Faster response time to open stories from the home page.

    3. Notifications when our comments are replied to.

    4. Live streaming web cam for David Tracy and Jason Torchinsky 24/7/365.

    5. One free weekend of David Tracy helping wrench on our personal vehicles. (Room and board provided by the member)

    All in agreement, please reply with “AYE” below.

  13. Memberships are a good idea… I think the best way to keep them sustainable is to do something like Grassroots Motorsports ($30/year and a badge next to usernames in the comments to show who is subscribed) I also like the way they do ads, always non intrusive and relevant to the site topic….

    I’ve mentioned it before but I think this site is best when it focuses on the things that make it unique, wrenching, weird car history, design stuff…. etc. The latest car news is fine, I just hope that never becomes the focus. I can go anywhere to see GM’s new crossover#476546 but this is the only place where I can read about David’s rust heavy misfortunes.

    Keep up the good work!

  14. Reader from the very beginning; first post.

    The content here is top notch, as others have noted, thanks to the passion and dedication of the writers. The website is on the slower side, but I’m sure that will improve with time. The Former Site had considerable usability issues as well.

    Main point I would make as a casual reader – I have no philosophical objection to advertising. You have to keep the lights on somehow to continue to publish first-rate content. Relevant ads and an engaged reader base are a win-win. Connect gearheads with cool gear.

    Keep up the great work; membership may appeal to the top 20% most engaged; but most content on the internet is supported by advertising. Premium content and premium viewers command premium rates. Nothing wrong with that.

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