Toasted
May 13, 2016 6:17 AM   Subscribe

In a sea of imperfect options, this is the one I feel best about! We made something great for three years, and now we’re going to go do something else. The only regret I have is that Bustle will outlive us and I will never be able to icily reject a million-dollar check from Bryan Goldberg, but that’s pretty much it. - The Toast will be closing on July 1st.

"What is going to happen on July 1st, exactly? We’re just going to stop adding new content with any regularity. I’m going to keep the site up until the heat-death of the universe, and the ads will still run so I get fifty cents every few weeks or whatever, and from time to time we might run something just for funsies."

No fundraisers are requested.
posted by Artw (185 comments total) 35 users marked this as a favorite
 
I was just pulling together an FPP on this, but was slowed by my sadness. here is some content from that.

The Toast was quite the popular source for MeFi posts. Here are some previouslies just since March:
- “Hermione,” Ron said quietly, “what’s a tax shelter?”
- Hilariously Giant Goalie Pads
- Sometimes I think I grew up in the 50s
- JUST GET AN APARTMENT

Ortberg's writing will still be regularly available in her Dear Prudence column for Slate. Cliffe, as mentioned in their chat, still plans to guest write for publications like The Guardian.
posted by Kybard at 6:21 AM on May 13, 2016 [7 favorites]


Ah crud.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:21 AM on May 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


This makes me terribly sad, but it is a small consolation that I am still able to get my Mallory Ortberg fix on Slate as Dear Prudence.
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 6:21 AM on May 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


WHAT

WHAT

NO

also raccoons are trash PANDAS btw
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:22 AM on May 13, 2016 [11 favorites]


First the Grinder gets cancelled and now this. May sux.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:22 AM on May 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


also I was gonna headline it "owls will always have faces" which is a callback within the post to this Ortberg gem: Owl faces, in order

that's the sort of thing I'm going to miss most. I fear Ortberg's willingness to go weird, and to be so particular and beautifully hilarious with phrasing, will never be fully captured in a context like Slate.
posted by Kybard at 6:24 AM on May 13, 2016 [14 favorites]


Anyway, this really doesn't make a lot of sense. How could something with such a rabid fan base be unable to turn a profit? Why would it need to be shuttered rather than just--stop producing most of the content? The financials confuse me--seems like a major reason has to be that Mallory and other founders have other, better paying gigs in front of them.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:24 AM on May 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


Like any reasonable person, I 100% blame the people who were saying there were too many Mallory Ortberg posts on MetaFilter.
posted by beerperson at 6:24 AM on May 13, 2016 [51 favorites]


The Fawlty Towers rule applies; create excellence, then vanish before it can decline.
posted by delfin at 6:25 AM on May 13, 2016 [16 favorites]


Finally, Kudos to the Toast for trying to pay writers fairly. Boo-doze to the fact that it is unsustainable as a business model.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:25 AM on May 13, 2016 [18 favorites]


I'm a little worried for the future of sites that have actual good content as a unique selling point, TBH. Or anywhere that actually pays anyone for anything that isn't clickbait optimized listicle garbage.
posted by Artw at 6:26 AM on May 13, 2016 [17 favorites]


nooooooooooooooo!!!
posted by Elly Vortex at 6:26 AM on May 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


Why would it need to be shuttered rather than just--stop producing most of the content?

I mean, that sounds like what's happening for the most part

"We’re just going to stop adding new content with any regularity. I’m going to keep the site up until the heat-death of the universe, and the ads will still run so I get fifty cents every few weeks or whatever, and from time to time we might run something just for funsies."
posted by Kybard at 6:26 AM on May 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


Nicole has family reasons that she may not be able to keep up such a demanding job. Mallory is busy. I understand completely, I'm just... *sniff*

What other websites do y'all read that are so genuinely invested in women's experience? This is both a serious question and a sad, rhetorical one.
posted by Countess Elena at 6:29 AM on May 13, 2016 [33 favorites]


:( :( :( :( :(
posted by kmz at 6:30 AM on May 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


Well damn.
posted by odinsdream at 6:33 AM on May 13, 2016


I'm a little worried for the future of sites that have actual good content as a unique selling point, TBH. Or anywhere that actually pays anyone for anything that isn't clickbait optimized listicle garbage.

You should be extremely worried, because it's impossible. Every site that has launched with this intent has either shuttered(the dissolve), turned into indistinguishable clicklygloog(the entire Vox network), or pivoted to video.

Ads don't pay, people don't pay directly for writing, bye bye!
posted by selfnoise at 6:35 AM on May 13, 2016 [15 favorites]


I'm sure I'll find some media analysis that's not just someone banging their head into a table soon.
posted by Artw at 6:36 AM on May 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


Bummed about this, but the explanation they give is totally understandable. I'm glad they're ending it because they want to, not because they have to.

I will forever be grateful to them for the incredible writers and artists we know now because The Toast gave them a fair (and paid!) platform.
posted by everybody had matching towels at 6:36 AM on May 13, 2016 [4 favorites]


I WAS GETTING READY TO MAKE A PITCH TO THEM FOR SOMETHING I WROTE DAMMIT
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:40 AM on May 13, 2016 [5 favorites]


🍞
posted by Cash4Lead at 6:40 AM on May 13, 2016 [11 favorites]


The Toast-makers will be missed. Always loved their link round-ups. Read it for a long time before I realized it was a "feminist blog."
posted by kozad at 6:43 AM on May 13, 2016


First Bowie, then Prince and now THIS?! You can non-ironically fuck off 2016.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:45 AM on May 13, 2016 [31 favorites]


Completely unacceptable.
posted by Squeak Attack at 6:48 AM on May 13, 2016


.
posted by tobascodagama at 6:50 AM on May 13, 2016


:( :( :(

I don't even know what my friends are going to link to on twitter anymore. Just a sea of autostraddle, I guess.
posted by dinty_moore at 6:50 AM on May 13, 2016 [5 favorites]


What other websites do y'all read that are so genuinely invested in women's experience? This is both a serious question and a sad, rhetorical one.

I'm biased because I just published a piece with them, but The Establishment seems to be just that. All women editorial board, and they're very dedicated to intersectional experiences. I can also vouch that they pay their writers fairly too!
posted by Conspire at 6:51 AM on May 13, 2016 [26 favorites]


If you follow them on Twitter, Nicole has been more concerned about financials from time to time the last few months and has commented that without her wealthy husband the toast would be in a much worse way. Mallory has joked also that while she (claims she) is not burned out, she can see 'burned out' coming on the horizon. So while it's not the most surprising news, it is sad. Less for losing Nicole and Mallory, who will certainly still provide their voices to the world, but for the wonderful platform for unknown voices they provided. I loved the toast and will miss it.
posted by DynamiteToast at 6:51 AM on May 13, 2016 [15 favorites]


Awwww, bummer! I'll miss the art posts the most, but I can see how something like that would just get exhausting and less fun for the writer over time.
posted by TwoStride at 6:54 AM on May 13, 2016


I did read some of Nicolle's tweets on financial matters and think "well that's brutally honest for someone who runs a site" a while back - I guess now I know where that led.
posted by Artw at 6:55 AM on May 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


How could something with such a rabid fan base be unable to turn a profit?

Because rabid fan base doesn't mean paying fan base. The Internet, us included, loves cool stuff but hates the very idea of forking over even a penny for it, or even just allowing ads to load.
posted by Sangermaine at 6:55 AM on May 13, 2016 [18 favorites]


Aw hell. This year just SUCKS.
posted by zarq at 6:57 AM on May 13, 2016


Anyway, this really doesn't make a lot of sense. How could something with such a rabid fan base be unable to turn a profit?

i feel like that tackled that pretty close to the top : " also because it had become clear that the bigger issue was not money, really, it was just…not wanting to do it anymore."

which i totally understand, and it's been pretty obvious from twitter that burnout was encroaching. and still, i'm unspeakably upset. it was so nice to have a feminist, woman focused website that wasn't just about all the ways it sucks to be a woman. it was so nice to have a site that delighted in humor which didn't cater to what men typically find funny. the longer more serious pieces were also some of the best writing of the last few years. god. i'm just sad. but glad they are deciding to walk away instead of being forced into it.
posted by nadawi at 6:58 AM on May 13, 2016 [41 favorites]


Maybe Mallory will finally have time to do that Night Vale guest episode now.
posted by GameDesignerBen at 7:00 AM on May 13, 2016 [6 favorites]


Is there a metafilter joke word like eponysterical for when the 'Older'/'Newer' posts are relevant? Because I keep scrolling to the bottom and seeing 'YOU AND YOUR FRIENDS ARE DEAD' and yah basically.
posted by DynamiteToast at 7:01 AM on May 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


How could something with such a rabid fan base be unable to turn a profit?

This is known as "The Firefly Paradox".
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:02 AM on May 13, 2016 [4 favorites]


loves cool stuff but hates the very idea of forking over even a penny for it

it's my impression, which seems to be echoed in the rountable, that the money mostly rebounded after nicole talked about it. the-toast community by and large turned off ad blockers and starting donating. they are a really great bunch and i don't think they hated the idea of paying for the-toast. i think it's actually why it had to be said so clearly that no fundraising would be happening. i have no doubt the community would save the site if the issue was purely financial.
posted by nadawi at 7:03 AM on May 13, 2016 [5 favorites]


Is it terrible to say that I never found The Toast particularly interesting?
posted by Annabelle74 at 7:06 AM on May 13, 2016 [4 favorites]


This doesn't hit me like the loss of The Dissolve but it still sucks that there seems to be so little market for non-spammy content on the web.
posted by octothorpe at 7:08 AM on May 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


THIS WHOLE ENDEALMENT I DON'T PRIZE.
posted by drlith at 7:09 AM on May 13, 2016 [21 favorites]


No worse than going into Prince's memorial thread and saying his music sucked. Seriously though if that was your impression I'd say you just didn't see the right things. The toast always impressed me with is breadth. From publishing articles about art that everyone sees, to that essay @theshrillest wrote about blm, to humorous fictitious lawsuits between grad students and the Tolkien estate, to Ayn Rand/Hermione cross fiction, to etc..
posted by DynamiteToast at 7:11 AM on May 13, 2016 [10 favorites]


Is it terrible to say that I never found The Toast particularly interesting?

No, but it might hit people as sort of gauche timing in context, so it'd probably work better to keep one-liner gripes to some future discussion that's more post-mortem-ish and less "oh and here's some news that's going to ruin a bunch of fans' day" in feel.
posted by cortex at 7:11 AM on May 13, 2016 [53 favorites]


I was mindlessly scrolling through my Facebook feed this morning, and remarking on the fact that about 95% of content today is utterly mindless (and often misinformed) shit.

The Toast was definitely a part of the other 5%.
posted by schmod at 7:11 AM on May 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


.
posted by Gelatin at 7:13 AM on May 13, 2016


I stopped directly reading The Toast about 6 months after The Toast started (it was too much to keep up with by RSS and so much of it got posted here anyway), but I will miss the many, many parts of The Toast that got posted to Metafilter.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:15 AM on May 13, 2016


I was mindlessly scrolling through my Facebook feed this morning, and remarking on the fact that about 95% of content today is utterly mindless (and often misinformed) shit.

It's sad when Sturgeon's Law proves optimistic.
posted by Gelatin at 7:17 AM on May 13, 2016 [4 favorites]


I am going to go pay Mallory a dollar for every post of hers I have every loved. It's like that $50 check you slip inside the condolence card at the funeral. It feels that bad, folks.
posted by drlith at 7:18 AM on May 13, 2016 [5 favorites]


Dana Stevens, whose birthday it is July 1, pointed out that Google Reader also closed on that date, and though it is a combination of coincidence and probably something to do with the fiscal year that made that happen, it feels worth pointing out.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 7:19 AM on May 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


July 1st is my birthday, and this is the worst gift any girl could ask for.

On the lighter side, I have hidden my pre-ordered copy of Dad Magazine: The Book from my partner so as to surprise him for Father's Day.
posted by palindromic at 7:19 AM on May 13, 2016


God. Seriously. What is the deal with 2016, this is the worst.

.
posted by town of cats at 7:19 AM on May 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


noooooooooooooooooooo :( :( :( :(

I blame all of my FB friends, because I always seem to be THE ONLY ONE sharing anything from The Toast and all those fuckers keep sharing bullshit from 9gag. GRAR MAINSTREAM INTERNET SUCKS
posted by numaner at 7:20 AM on May 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm shocked by this, and saddened for what it portends. Even if this is very much a "quit while you're ahead-ish" situation, the writing was and is clearly on the wall. If the Toast couldn't make things work, who else even has a chance?

It wasn't a site I directly checked a lot, but as a Metafilter reader I obviously found myself there quite a bit. The commenters clearly felt a strong sense of community. I wasn't part of it, but—well, if Metafilter were to shut down, I would be in mourning for weeks.

It's a huge loss, and I am sorry for it.
posted by Sokka shot first at 7:24 AM on May 13, 2016 [4 favorites]


I CANNOT WITH THIS, EVEN.
posted by casarkos at 7:25 AM on May 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


Oh my heart. No.

I mean - yes, I'm glad that the amazing women running The Toast are doing what they need to do, and that I'll see more content from Nicole and Mallory elsewhere now, but not the Toast. I love that site - the unabashed feminism, the thoughtful discussions, the happy squee. I always felt just a little too shy to jump into any of the threads, but would still look forward to the open threads (so many amazing lives shared) and all the comments on the Link Roundups. It's such a vibrant community, I don't know where I'll be able to find anything like it anywhere on the internet. MeFi is good and solid and I'm happy to pitch in and keep it around forever but it's not the same.

Hopefully there will be a place for Toast exiles to gather in the spirit of the original site - though knowing the burden of moderation and the time and money it takes to keep something like that running, that might be too much to ask for.

This and Agent Carter. Friday the 13th has turned into such a grim day, ripping such treasured joys from so many people. It's starting to feel like an ominous portent...
posted by harujion at 7:26 AM on May 13, 2016 [12 favorites]


Finally out of sea room, I guess.
posted by zamboni at 7:30 AM on May 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


This makes me sad. Though I am not a queer Librarian or a body building archivist, the Toast was one of the few places on the internet that felt like it was there expressly and unapologetically to post content and engender conversations about things that women like me find interesting and amusing.

I'm sad to see a place to have those conversations disappear - the Establishment is great but tends towards depressing things about being a woman, and doesn't allow comments.
posted by ChuraChura at 7:31 AM on May 13, 2016 [5 favorites]


Oh god, we're going to lose the toast comment section, not just the toast.
posted by dinty_moore at 7:32 AM on May 13, 2016 [11 favorites]


nicole chung on twitter was clear that their calendar isn't full up until july, so if anyone has any pitches they should send them in.
posted by nadawi at 7:34 AM on May 13, 2016 [4 favorites]


Thursday: publish article denigrating possums
Friday: announce site will have to close

COINCIDENCE??????
posted by Greg Nog at 7:34 AM on May 13, 2016 [35 favorites]


That's... really discouraging. If The Toast, which really did everything right, or seemed to, can't make the publishing paid by ads model work, who can?

What are the alternatives?

Facebook is eating everybody's lunch.

When does Google begin to worry about the cratering of the ad/publishing model and the walling in of audience and revenue?
posted by notyou at 7:34 AM on May 13, 2016 [6 favorites]


those goddamn possums. just the worst.
posted by numaner at 7:38 AM on May 13, 2016


Is it terrible to say that I never found The Toast particularly interesting?

If it makes you feel any better, it does seem like a fitting tribute to Mallory to come into a comment section almost 90% opposed and shout 'FIGHT ME'.
posted by DynamiteToast at 7:39 AM on May 13, 2016 [41 favorites]


and here i thought the downfall was cliffe publicly distancing herself from this controversial piece.
posted by nadawi at 7:40 AM on May 13, 2016


my god mallory's trolling! i know she's keeping dear prudie, and i'm sure she'll do other things, and it will all be great, but she's the best troll on the planet and the toast gave her a unique space to do that over and over again.
posted by nadawi at 7:41 AM on May 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


Fudge.
posted by tommasz at 7:43 AM on May 13, 2016


.
posted by eviemath at 7:43 AM on May 13, 2016


Aww boooooo. Ronbledore will forever live on in my heart.

notyou - Google already worries about it, why do you think they're trying to steer people into their own walled Google garden? If your internet use consists of using Gmail, watching YouTube, listening to music over Google Play, navigating using Google Maps, all delivered to your Android device or over Google Fiber, I think they'll be able to figure out a way to serve you ads. Heck, once Calico starts growing Google eyeballs or whatever they do they'll pry slap ads on those as well. And if anything new comes up that's what GV and Google Capital are for.
posted by Wretch729 at 7:44 AM on May 13, 2016


Thursday: publish article denigrating possums
Friday: announce site will have to close


Don't Piss Off the Possum Cabal
posted by zarq at 7:46 AM on May 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


The second rule of humor:

Being funny and creative once is hard. But it can come from many places and you never know when inspiration can strike.

Being funny and creative on a regular basis is an ass. It's asking for inspiration to strike repeatedly, in many different contexts, and in ways that aren't simply repeating what you've done before.

Being funny and creative on a regular basis with deadlines that your financial livelihood depends on is like trying to shove an antelope through a keyhole.
posted by delfin at 7:49 AM on May 13, 2016 [14 favorites]


Oh also I love that Nicole totally blamed Ayn Rand for the site shutting down. As if ol' Ayn didn't have enough crimes to answer for.
posted by town of cats at 7:53 AM on May 13, 2016 [7 favorites]


Yeah, the Toast's ability to come up with good jokes mocking Ayn Rand will be one of the things I miss most of all. And hang out with you folks a lot of the time, so you know I'm a connoisseur of Ayn Rand based humor.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 7:56 AM on May 13, 2016 [12 favorites]


Aw nuts.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 7:58 AM on May 13, 2016


not that it was necessarily uninteresting, but 'the toast' seemed like clickbait for a very specific niche demographic. and it's not like they weren't making a profit, it just turned out to be work running a niche content mill, for less money and more risk than they wanted to become accustomed to.

but once you accept that you are producing 'content' you shouldn't be surprised that its production goes by the laws followed by any other commodity...
posted by ennui.bz at 7:59 AM on May 13, 2016


if you think the-toast was clickbait, you didn't spend very much time there.
posted by nadawi at 8:02 AM on May 13, 2016 [37 favorites]


Oh FUCK no.
posted by jokeefe at 8:05 AM on May 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


ennui.bz, you seem to be defining "clickbait" and "content mill" so broadly that they apply to literally every website. The Toast posted fewer articles in the average week than BuzzFeed and their ilk post every hour.
posted by Etrigan at 8:07 AM on May 13, 2016 [6 favorites]


On clickbaitL

If we're talking the OED definition: “(On the Internet), content whose main purpose is to attract attention and encourage visitors to click on a link to a particular web page.” Then yes it was clickbait. See also: EVERYTHING.

If we're talking with Wikitionary definition, "(Internet marketing, pejorative) Website content that is aimed at generating advertising revenue, especially at the expense of quality or accuracy, relying on sensationalist headlines to attract click-throughs; such headlines", then the only thing that could be accurately called that would be the articles in which Mallory trolling people with stuff, which IS THE ENTIRETY OF THE JOKE.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 8:07 AM on May 13, 2016 [4 favorites]


a very specific niche demographic

You're goddam right. MY demographic. You know who else caters to us (I say, using "us" broadly): nobody. Fuck.
posted by jokeefe at 8:07 AM on May 13, 2016 [50 favorites]


It's really unfair, I think, to create an internet where nobody wants to pay for things except by deigning to allow advertisers to pay content creators by the click and then complain about clickbait. There are number of sites now with Patreons and subscriptions and whatnot, but most of them still need to run ads as supplemental income.
posted by tobascodagama at 8:08 AM on May 13, 2016 [4 favorites]


Oh god, we're going to lose the toast comment section, not just the toast.

"Oh god, we're going to lose the...comment section" said with genuine sadness is not something you hear often on the internet.
posted by jcreigh at 8:11 AM on May 13, 2016 [33 favorites]


The internet does not exist only for 35 year old men, and "smart women" is not a niche demographic.
posted by ChuraChura at 8:12 AM on May 13, 2016 [96 favorites]


'content mill' is perhaps wrong, 'content boutique' is more appropriate. but what they were really distributing was commodity advertising to a 'boutique' audience.

as I remember, 'the toast' only existed in the first place because someone's partner worked in finance or otherwise had too much money. which is pretty much exactly the pattern with boutique shops...
posted by ennui.bz at 8:13 AM on May 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


noooooooooooooooo.......



nOoOOoOOOOooOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!
posted by Malla at 8:14 AM on May 13, 2016


How could something with such a rabid fan base be unable to turn a profit?

See every single thread here where paywalls (the ones that kick in after 10 articles like the NYT, not the ones that allow no free reads) or ad blocking is discussed here. It's always a lovely illustration of the tragedy of the commons with a little Lord of the Flies stirred in.

Rabid fans lead to a lot of Twitter followers but exposure is still what writers die from in the winter, not what pays the bills.

I know they saying their quitting while they're ahead, but I bet that if there was a strong flow of income, they'd have been a whole lot more likely to hire some new writers and staff people, even if some of the core group was moving on.
posted by Candleman at 8:18 AM on May 13, 2016 [5 favorites]


aren't there other discussions out there you can shit up? or are you really dedicated to this one?
posted by nadawi at 8:18 AM on May 13, 2016 [43 favorites]


as I remember, 'the toast' only existed in the first place because someone's partner worked in finance or otherwise had too much money. which is pretty much exactly the pattern with boutique shops...

Do you have an actual point, or are you just taking a dump in the thread as some kind of sanctimonious leftier-than-thou dude posture?
posted by dersins at 8:18 AM on May 13, 2016 [37 favorites]


How could something with such a rabid fan base be unable to turn a profit?

How much of that rabid fan base uses adblock? That's part of an answer.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:19 AM on May 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


"smart women" is not a niche demographic.

Ah, but smart hyper-literary women who love art history and various kinds of trash as well? Who gathered at a site that never, never attempted serious "dating" advice and instead gave us long-running jokes about Ayn Rand? And provided a wonderfully heteronormative-free space? And when Mallory wasn't being weird and brilliant, she provided some absolutely acute takes on consent and racism and generally how to be a thoughtful and conscious human being in America in 2016. Oh beloved Toast.
posted by jokeefe at 8:19 AM on May 13, 2016 [23 favorites]


i hope someone puts nicole chung on their masthead.
posted by nadawi at 8:21 AM on May 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


And just to add that of course "smart women are not a niche demographic". I'm not disagreeing in the least, just feeling my individual sense of mourning for the particular quality of the Toast, which I have found nowhere else.
posted by jokeefe at 8:22 AM on May 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


I get the impression they have the money to keep the operation going but not the time/energy to sustain it. And to do things that would give them the time/energy would take more money than they can reasonably manage, and they would rather bow out gracefully than turn their baby into something it's not. (They personally moderate the comments, which itself seems like a full time job for multiple people. See: Metafilter)

Which sucks but makes sense. Things don't have to last forever and I'd rather they end on a high note
posted by dismas at 8:22 AM on May 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


.

Augh. My heart.
posted by komlord at 8:24 AM on May 13, 2016


Restaurant Reviews From John Muir, Conservationist:
From my table I could see a pine being whipped about by a feverish storm, the kind that it seemed would wrench God himself from his mighty celestial seat and send him whirling in a mad dash among the stars. The server would not accommodate my request to eat my meal while lashed to the pine tree outside. He lacks wildness in his soul, this server. I sat instead in a chair, which is only the memory of a tree. For dinner I drank nectar and crumbled a little bit of corn mush into the mug of fresh goat’s milk I carry with me.
posted by purpleclover at 8:25 AM on May 13, 2016 [24 favorites]


Metafilter --> is why I have A) so many amazing friends and b) anything resembling a writing carrer --> enough confidence to be working in a book length manuscript right now.

I mean not RIGHT NOW, right now I'm going to go get blackout sad but like, currently.

.
posted by The Whelk at 8:27 AM on May 13, 2016 [7 favorites]


Mermaids at the End of the Universe: A Short Story:
The first thing to understand is that we are very beautiful.

Deploy your imagery of choice. Reach for gemstones, for edibles: crystal skin, laughing emerald eyes, hair like gently burnished gold. Peaches and cream. The blush of sunrise staining fresh water. You may mix metaphors. You will be forgiven.

The second thing to understand is that it means nothing.
posted by purpleclover at 8:28 AM on May 13, 2016 [6 favorites]


as I remember, 'the toast' only existed in the first place because someone's partner worked in finance or otherwise had too much money.

Yes. Definitely. The only reason a site founded on two women putting out some of the funniest and most insightful short-form writing of this decade is that a man had too much money.

Do you even hear yourself?
posted by praemunire at 8:29 AM on May 13, 2016 [73 favorites]


the site has been up and down all morning, so you might have to wait to click on this, but one of the things i loved - beyond all the humor and absurdity - is that they housed content like the convert series. a solid strain of openness to learning and sharing just permeated the whole site.
posted by nadawi at 8:30 AM on May 13, 2016 [4 favorites]


I’ll get you for this, God
It might take a while
but I’ll wait until you’ve forgotten about me and then BAM
bam

posted by praemunire at 8:30 AM on May 13, 2016 [7 favorites]


haaaa praemunire, your comment was basically perfect to follow mine. that's the the-toast in a nutshell, in depth conversations about the most personal parts of us and then a little light mockery of the same thing.
posted by nadawi at 8:36 AM on May 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


I followed Mallory from jezebel to the hairpin to the toast and I think the best measure of my undying respect for her is I'd follow her to vox or slate or time or the atlantic or any other over capitalised sludge blog.
posted by zymil at 8:36 AM on May 13, 2016 [11 favorites]


Proposed: That Mad Men’s Trudy Campbell is a KGB Spy:
She has an uncanny, finely-tuned emotional control, insulting her husband’s short story while appearing to compliment it. Later she reacts to his “putting his foot down” speech by pivoting on a dime and turning the entire dynamic around before Pete realizes what’s happening.

At Don’s apartment party, Trudy manages to answer a friendly conversation starter about police and rioters by saying nothing at all. She constructs a lacuna non-response that gives the appearance of an answer.
(That's our own The Whelk.)
posted by purpleclover at 8:38 AM on May 13, 2016 [8 favorites]


> smart hyper-literary women who love art history

This Toast fan doesn't read that much and doesn't know his art history. Please don't underestimate the appeal of the Toast, Hark a Vagrant or Metafilter. I realize the domination of the bro-web probably doesn't bother me as much as people it excludes, insults and threatens, but I'm also happy to find respite from it.
posted by morganw at 8:42 AM on May 13, 2016 [9 favorites]


Aw fudge-nuggets. I'm going back to bed.
posted by Bob Regular at 8:53 AM on May 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


DynamiteToast: "Is it terrible to say that I never found The Toast particularly interesting?

If it makes you feel any better, it does seem like a fitting tribute to Mallory to come into a comment section almost 90% opposed and shout 'FIGHT ME'.
"

You sound like I felt when plastic.com died, and while I feel you pain in general I don't feel it in this case, so don't feel too bad about Annabell74's comment. I mean, I didn't read The Toast religiously, but I surfed into it when Metafilter linked to it, and while, sure, it had some good stuff, overall it just seemed to have a really US-centric US-coastal-centric upper-class-slash-call-ourselves-middle-class vibe. And you might not realise it reading the internet from the US, but holy shit that vibe is EVERYWHERE and ugggh ... which might be part of why I never felt the need to really frequent it at length.

But though some of us may not have been avid readers, the larger problem still stands: independent writing and articles aren't paying enough to support themselves. What are we going to do to remedy this? How can we maintain the "small press" of the web world? If we have to pay more, how will that happen? For every website saying "Your ad blocker KILLS US" there are a thousand actively fucking up our computers with trojan virus ad injections. How do we fix this?!

(probably, we don't ... everything is terrible, and everything is only ever getting worse ... yuk)
posted by barnacles at 8:54 AM on May 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


Ronbledore will always be real to me no matter what.
posted by sparkletone at 8:55 AM on May 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


> 'content mill' is perhaps wrong, 'content boutique' is more appropriate. but what they were really distributing was commodity advertising to a 'boutique' audience.

This is an excellent example of specious and tiresome trolling.

For examples of delightful, astute, not-tiresome trolling, please see The Toast.
posted by desuetude at 8:56 AM on May 13, 2016 [34 favorites]


Nicole Cliffe was very candid about the fact that the site would not have existed without start-up money from her husband, a hedge fund manager. That in no way diminishes the talent and insight that Cliffe and Ortberg brought to the site but as Cliffe readily admits "vim and can-do is bullshit" without the cash to get your project off the ground.
posted by adecusatis at 9:03 AM on May 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


I am going to go pay Mallory a dollar for every post of hers I have every loved.

I...I don't have that much money
posted by prize bull octorok at 9:04 AM on May 13, 2016 [6 favorites]


I lack that kind of money too. But I would be happy to roll my monthly Toast donation into something else in The Toast's honor, if there were anything else like it anywhere. (Autostraddle's the closest I know but they're already getting my money.)
posted by Stacey at 9:11 AM on May 13, 2016


It will be missed!

Can"fifty cents every few weeks or whatever" possibly be true though? I mean, I have a crappy little site that I haven't updated in years, that probably gets 0.0001% of their traffic, and it still makes almost a dollar a day from ads. But then, I guess a lot of Toast content doesn't really lend itself to contextual Google ads very well.

Not that I'm demanding justification for business decisions that are theirs to make... and I can understand why they wouldn't want to share the details of their finances. I'm just honestly curious about how much good content, with a big audience, actually does bring in.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 9:12 AM on May 13, 2016


saying that it was funded in part by a spouse, something she readily admits to and discusses far more candidly than most people, is very different than "'the toast' only existed in the first place because someone's partner worked in finance or otherwise had too much money."
posted by nadawi at 9:12 AM on May 13, 2016 [18 favorites]


Can"fifty cents every few weeks or whatever" possibly be true though?

i think she was being funny and predicting the revenues after they stop publishing content regularly.
posted by nadawi at 9:13 AM on May 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


overall it just seemed to have a really US-centric US-coastal-centric upper-class-slash-call-ourselves-middle-class vibe

US-centric, probably...I mean, it's a site created and run by Americans, I'm not sure how broad any given site has to be. But I think the rest is a bit unfair. Recent posts include:

An interview with Cole Lavalais (black woman writing about an HBCU)
Women Writers You Should Know: Alice Dunbar-Nelson (Southern black woman)
A New Place: Strength, Struggle, and Apartment-Hunting as a Single Mom (about a working-class woman's struggle to find an apartment she can afford)
The Convert Series: Kellee Nicole (Southern black woman)

I mean, if the Toast just wasn't your cup of tea, that's fine; taste in humor is very idiosyncratic and often jokes don't cross cultural boundaries that well. But the Toast really did try to put more voices out there. Until last year, they were co-publishing with Roxane Gay ("the Butter").
posted by praemunire at 9:14 AM on May 13, 2016 [16 favorites]


Oh. Oh, no.

Damn it. The media/publishing industry will break your heart, if you have one. Even if you leave it for an industry that can pay its workers, it finds ways to stick a knife in your chest.
posted by rewil at 9:18 AM on May 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


The comments had a community from all over. A lot of the themes felt like they were universal, rather than US-centric. There was a place there for people like me no matter where we're from or where we live - and that's not something I say just because I'm a queer librarian! (Or is it ?)
posted by harujion at 9:20 AM on May 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


Nicole Cliffe was very candid about the fact that the site would not have existed without start-up money from her husband, a hedge fund manager.

I know, but casting that fact as, basically, "the only reason the site existed was that a man screwing one of the writers gave her some money" is tremendously dismissive. Start-up money is, in fact, a necessary condition of just about every publication. Generally that is not regarded as "the only reason [x site] exists."
posted by praemunire at 9:20 AM on May 13, 2016 [22 favorites]


On a personal aside

God just once I'd like to be part of a new publishication that doesn't fold in two years or instantly after I join.

This is my 5th closure in 7 years. It's starting to feel like when I couldn't book shows anymore cause all the venues in town just closed overnight.
posted by The Whelk at 9:20 AM on May 13, 2016 [21 favorites]


The toast article about TV characters who definitely should've had abortions was the reason I finally watched Gilmore Girls.
posted by DynamiteToast at 9:20 AM on May 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


I liked this:

you’ll remember I was like: “Theoretically, if this industry went further into the ground which it most assuredly will, would we want to keep running the site as a vanity project? Probably not! We would just stop doing it.”

And having said that out loud, we both felt a FRISSON OF ENERGY, which took us by surprise, because we have loved making this site together so much.


Because I've had that same experience when something was ending—a relationship, a project—that, despite the sadness and disappointment, it opened up new possibilities.

I think they did some really good stuff over the past few years, and it seems like they know that. It will be interesting to see what they get up to next.
posted by not that girl at 9:24 AM on May 13, 2016 [6 favorites]


Femslash Friday: Rory and Paris, The Real Gilmore Girls got me to do a series rewatch.
posted by nadawi at 9:28 AM on May 13, 2016 [6 favorites]


as I remember, 'the toast' only existed in the first place because someone's partner worked in finance or otherwise had too much money. which is pretty much exactly the pattern with boutique shops...

This shouldn't be a criticism. This sort of thing is really common. If it weren't a partner with money, it might have been a day job one of them held, or something else.

I'm 50 years old, and I have only held down a regular 9-5 job for about six months of my life, back in 1989. Then I had a few years where I worked 30-35 hours/week. And since then, I've been very part time or not working for money at all. I've spent my adult life putting a lot of energy into volunteerism, where I have served on the boards or as treasurer or edited newsletters or created content for organizations I'm a part of. I've been able to put a lot of effort into my writing, which tends to have such a "specialized appeal" that making real money at it was probably never an option. (In the last 15 years, I have also been raising children and homeschooling them, usually while also still doing these other things.)

Every now and then a person in their 20s will ask me how I did it: how did I manage to create a life for myself in which earning a living has never had to be priority for me?

I used this one weird trick, which sadly is not easily replicable. The answer might as well be, "I won the lottery when I was 26. I partnered with someone who is very supportive of me and my unpaid work; and whose own vocation, software engineering, is marketable and highly remunerative.

"This only exists because someone had the luxury to create it without it having to pay its own way" isn't a criticism of the creator. It's more a commentary on the broader culture, which has few or no mechanisms to support high-quality arts and journalism with limited public appeal. Let's not criticize the creators of The Toast for having a partner's wealth to rely on; let's think about all the people who could or would be doing other work of value but aren't because the dice didn't roll their way. And let's remember to be grateful to all the people who are doing it even though the dice didn't roll their way.
posted by not that girl at 9:44 AM on May 13, 2016 [45 favorites]


God just once I'd like to be part of a new publication that doesn't fold in two years or instantly after I join ... This is my 5th closure in 7 years

It's possible, however, that this is your superpower—the Cooler Effect.
If so, I think rather than curse your fate, you should use this power for the benefit of all humankind by endeavoring to land a gig at either Breitbart, Stormfront, or Cute Overload.
posted by Atom Eyes at 9:45 AM on May 13, 2016 [8 favorites]


ennui.bz: "as I remember, 'the toast' only existed in the first place because someone's partner worked in finance or otherwise had too much money."

Isn't this literally the story of almost every daily newspaper and high-minded magazine ever in the history of all time?
posted by mhum at 9:47 AM on May 13, 2016 [11 favorites]


Isn't this literally the story of almost every daily newspaper and high-minded magazine ever in the history of all time?

From what I understand, that's pretty much the case although frequently the source of funding for the highbrow/literary/serious journalistic publication came from either another publication that was a lot easier to sell to the masses (i.e. Black Mask, a pulp magazine, funded the literary magazine The Smart Set, both published by Mencken) or the more highbrow/literary/serious journalistic stuff happened in the same publication (i.e. Rolling Stone and Buzzfeed doing Real Journalism in the same publication as workhorsey pop culture stuff and Top Ten YOLO Cat GIFs.)

Really the only thing we should take away from Nicole Cliffe revealing the source of funding for the Toast is that they were more honest and transparent than most other places and genuinely believed in their mission as a publication to not water it down the way that other places do. Which is the very reason why this three-year-old publication is so mourned.
posted by griphus at 10:00 AM on May 13, 2016 [19 favorites]


Maybe sites like this should start to see themselves as necessarily temporary rather than like Magazines that go on and on and on. Less about release dates and more about the long tail. Find ways to monetize each release rather than keep going. In previous threads the idea of always combining internet content with expensive, attractive print content came up. I also think turning each release into a chance to tour [and selll the print product in person].
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:03 AM on May 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


Isn't this literally the story of almost every daily newspaper and high-minded magazine ever in the history of all time?

And every literary small press. Strangely, though, you seem to see fewer "high-minded" internet dudes being that dismissive of, for instance, New Directions, just because Jay Laughlin inherited the money that he used to start it.
posted by dersins at 10:03 AM on May 13, 2016 [17 favorites]


Breitbart, Stormfront, or Cute Overload.

One of these things is not at all like the others.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:04 AM on May 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


:(
posted by maryr at 10:05 AM on May 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


Aww man. I just discovered it too.
posted by aclevername at 10:26 AM on May 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


I see that The Toast has one-time and recurring donation options. Have they talked about how that worked for them? I mean obviously it wasn't enough, and it sounds like ad revenue was the main revenue source, but their fanbase is pretty loyal so I'm curious about their experience there.
posted by Gerald Bostock at 10:40 AM on May 13, 2016


I am bereft as hell. The Toast was My People. There's nothing else like it on the internet. They deserve Scrooge McDuck level money.
posted by sonmi at 11:10 AM on May 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


I can't remember the last time I was so gutted about the shuttering of a website. The Dissolve was a bummer on an intellectual level, but I was never a regular reader there so it wasn't a personal loss. But The Toast is probably the non-social media site, after Metafilter, that I spend the most time on, and it never fails to make me laugh, or make me think, or affect me in some way.

I do think there's something to the idea that maybe sites like this don't have to last forever. What if we saw them as less like a magazine, which people expect to last (or at least used to) - and whose folding was seen as a failure - and more like a high-quality TV show, where the end may just come because the creators have done all they want to do with that story or format?

I do really hope Mallory finds somewhere else to be perfectly weird. A couple of months back I said her genius was taking "these tropes of modern narrative and twisting them so that you see the comedy and weirdness inherent" and the world still really needs that! Or at least I do.
posted by lunasol at 11:19 AM on May 13, 2016 [9 favorites]


I can't remember the last time I was so gutted about the shuttering of a website.

For me it was Grantland. Though the two places had/have very little in common, what they do/did have in common is that each absolutely excelled/excells at doing a thing that nobody else is doing anywhere near as well.
posted by dersins at 11:21 AM on May 13, 2016 [6 favorites]


Also, I really don't think it was a niche site for "librarians who love art history." I am someone who ran screaming from a library job at 18, and who has limited patience for art museums, but I still love it because the voice is so fresh and funny and interesting.
posted by lunasol at 11:22 AM on May 13, 2016


I love Metafilter, but there are times it drives me crazy. I never seem to get tired of the Toast the way I got tired of every other place out there. The community there was something special; the articles were brilliant and funny thought-provoking and the original draw, but I kept coming back because I loved the people there. I know that Mallory and Nicole will be ok, but I will miss the work they did to highlight authors I had never heard of, or who had never written before. And like many other people here, I am worried about a world where a site like the Toast, whose fans were as hardcore about it as any I've ever seen, can't sustain itself.

If you're a Toastie, or just someone intrigued by the degree to which people seem to be heartbroken about this, or a fresh convert to the Toast who just found it today, we're building a subreddit so we don't entirely lose the community that made the Toast so special. It's here: r/ToastCrumbs.
posted by protocoach at 11:27 AM on May 13, 2016 [14 favorites]


I am very sad.
posted by jeather at 11:57 AM on May 13, 2016


SHIT

Without their links page how I keep tabs on how BIG Sansa is getting? How will I befuddle my relatives on facebook?
posted by gamera at 12:04 PM on May 13, 2016 [7 favorites]


i highly recommend following (or at least checking in on) nicole cliffe on twitter for sansa updates!!
posted by burgerrr at 12:21 PM on May 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


i think she was being funny and predicting the revenues after they stop publishing content regularly.


I love The Toast but the 50 cents every few weeks comment is still sort of disingenuous. I don't know the details of how well they monetize, but with their traffic, the site should be able to easily make high five or low six figures a year for quite some time even without new content. It's not a bad position to be in at all.
posted by phoenixy at 12:26 PM on May 13, 2016


...how I keep tabs on how BIG Sansa is getting?

In two years she'll have her own ZIP code.
posted by griphus at 12:33 PM on May 13, 2016 [4 favorites]


I love The Toast but the 50 cents every few weeks comment is still sort of disingenuous.

IT WAS A JOKE
posted by dersins at 12:35 PM on May 13, 2016 [20 favorites]


Jokes? On the dash Toast?
posted by protocoach at 12:41 PM on May 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


As an analytical question, does the text of this announcement itself stand as a representative of the writing of the platform? In the article, author asserts that the community is unique. What characteristics are these? She then comments on her privilege at least twice in the text, so clearly that awareness must be significant to the subtext or discourse. Third, in closing the author chooses to crack a very particular joke: "Now I can finally start writing without censoring myself." Perhaps these pieces of rhetoric (in the literary sense of the word) crucially inform a more general interpretation that would otherwise remain implicit. It is always a loss, when media diversity decreases. And when economic conditions select against particular voices, that can be problematic.
posted by polymodus at 12:43 PM on May 13, 2016


what
posted by kmz at 12:51 PM on May 13, 2016 [27 favorites]


literally what
posted by Potomac Avenue at 1:22 PM on May 13, 2016 [11 favorites]


Thank God we'll still have Mallory on Twitter. And Dear Prudie, of course. But Twitter mostly.

I, too, CAN'T EVEN.
posted by lhauser at 1:37 PM on May 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


What is the opposite of being too witches about something? I am that.
posted by The Whelk at 1:42 PM on May 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


IT WAS A JOKE

i'm not even kidding when i say that one of my favorite things about the toast is people who insist they aren't joking/it's not funny. it really only makes me laugh harder. at first i thought the 50 cent joke was a little drole, a nice touch in a serious post, but now it has become hilarious based on reaction alone. that's a good joke.
posted by nadawi at 2:25 PM on May 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


Wait, what is going to become of Hey Ladies? I know they have more email chains in them.
posted by lunasol at 2:30 PM on May 13, 2016 [9 favorites]


I love The Toast but the 50 cents every few weeks comment is still sort of disingenuous. I don't know the details of how well they monetize, but with their traffic, the site should be able to easily make high five or low six figures a year for quite some time even without new content. It's not a bad position to be in at all.
So. I was one of the people that did The Toast's redesign last year. As part of that work I got to spend months looking closely at the traffic, analytics, revenue, and all the stuff that drives these decisions. It honestly prompted a lot of soul-searching for me, and changed my feelings about the future of the publishing industry.

The revenues you're saying should be possible are just not realistic for a small team — the numbers don't add up, unless you're willing to essentially turn your site into a 24/7 App Store Redirector/Malware Factory. The big financial hit they mentioned taking was due entirely to a cautious, deliberate decision to dial back the most onerous of the ad networks in the interest of making things better for their readers. They got good money from donations, and the community was amazingly joyously generous, but it was never going to be enough to actually pay writers anything near what their work was worth.

It is a legitimately difficult conundrum; only big established brands with integrated print/television/online properties and dedicated ad sales teams can really rise above the churn, and the pressure is still there. Tremendously profitable niche exceptions exist (like Daring Fireball's readership of gadget-loving upper-income folks) but there are lots of important and valuable kinds of work that don't fit into that easy advertising box.

It's a sad day for me; it really feels like another "end of an era" signal, and the way the ad industry has been going I know it won't be the last.
posted by verb at 2:33 PM on May 13, 2016 [54 favorites]


Parsing all the comments here, the same heartbreaking themes keep coming up: 'Mallory and Nicole had the kind of free-wheeling, antic reign over a site which produced some extraordinary humour writing and diverse shortform writing', 'the site runners made an incredible effort to cultivate extraordinary writers who didn't enjoy a large platform', 'they were unusually honest and transparent with their readers about how the site was being run', 'their comments section was one of the most supportive and insightful around, one of the few places online where women and genderqueer or non-binary people didn't have to neuter themselves and engage in parfait-like layer after layer of self-minimisation', 'I'll miss my favourite non-heteronormative separatist commune online', 'I smell the hand of the House of Rand'.

That's a hell of a eulogy for a site that was up and running for less than five years. When I see Mallory and Nicole's faces on a piece of a toast some day in a bid to preserve precious fragments of one of my favourite spaces online, that's going to be a double whammy.
posted by Collaterly Sisters at 2:43 PM on May 13, 2016 [4 favorites]


I would like to reiterate verb's comment, although I haven't seen inside The Toast's analytics. It is really hard to monetize content these days because ad rates are so low; the real money is in things like native advertising which for a variety of reasons (see also: every iteration of Ms. Magazine) doesn't lend itself to a site like The Toast.

But it's also the churn & burn on staff/creators. First there's the plain old creative side: regular publishing schedules are great fun for the first six months to a year but any small team is going to have to work out burnout, both individually and in terms of editorial mandate, after a few years.

Then there's the question of creative resources: can you pay writers? If not, you have to deal with the kind of people who write for free: self-promotors, amateur, semi-pro, hobbyist. None of this is necessarily awful but it takes a lot of time and energy. With someplace that is also building community you also can't just not respond to the 100 ill-conceived queries you get; every pitch could be a commenter so at the least you have to reply. The ones you accept may take more hand-holding than average.

Then there's all the other creative stuff. No art department finding free/cheap/okay images for your articles. Who decides if the templates are SEO and mobile friendly? What about user experience and tagging and heck, if the site is up or down? Who can you pay when?

Then there's community management. You're not just editing your writers (or yourself); you're down in the comments about your work, or talking your writers off ledges, or replying. Never mind all the banning and moderating.

Next: promotion. There's no circulation department and no newsstand manager. But social media makes it easy! As long as you are posting and engaging all the time, personally, professionally. Twitter's dying; do you need snapchat?

And oh yes, advertising. Anything you can do that doesn't involve having a sales force is already being done by every "will it rain today?" Content farm so rates are on the toilet. To make money you have to drive millions of page views. Sitting on comments sections doesn't really count, so that means more and more content.

If you do talk to advertisers, they don't want to be within an environment that doesn't dialogue with women about caring for their skin. By the way, sponsors want to roll video, do you have a video server? Video inventory? Well VICE women does and they have TV. And they're edgy. Not your kind of edgy? Well...

It's exhausting.
posted by warriorqueen at 3:36 PM on May 13, 2016 [20 favorites]


I really appreciate the information that verb provided. I disagree with the idea that it isn't possible for a site with The Toast's traffic and staffing levels to make the kind of revenue I'm talking about, but it is a valid point that not all types of content and advertising strategies work equally well for generating revenue, and it's interesting and enlightening to see the magnitude of impact that those differences can have.
posted by phoenixy at 4:10 PM on May 13, 2016


From the closing announcement (emph. added):
We considered making one of those (excellent) deals with Medium, but only briefly, because of our relatively unique community and what it would do to that community if we lost our ability to meaningfully moderate comments [...]
It is both a little surprising and also not surprising at all to me that Medium, the hot new publishing platform du jour, has insufficient moderation tools. Interestingly, from their own materials, they claim that:
Medium's system is optimized for quality engagement, boosting thoughtful responses to the top and depriving comment trolls of the attention they seek. Medium’s advanced automatic spam detection saves you from the burden of comment moderation.
I guess whatever system they've constructed is still inadequate for The Toast's community. Also, describing "comment trolls" as primarily (purely?) attention-seeking is to deeply misunderstand a substantial portion of contemporary online harassment.
posted by mhum at 4:14 PM on May 13, 2016 [5 favorites]


i know many people who won't write over at medium because (last i checked) their options are comments on or off, no moderation, not even by the author.
posted by nadawi at 4:19 PM on May 13, 2016 [5 favorites]


(That said, I still think they could monetize a lot better without really hurting the user experience if they wanted to. They're missing a ton of low-hanging-fruit opportunities in terms of things, like, say Amazon affiliate sales -- I can't even find a link to Texts from Jane Eyre on the site -- but, as verb says, revenue isn't something that they've made a priority. Probably more to the point, if you don't really want to keep working on your site anyway, you're not going to be as motivated to monetize it, since more revenue makes it harder to walk away from.)
posted by phoenixy at 4:19 PM on May 13, 2016


I really appreciate the information that verb provided. I disagree with the idea that it isn't possible for a site with The Toast's traffic and staffing levels to make the kind of revenue I'm talking about, but it is a valid point that not all types of content and advertising strategies work equally well for generating revenue, and it's interesting and enlightening to see the magnitude of impact that those differences can have.
Sorry if I came across as combative; a lot of my work professionally is in... shall we say... heavily monetized fields.

The Toast's team (and all of us who worked on the recent redesign) absolutely worked to find ways to make the site sustainable and high quality. We added more robust native advertising tools and the ability to integrate sponsored content into more parts of the site. We made it pop on both desktop and mobile, reducing page load times by a literal order of magnitude. We actually gave them more ad slots per page, and ensured that they worked smoothly on mobile. We made CTAs for sponsorship and donation part of every article, we shook trees and found industry contacts who might be able to help get them into a better tier of sponsorship deals, with companies interested in the quality and engagement of their audience. We designed a bunch of "recirculation" tools to ensure that new readers who discovered the site could easily find their way into old gems that were previously difficult to find, increasing the length of visits. We made sure that more and better social metadata was going out in every form possible, so that links that went viral were more likely to grab new readers' attention in a competitive social landscape.

The one knob they turned down was the depth of their ad backfill, the process by which tremendously shitty ads full of malware typically come into the picture. They wanted their readers to actually enjoy reading the site, and believed that the problems stemming from low-quality advertisers were actively harming their attempts to secure better direct sponsorship.

It wasn't that they were uninterested in making money. It was that doing so without simply running a numbers-game clickfarm is very, very difficult these days. The state of online advertising is making it progressively more so every day.
posted by verb at 4:48 PM on May 13, 2016 [30 favorites]


I guess whatever system they've constructed is still inadequate for The Toast's community. Also, describing "comment trolls" as primarily (purely?) attention-seeking is to deeply misunderstand a substantial portion of contemporary online harassment.
Agreed. The Toast's commenting community is one of the best I have ever seen in my career, and the work that has gone into making and keeping it that way is immense.
posted by verb at 4:50 PM on May 13, 2016 [4 favorites]


The low quality ads and their shitty payload of malware are just a gift that keeps on giving, driving up ad blocker adoption, and frankly making it impossible to argue against ad blocking, leading to a race to the bottom as once everyone with any sense uses blockers there's no incentive to accept only high quality ads.
posted by Artw at 5:26 PM on May 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


It wasn't that they were uninterested in making money. It was that doing so without simply running a numbers-game clickfarm is very, very difficult these days. The state of online advertising is making it progressively more so every day.

Yeah, this is a thing. A thing about which MeFi has been generally very lucky over the course of its life so far but also a thing that informs the relatively harsh financial reality of the last few years.

The whole Toast situation is kind of a pile of things, really, that I have feelings about; and I say that as someone who has enjoyed a lot of Ortberg et al's writing but isn't really a Toast reader in the more direct active fandom sense. Even as just an occasional/happenstance consumer of their stuff, I liked more or less how they were doing it and liked that they have had a reasonably vibrant and non-shit commenting community even with the challenges that come from being more of a content-with-comments-attached format than MeFi's more user-focused community-that-looks-at-links sort of approach.

"Does this work?" and "should this be expected to work?" are two different questions and it's easy to muddle them together. MetaFilter does work, has worked, and will continue to work for the time being at least, but it's hard to say really whether it should: we're basically of a different era and I have a hard time seeing a pitch for something mechanically similar to MeFi but starting in 2016 managing to both (a) attract investor eyeballs and (b) not involve horrific dystopian perversions of what makes the site and community what it is.

Whereas the Toast, as a much clearer "we make a kind of content that people like, and we keep making it, and people will come and read and comment and pass it on" sort of pitch, seems like it should work. And without knowing any of the details of the internal situation, maybe it does sort of work, but just not well enough to be worth the crazy haul of sustained small-team content-generation effort it seems like it involves. And "this is doable but it's kind of killing me" isn't the same thing as "this is doable", all romantic images of struggling artistry notwithstanding.

But that's the story with so much stuff on the internet. And on the one hand it's remarkable, from a 1993 perspective, that making a living just making web pages would even be an art- or craft-style career rather than solely a technical one; on the other, a couple decades later, it's hard not to look at the massive dominance of the internet in world culture now and the die-off of a lot of traditional pre-internet media industry and print in particular and expect that that money would all have ended up coming out of spigots at high pressure and into the pockets of people making stuff on the web.

And it sort of did for a while at least—again, MeFi's financial downturn was itself a relatively recent thing and it was something that the whole ad market was to a fairly proportional extent experiencing after some relatively bullish years in the early to mid oughts—but what goes up, etc. And here we are looking at something that might be the new normal, where there's ad money out there but if you really want to maximize it you better be excited about smearing yourself in shit.

And the depressing reality is there's always going to be some folks who are willing to do just that. And they're going to set the ad rates and give the ad providers a baseline normal that the rest of us have to look at from hopefully upwind while trying to decide just what the fuck comes next.
posted by cortex at 5:31 PM on May 13, 2016 [26 favorites]


maybe if they turned the website on only for a few hours every day

then they wouldn't be so tired and they could keep doing it
posted by clawsoon at 5:55 PM on May 13, 2016 [6 favorites]


Yup, another reminder of why writing is useless as a profession and something I don't ever plan on doing for pay again. Or trying to. I just don't see any way that isn't doomed any more.

Unless you marry money, but good luck with that. And even that....
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:09 PM on May 13, 2016


turned into indistinguishable clicklygloog(the entire Vox network

n-no?
posted by listen, lady at 6:40 PM on May 13, 2016


wow so it turns out that READING MEDIA doesn't actually mean you know anything about how it is produced or how the industry works

that doesn't even ma--
posted by listen, lady at 6:52 PM on May 13, 2016


I am very sad about this one. I hope they go on to do more wonderful things and look forward to what Mallory and Nicole do next.
posted by SarahElizaP at 7:40 PM on May 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


a filling woe, & see you--

/waves handkerchief
posted by miles per flower at 8:01 PM on May 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm predicting that in a few years we'll be saying "remember when there used to be all those cool sites on the internet?" and have to explain it to the young'uns.

Hopefully there will still be people whose spouses make too much money who want to make something worthwhile.
posted by bongo_x at 8:04 PM on May 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


I'm predicting that in a few years we'll be saying "remember when there used to be all those cool sites on the internet?" and have to explain it to the young'uns.

Shit, compared to ten years ago, we're already there.
posted by tobascodagama at 8:19 PM on May 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


I'm not totally sure we've had a year over year, overall net improvement since the September that Never Ended.
posted by Mitheral at 8:28 PM on May 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


I really loved reading The Toast, and my one experience writing for them was great from the commenting side of things. I really had a sense that these were my people.

But I've written for a few places and I have to say it was unusually shitty to try to get paid, compared to other online venues. I've never experienced anything quite like it. It definitely gave me the sense that things were . . . complicated over there. So this doesn't entirely surprise me.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:33 PM on May 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


When was this? I know there was a era when getting paid was ..werid? But there was some firings and after that it was all very streamlined, I never had a problem.
posted by The Whelk at 8:48 PM on May 13, 2016 [2 favorites]




2014. I not only had to nudge them to get paid but the person I finally had to contact about payment was weird in email about it. It left me with an icky feeling, especially after I spoke to some other people who had written for them and had trouble getting paid too.

My sense was that it was more of a problem with book keeping than anything but I just got the feeling that if I hadn't bothered them about it, they simply wouldn't have paid me at all. Which is Not Ideal.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:05 PM on May 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


Hopefully there will still be people whose spouses make too much money who want to make something worthwhile.

I like you, bongo_x, but when the subject of a rich spouse and a partner who gets the chance to do something cool with that money that isn't, say, gold-plated yachts or doing laughing drive-bys of the poor, it really smacks of misogyny. If not that outright, it's saying: "how dare you use your partner's money to do something funny and good."

I know you didn't mean it that way, but it comes off v similar.
posted by Kitteh at 9:05 PM on May 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


I'm having trouble figuring out exactly what you're saying there, but I get the feeling that you're taking exactly the opposite meaning from what I said.

Gender wasn't in my statement. Someone earlier had made a disparaging remark about the site only coming about because of someone's spouse having too much money. I was saying I don't see how that is of any concern and hopefully people in that monetary position will continue to make worthwhile things, as often that is the only way cool things get done these days when there doesn't seem to be a lot of viable business models.
posted by bongo_x at 9:40 PM on May 13, 2016 [4 favorites]


First, farewell to a lovely site and community. But to what degree are their problems due to the fact that Mallory Ortberg doesn't scale?

My point isn't to slight other contributors, who I like quite a lot. (Though I do think Mallory is a singular talent, especially on her own canvas.) I mean that, at some point, it seems like sites that start from a distinctive vision either bring in new contributors and dilute their brand, or just fade away. Pitchfork, Vox, and a host of other sites have chosen the former, and too many sites to name have gone the latter route. Is there another way? (A really successful Patreon? The sort of thing Ben Thompson does?)
posted by mr_deerheart at 9:58 PM on May 13, 2016


It's not a matter of scaling , you had multiple articles every day on various issues which expanded and varied the brand with Mallory being the main editorial voice .

It'd that you can't have a site that updates every and pays people even kind of okay and if it doesn't update every day it doesn't get noticed and if it doesn't get noticed it doesn't get ads to pay the people who keep it updated every day but y can't pay people with ad money unless the ads are horrible malware things cause no one has actually clicked on an online ad since 2007 because no one has any money to buy anything . Like at all.
posted by The Whelk at 10:38 PM on May 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


Damn. For a while there I hoped that the Toast was going to be able to buck the trend & stay in business, but as the site owners started to get jobs elsewhere it became clear that it wasn’t really working out as successfully as they’d hoped :(
posted by pharm at 3:25 AM on May 14, 2016


I want to say, and this is no disrespect or dismissal of the other great content and writers of the site, that Mallory's byline was on SO MUCH great stuff on The Toast. I can very easily see her (and I have never met her) burning out, wanting to get off a treadmill, feeling like she should be better compensated for the terrific rate of output she maintained.

My longer-term worry is that the Internet of the future will become what US commercial radio is now - a arid wasteland of commerce saturation and artistic poverty. In several markets I'm familiar with, the only radio worth listening to is publicly-funded. (There's probably a lesson there.)
posted by newdaddy at 6:22 AM on May 14, 2016 [4 favorites]


The other thing I wanted to say is I'd gladly pay cash money for books that were essentially collections of Toast articles reprinted, like, actual tree-parts books.
posted by newdaddy at 6:29 AM on May 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


the only radio worth listening to is publicly-funded. (There's probably a lesson there.)

The idea of publicly-funded websites is a pretty fascinating one.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:27 AM on May 14, 2016 [5 favorites]


Aw man, I'm gonna miss the Toast!

Also, I had the joy of writing for them late last year and had zero trouble getting paid. They actually paid me before I expected it!
posted by esperluette at 9:15 AM on May 14, 2016


The idea of publicly-funded websites is a pretty fascinating one.

I feel like the state of commercial radio is exhibit A that unalloyed capitalism has a horrible endgame. It used to be that public radio was just the stodgy classical station (and not even good classical stuff, in many places.) Now, publicly-funded radio advertises itself openly as "The only station that really matters." (That's WBER in Rochester, NY). WTMD in Baltimore is another example.

What happened to commercial radio is the inevitable future of the web, unless there's a change of course. Why would people think there would be a different outcome? (Something about trying the same thing over and over and expecting different results.)
posted by newdaddy at 9:35 AM on May 14, 2016 [2 favorites]


Also, I had the joy of writing for them late last year and had zero trouble getting paid. They actually paid me before I expected it!

I looked into it and apparently they fired Nick Pavich, who was their publisher and in charge of payments (and responded with "lol" when I nudged him to pay me) in 2015, which is probably why I had a different experience. The whole thing with Nick Pavich was hella weird and really offputting. He seemed like...such a dude. I don't know. I had really wanted to believe they were sort of this like internet version of a 90s grrrl zine collective or something, and at the time I wrote for them, it seemed not to be the case.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:54 AM on May 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


Yeah, things got a million times better when they fired Pavich, redid the contracts, and hired Nicole Chung.
posted by sonmi at 5:07 AM on May 15, 2016 [2 favorites]


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