How The Toast Does Money

Gotta lay out all of my biases right away: The Toast has paid me to write stuff for them, I’m active in their comments section, and when the Vegas Valley Comic Book Festival (at which I’m performing in November) asked me to list my heroes as part of a Proust Questionnaire, I immediately said “Roxane Gay, Nicole Cliffe, Mallory Ortberg, Caitlin Moran.”

So we’re all clear that I am ridiculously biased here, right?

On to how The Toast does money.

Mallory Ortberg did an interview with Digiday in which she describes both how The Toast makes money:

It’s pretty standard ads, and we get enough traffic on a daily basis that we started turning a profit pretty early. We were able to pay our writers right away, which meant so much to us.

And how The Toast pays people:

Writing is work, and that work deserves payment in our capitalist society. So we just thought, “Yeah, let’s pay everybody,” and if it failed, it failed. People seemed really happy that we were up front [about our budget]. Sometimes people would take their pieces elsewhere, and that’s wonderful. I think everyone should be getting as much money as they possibly can. But a lot of people appreciated that we were just making a gesture, even if it was $25 or $50. It’s not nothing, and that was our goal: to offer people not nothing.

The great thing about this piece, in addition to speaking directly about how The Toast does money, is that you can extrapolate a bit about how other publications do money. Every happy family is alike, and every publication has its own system of earning revenue and paying writers/editors/staff, but this is pretty much it.

Insert ads, extract money, pay writers.

The Toast also does sponsored content, which I’m sure you’ve noticed if you’ve been on The Toast recently, and other publications might also do sponsored content or have a corporate sponsor or get the occasional grant from whatever funding institution gives money to cool blogs.

But at its core, it’s the same system that’s powered media since media began, right? “I’ll pay for you to say your important thing, as long as you let me stand next to you and tell people to buy my thing. It’s cool because they really want you. I have to convince them to pay attention to me, and I’m willing to pay you for that.”

The internet isn’t a series of tubes or a distribution system for cats. It’s a distribution system for advertising.

“Hey, do you mind if my thing covers up your thing, for like, 15 seconds, just at the very beginning when people show up and want to look at your thing? Cool. By the way, my thing makes noise sometimes.”

And, in the end, how The Toast does money is how we all do money. Even if we aren’t in charge of an awesome and disruptive online publication.

Photo: JD Hancock

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