MALLORY: WHEW. First of all, we should start by saying No, this is not a joke and Yes, this is really happening. We would never joke about this, we would not do that to you! But we are closing the site, and it’s funny to be talking about it with all of you guys now, because Nicole, you and I have been talking about this for what, six months now? At least?
NICOLE: I think that is EXACTLY how long we have been discussing it! The conversation started when revenues were down, and I had to carry payroll for a month or two out of my personal account, which I had not had to do since shortly after we started this whole project. We tweaked some things (added an ad or two which we had stripped back for the redesign, reminded people about ad-blockers and their impact on our ability to turn a profit, etc.) and revenue went back up a bit, but for a hot minute, 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. I honestly do not remember which of us was the first to say “well, revenue is sort-of getting back on track, but how long do we want to keep doing this anyway?” but I do remember what a relief it was that we both felt that the answer was “less than a year.”
MALLORY: Yes! That is the beautiful cardboard background of this diorama, and it’s very much what sparked the conversation, but I think we’d also both been talking about the three-year mark as a natural transition, because we’ve been working at a pretty furious clip with no signs of anything letting up, and were really hoping we could step back and become more Toast Emeritus Founders rather than Write And Run The Site Both Every Day Guys.
NICOLE: We really started to feel it while talking to our publishing team about ways to improve revenue, I think. Every time I shared another John Herrman article on Twitter like, “yes, ad revenues are down across the board and indie digital media is on the bubble!” I felt like Cassandra. 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, and also because it had become clear that the bigger issue was not money, really, it was just…not wanting to do it anymore.
MALLORY: It’s difficult to convey an accurate sense of how much we both love The Toast and everything it’s become and also being ready to stop! Both are true, at the same time. We’d both, I think, started to notice the ways in which we just couldn’t keep up the pace we started three years ago.
NICOLE: I had to step back and look at how my responsibilities at The Toast had gradually drifted from writing and editing over to day-to-day administrative WORK and watching the money, and calling accountants and dealing with lawyers, etc. And to realize that I didn’t trust anyone to take over that chunk of my duties, nor could I pay someone to do it even if I DID trust them to do so responsibly, unless I started privately bankrolling the site on a regular basis, which Ayn Rand made clear is a mug’s game. I have bailed out the site on a couple of different occasions, but there is a big difference for me in one-off unexpected emergencies and part-subsidizing the site month-by-month, which was starting to be more of a reality.
MALLORY: And we looked at our different options – running a lot more ads/generating a ton more content that’s pegged to The Cycle of News, trying to sell (which, in order to do, we’d probably have to go back and do that first thing), hiring replacements who were willing to take on our pretty intense workloads (which, you still don’t take a salary! Where were we going to find that extra salary?), and none of them seemed very good. Most of them would have necessitated turning The Toast into something we didn’t like, or continuing to work ourselves into the ground forever. Which we found unappealing!
NICOLE: More and more it was clear that “Just close it” made the most sense. So then we told Nikki. And then we told Jaya and Marco. Which was hard, but we got to have a lot of good conversations around the future.
MALLORY: And now we are telling you, the beloved people!
NICOLE: 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.
MALLORY: Yes, if you’ve ever written for the site, your work is not going to disappear; the-toast.net and all related archives will not vanish.
NICOLE: Owls will always have faces, raccoons will always be trash-cats, monks will always draw horses badly. What am I going to do? I mean, I hesitate to say “step down to spend more time with my family,” like I got caught with an intern, but you know that my family obligations have gotten a little more complex over the last year or so, so it actually IS relevant. And I want to write more things as a freelancer (I’ve been having so much fun writing for The Guardian), and longer things, and read more books instead of just trawling my RSS feeds and Twitter.
MALLORY: I’m going to sleep for a month. I’m not going to write anything. Oh, my God, I cannot wait to not write something for a little bit. “So, what’s next for you?” “LESS.”
NICOLE: You have a WHOLE OTHER JOB and a book in progress, I think you’ll stay busy. Oh, let me state for the record that we do not do NOT want anyone to start a Save The Toast campaign of any kind, even though it would be so obviously lovely and kind of you! We are done.
MALLORY: No Kickstarters, please. If you start one I promise I will waste every single penny sent my way on expensive single-serving cakes and various perfumed unguents designed to enhance my beauty.
NICOLE: We would very much appreciate your continued pageviews and tote-purchases (BECAUSE I REALLY AM GOING TO SELL THEM NOW) over the next month and a half, to help with severance and bills and so on, but there’s no Solution that we haven’t considered, honestly.
MALLORY: 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.
NICOLE: I know this is not our actual goodbye post, but I love you, and Nikki, and Jaya, and Marco. And I love the readers. I’m ready to be done and move on, but I have definitely had moments of big sadness over the last month or two when we run something I really love, or that really connects with people, or when I look at the genuine relationships people have formed in the comments (giving each other KIDNEYS, even.) And guilt, too! I feel guilty, knowing how hard this will be for a lot of our readers, even though I do not think I should feel guilty. There are a billion websites on the internet, but this one was special, and I’ll grieve when it’s over, even if that’s not where I’m at right now. And I want the readers to know they can be sad and they can talk about being sad. The Toast was never just a chance for people to tune in to The Mallory and Nicole Show, it was also a true community and it will be missed.
MALLORY: I’ve never felt guilty about anything in my life, but I’ll miss everyone who helped make The Toast The Toast. (Remember when we were going to call it “A Reasonably Good Time“?) I have no illusions: this is the best job I’ve ever had, and I’m not likely to find a better one; which is not to say life is a guaranteed downhill slide from here, just this – this job has changed my life for the better. You, Nicole, have changed my life; The Toast readers have changed my life.
NICOLE: I have loved it so much. With you and Nikki and Jaya and Marco, I think we all exchanged emails and texts that were just “we’re still going to be friends and talk all the time, right??” And the answer has always been “yes, of course!” Nikki felt like this post should be just us, but will have her own goodbyes and thank-yous when the time comes (as will we.) I think Toastie Twitter will endure, as well, long after The Toast has packed up its bindle and headed down the road. This summer, let’s go to NYC together and throw a big going-away party for the readers, okay?
NICOLE: Ultimately, I want capping The Toast at three years and then preserving it in amber like a Jurassic Park dinosaur to be our Freaks and Geeks transition, where people will remember it as being at least 20% better than it really was, because it ended when it was on top. But it WAS pretty great, and also, we have another month and a half to go. I’m currently editing an eleven-thousand word piece by Carvell Wallace that is making me realize what a privilege it has been and still is to do this job.
Let’s have a little more fun before it’s over.
MALLORY: Now I can finally start writing without censoring myself.
(tentatively hits publish button)