Business of Art Fix #29: If “The Toast” Was Your BFF You’d Respect Her Need To Move Out But Still Miss Her So Much

Welcome to the 29th “This Business of Art / Media / Web Fix,” in which I share with you things I read that I loved relating to the work I do here — online media, business, entrepreneurship, women in tech, start-ups, journalism, publishing, management, queer visibility, and so forth. You can expect this sucker to drop every-other Wednesday.


The Internet wept collectively two weeks ago to learn that The Toast, the beloved independent women’s site headed by the ridiculously funny and talented team of Mallory Ortberg and Nicole Cliffe, will be shuttering on July 1st. For three years, they’ve been serving up the finest in art history related humor and building a thriving feminist queer-inclusive community of hilarious and wickedly smart readers. The Toast is the internet at its best. Also, their recent redesign was amazing.

The reasons for closing they laid out were many, but what it came down to, really, is something we struggle with here every damn day: being good at this takes a lot of time, a lot of people, and a lot of money. And it’s exhausting. The Toast was one of the last for-profit independent websites for women still surviving, and they’ve been very transparent about how Nicole Cliffe’s husband is a huge part of the reason why.

So much of The Toast’s farewell post rang true for me, especially this part, from 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.

This month, thanks to the insistence of my dear friend Kristin Russo who basically forced me into a conversation with her accountant via email, I’m gonna be turning some of our accounting over to an actual accountant! Previously, I’d done it all myself. Like The Toast, we’ve been invited to join the Medium network, but we just can’t imagine migrating this very unique and specific community onto that platform. I can’t even bring myself to respond to e-mails from Medium! (By that I mean I have no time.) We want to do this here or we don’t want to do it at all. And we’ve fully accepted that there are elements of the online media game, which is now totally dominated by venture-capital funded megasites like Buzzfeed and Fusion, that we simply cannot play at. The economics of independent media are dismal. The Toast knows this too:

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!

We dropped out of the breaking news game and hot takes cycle in favor of link roundups and occassional deep-dives into stories that are particularly important to us, and doing so has cost us, traffic-wise. But we’re also really lucky that we already had a reader support system set up, so that these traffic losses didn’t equate revenue losses. We’re simply not capable of generating a lot more content that’s pegged to The Cycle of News in order to get more ad dollars. But there are days and weeks and even months when we can’t be at our best, and that is entirely related to the size of our full-time staff and what we are paid. After seven years of this, we’re finally in a place where one of us can take time off without the site falling down, but we still work ourselves into the ground, especially when that is coupled with having to live on very strict budgets. I wrote and published at least one post a day, six days a week, for three years, before totally burning out.

I think the major takeaway from what Mallory and Nicole wrote today is this: writing and editing and running a business is an enormous job that takes a lot of people to accomplish properly, and financially secure employees are much more productive than financially insecure ones. At some point, one must ask “am I giving away my best work for free?” And y’all, Mallory Ortberg IS FUNNY EVERY FUCKING DAY. This girl is a genius. It’s obscene. She literally stuns me every. damn. day. MALLORY ORTBERG IS A NATIONAL TREASURE.

I look forward to reading whatever her and Nicole write next, wherever they write it. Also remember the time we watched Lost & Delirious with them? That was cool.

This Business of Online Media

+ Reportedly there have been major layoffs at Vice Media and they’re axing 15 jobs in New York and Los Angeles as well as the entire UK editorial team and their only two foreign correspondents. The company claims it is restructuring, and that “today’s cuts fit into a larger expansion plan that will ultimately see the company adding jobs and bolstering its daily video, documentary and text offerings.” Nearly 20 employees have joined the company of late, new hires are slated to join in the coming weeks, and VICE is planning to announce new editorial and production bureaus in Hong Kong and San Francisco later this year. This Poynter article is worth a read for the context and analysis, too, w/r/t the evolution of venture-backed big media companies.

+ Also retooling towards interactive storytelling and video is Buzzfeed: “In the same way that BuzzFeed started out focused on lighter content like listicles and then moved into narrative and investigative journalism, the company is taking steps to insert more news into its video operations. ”

+ The real problem with Facebook’s algorithim isn’t liberal bias: “We use these algorithms to explore questions that have no right answer to begin with, so we don’t even have a straightforward way to calibrate or correct them.”

+ Introducing The New York Times OF THE FUTURE.

+ Also uh, The New York Times is laying off a bunch of people.

+ The Tow Center looks at those Facebook staffers’ career paths.

+ This guy is mad that The New York Times still runs intrusive ads even though he’s a paid subscriber. I’m not sure why he doesn’t just install an ad-blocker, but okay.

+ Poytner looks at Pulitzer history and asks where are all the women writing longform? (also: here)

+ Dozens of staffers were let go from The Telegraph.

+ 30-second videos about food get great viral lift! What are these videos about? Toast?

This Business of Demographics

+ The Techies Project photographs and interviews tech workers who are not wealthy white cis males.

+ Millennials actually work ALL THE TIME, so.

+ Also, millennials don’t exist.

Businesswomen’s Special

+ The worst possible response to a negative review on Glassdoor

+ The ideal sitting posture and workspace setup for healthy desk workers

+ This one thing gives women the edge in crowdfunding

+ How to make lifestyle adjustments without wanting to die

+ How to prepare for a last-minute interview in 30 minutes

+ “Doing your least favorite tasks first and front-loading the ‘pain’ can make you happier in the long run.”

Are you following us on Facebook?

Profile gravatar of Riese

Riese is the 36-year-old CEO, CFO and Editor-in-Chief of as well as an award-winning writer, blogger, fictionist, copywriter, video-maker, low-key power lesbian and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and then headed West. Her work has appeared in nine books including "The Bigger the Better The Tighter The Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image & Other Hazards Of Being Female," magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 2488 articles for us.


  1. Also: The Toast 🙁 I’m so impressed by the community there – the day Nicole and Mallory announced the closing, folks started finding platforms to keep the community going. The toastieslack is amazing.

  2. “I’m not sure why he doesn’t just install an ad-blocker, but okay.”

    Yeah, that dude’s post implies that he doesn’t have one installed. Browsing without an ad-blocker is kinda like having unprotected sex: you should only do it with someone you really trust. XD

    • Is it though? I don’t have an ad blocker installed because I don’t know how. I haven’t tried to figure it out yet because I only go to website that have ads I can handle.

      • Oh, that was partly a joke. The metaphor might not work perfectly all the time, I guess. XD

        I guess you should do whatever works for you! I started enabling ad-blockers (though I’ll disable them for some sites, like AS) after getting bad stuff on my PC at home (Annoying!) just for visiting some sites (hilariously one of the sites where I got malware now requires visitors to disable ad-blocking, so I just don’t visit it at all). That’s just me though, I’m not trying to set some universal, general rule for everyone (Sorry if it came across like that!).

        • It’s all good. I think I manage without an ad-blocker because my antivirus software has some minimal ad-blocking. I usually still get ads but sometimes there will be a space where an ad clearly should be or I’ll get a notification from a website requesting that I turn off my ad-blocker.

    • I’m a Times digital subscriber and I use AdBlock. So they did a survey asking me why I use an ad blocker. Uh … ’cause I hate ads and I’m already paying for the privilege of reading your content, so why should I have to put up with the damn ads? Yes, I understand that ads pay for the content, but SO DO I!

      • Oh, I can totally understand that.

        Honestly, I don’t mind ads, and I understand why they’re there. It’s just, some sites have ads that a) serve up malware, b) open other ads when you close them, c) auto-play annoying audio/noise, d) block the site entirely, or e) some combo of the previous entries. I really don’t like those!

  3. Reise when you describe the challenges of indie media it makes me want to buy all of you flowers and send you all on trips to Bali where beautiful-forearmed former lady volleyball players give you massages morning and night.

    Remember back in the day when the internet became a thing and everyone was like “free information everywhere! It’s the information age!” Well, apparently it’s still kinda the same game as it ever was.

    Thanks for always showing the lady behind the curtain with this column, and for keeping this community alive. As I always say, it has real meaning to real people, and we heart you guys for it!

    • Like this is the first place on the internet I ever found that dispelled my fears that the queer community would hate me because I’d dated men and came out late.

      This is the first place on the internet I ever found with absolutely no tolerance for hate speech in the comments, where I could flag a troll and the comment would not only get removed, the editors would kindly remind me not to engage with him so that people wouldn’t be terrorized by his words in the homepage comment box.

      This is the first place on the internet I ever found that asked me how I was in places like FOT and I would actually answer honestly because myriad articles and comments had de-stigmatized talk about depression, mood etc. for me – something I had not yet managed to do for myself before I found AS.

      I’m sure that’s just a partial list, and I’m sorry to be so effusive, but basically, <3<3<3.

      • When I came out (to myself, in my head), autostraddle was relatively new (this was maybe 2011?), and I didn’t know a thing about it

        So I spent time (like, maybe a week) at After Ellen, in their forums, and uhh

        It wasn’t great!
        So many angry fights about bisexuality

        I’m really, really glad this place exists

        Like. I’m so glad this place exists.

        I wish it weren’t so hard for everyone involved, and I’d understand if it ever needed to stop running, but in the meantime: this website and this community really matter

        • Wow I was like “2011 was so long ago!”

          And then I realized that my story is the same, but with the original AfterEllen under Sarah Warn, in 2005.

          (Yeah, I waited to come out to anyone else or date anyone besides cis guys for NINE YEARS. Good lord, why?)

          Anyway, the point is, these communities online, and the quality of their content and interactions, is really important.

    • On the bright side the internet could become a Ruby Tuesdays, where the happy hour long island ice tea is both cheap and very alcoholic, almost alcohol enough for you to forget that you’re so broke you took the pre game to a Ruby Tuesdays

  4. Also the way you guys are wary of FB groups supplanting the site, which I realize you didn’t talk about here but is An Issue, is very real and always makes me think of how the nerdfighter FB group I joined way back when saying “nerdfighter” didn’t make me cringe is still going strong (in an admittedly splintered state, Moment Of Silence for the Civil War Of 2012 / 2013), but none of us really watch YouTube anymore?? I Haven’t seen a vlogbrother / wheezy waiter / etc etc video in AGES, but I use that FB group to talk to my friends literally every day.

    I’m always a bit bummed when the regional straddler FB groups are Ghost Towns in comparison to the groups I cut my Internet Community teeth in, but then I’m grateful

    Because it hopefully means more of us are HERE

    • Side note

      Do early Era YouTube dweebs still call the video description box the “doobly – doo” or is that just me

      “links in the doobly doo” while the person on screen points aimlessly to their left = fond memories

    • This non sequitur was prompted by talk of how The Toast community is living on sans The Toast

      John & Hank used to talk about how they hoped The Fandom would become a self sustaining thing and outgrow them

      Sort of like in that episode of Dr Who where there is a group of people obsessed with finding The Doctor, but then they all just end up Bros, and Moaning Myrtle ends up a face stuck on a stone tile but we don’t need to talk about that; it was WEIRD


      I hope the autostraddle community doesn’t “outgrow” autostraddle

      Like I hope we can all grow TOGETHER

      And may none of us become disembodied heads trapped on a stone tile AMEN

    • oh god I’m in the bay area straddlers fb group and it feels like yelling into the void because there are so many members but only 5 or so seem to regularly post events/comment etc its very strange

  5. ALSO ALSO ALSO omg that glassdoor article

    So I used to work for a company that was rated worst place to work by glassdoor for I forget what year

    And the company tried to boost employee morale in the aftermath by giving us More Incentives to reach sales goals, like

    If you get enough points, you could win a raffle ticket that PROBABLY won’t win you a trip to Mexico, WILL MOST LIKELY get you a Yankee Candle!


    It Didn’t Work

  6. Of course I’m gonna respect the need to move on, particularly when you know that it wasn’t the easiest decision to make, so I’m gonna be in that dark corner over there, just crying a little.

    PD: That graphic and the article from Randi Molla and Shira Ovide gave some new horrors to think about, especially about that idea (fantasy?) about capitalism and free market.

Contribute to the conversation...

You must be logged in to post a comment.