The End of the Road

Hello, Protaggers.

It’s been a while since we last spoke, and unfortunately, I don’t have good news.

Protagonize will be shutting down — permanently — effective June 3rd, 2017.

We’ve reached a stage where the site’s income has deteriorated to a point where it’s nowhere near supporting the cost of operations. Personally, I haven’t been able to actively maintain or upgrade Protagonize beyond the absolute bare necessities for the last 3+ years.

The site has been kept operational for the last year-and-a-bit partially based on the kindness of a handful of very generous individual Protaggers (to single one out in particular, Sharon, a.k.a.: moonwalker), but primarily out of my own pocket. However, we’ve hit a fork in the road of late, and the auspices are no longer favourable.

My wife and I came to a decision earlier tonight to shut the site down for good. We have three children under the age of five, and live in an expensive city, so every dollar we can save matters. We can’t afford to keep Protagonize running on our own dime any longer, and donations have dried up in the last few months. User growth has been stagnant for years and advertising income has dwindled as usage has dropped (not that it was much to begin with, although it did cover our costs.)

For me, personally, this is akin to a dagger in the chest. Protagonize was a great hope to me for several years. It did a lot of good in my life. It taught me a lot. I won’t go into it too deeply, but I don’t take this decision lightly, and have likely been putting it off for much too long.

I have investigated moving Protagonize to other environments or trying to get our ISP to lower our monthly hosting fees as the site is running on severely outdated hardware, to no avail (thanks for nothing, Cogeco Peer 1.) Moving to another lower-cost hosting provider may reduce our ongoing overhead, but it would cost us a significant investment of time and money that we just don’t have to complete the migration. Even then, the costs were not insignificant on a new provider, and the performance of the site may actually have been worse than it is currently.

I feel the need to apologize to you all for the short notice of this pronouncement, but it seems that while the spirit of Protagonize lives on, in its current state and outdated technology stack (developer speak for “it hasn’t been updated in a while“), it’s just not cost-effective in the least to keep operational. And I need to consider the well-being of my family over keeping our remaining users happy. I hate that this is purely financially-driven, but it’s not a great spot to be in, so here we are.

I hope that I don’t come across too harsh in this, and that you all understand that I’ve been (primarily) footing the bill to keep Protagonize operational since its inception. I had aspirations to build a successful business from it, and was encouraged by many to do just that, but it just wasn’t in the cards. I recognize my mistakes now, and accept that it’s time to close up shop and learn from the experience.

I’m still humbled by the fact that many of you grew to adulthood (or a reasonable facsimile 😉) here — over the last near-decade, just a few months shy of our 10th anniversary — reading and writing and contributing to our once-vibrant little community. I hope that you were able to harness a little of the creative energy found here and use it in your lives, both inside and outside of writing. But at the end of it all, I just hope you enjoyed your time here and made some long-lasting connections with other peers, both authors and readers.

I hope you’ll all accept my humble apology and move on to your next writing community with fond memories of your time here — and hopefully of your growth as a writer and community participant. I know that I’ll always remember you all for your contributions.

If  you’d like to get in touch with me with any questions or feedback, you can email me here. I can’t offer you any new ways to export your works aside from the existing methods — PDF, RSS, Kindle export, or saving a full story as HTML.

Good luck to all of you in the future. Maybe we’ll meet again, someday. Keep writing. Keep providing constructive feedback. And obviously, keep reading!

Nick Bouton
Founder, Protagonize (Dec 2007- June 2017)

Addendum: Exporting your works

Protagonize doesn’t offer any sort of mass-download functionality, but you still have a few options for exporting your works from the site. However, they’re all going to require some legwork on your end:

  • Author or Story RSS feeds: Click the “Author Feed” on your author profile to get your recent posts, or the “Feed” link in the top right corner if any of your story pages to give you an RSS feed of the entire story:
  • Export options: On individual stories, poems or other works, you can use the Story menu (the little gear icon) to export the whole thing to several different formats, including PDF, Kindle, and HTML:
    The View entire story option shown above will export the entire work to a single saveable/printable HTML page, and also lets you copy-paste the whole thing out elsewhere if that’s what you’re after. The Export to PDF and Send story to Kindle options will let you export to other formats.

Sorry that there is no way to export everything you’ve posted in one go — I wish I could offer this, but I just don’t have the capacity to add new features to the site anymore.

Image courtesy of kjcs on Flickr

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32 Responses to The End of the Road

  1. DaveDaweed says:

    It saddens me to see that Protagonize will be gone. Especially that I was planning on coming back on it! Bad timing, I guess.

    What I want to say, is thank you, Nick. Thank you for creating a website that let me have the best 2 years of my life. Thank you for creating a site when I could find the output for my emotions. Thank you for making it possible for me to meet my love. Thank you. I will always remember Protagonize fondly.

  2. Keegan Sherman says:

    Oh, my heart breaks to hear this. I’m deeply saddened by this turn of events, and I can only begin to imagine how hard this decision must have been for you to make.

    I hope you know that you’ve accomplished something great here.You and this site have meant something fierce to me and many other users. Even in it’s old bones, this platform has been my favorite for nearly a decade. There hasn’t been anything that quite compares.

    I wish you and your family the best.

    Happy Writing

  3. Jackerbie says:

    Thanks for everything, Nick! And we’re not the only ones who have grown… I believe you were engaged to be married when I joined you lot back in 2008! It was a good run, and, although not exactly what you wanted Protagonize to be, it brought so much excitement and creativity to so many people.

    So, thanks for giving the world Red King Chronicles and Lily Christianson, thanks for Paddytum and A Fighting Chance, for The Irregulars and the Seasonal Poetry Challenges. I definitively owe you a drink (or two)!

  4. Thanks for everything, Nick!

    Thanks to your site, I made great friends, learned that I could grow as an author and became a self published author. I will remember protagonize with fond memories.


  5. Immzie says:

    Thank you for everything, Nick. I first came on Protag as a nervous ‘Can I write?’ teenager and the site, and the friends I’ve made through it have been a big part of my life and a big part of my confidence in growing as a writer.

    It may not have been everything you wanted it to be, but you and this site have helped so many people and I’ve seen some go on to publish books, largely because of here. And if it weren’t for protag, I wouldn’t be writing… and I wouldn’t also be shortlisted for something later this year either! (*grumbles because I still can’t announce what it is*)

    I understand your reasons and just want you to know that protag may disappear into the void of nothingness, but its legacy (and thus, yours) will stay on in many many people who found their way here. Thank you

  6. Shannon says:

    Just to say very sorry to hear. Had a wonderful couple of years back c. 2009. All the best to you.

  7. Sareneth says:

    I joined Protagonize sometime back in 2008, and was only there for a couple of years. Despite that, it holds fond memories. I was a small teenager and it was an adult community in which I felt welcomed like family and never looked down upon because of my age – in fact, I was actively encouraged by the people there in a very rough time during which very few other people were there for me.

    I absolutely understand your decision to shut it down, and I know it’s something you must have been fighting for a long, long time. In a way, it feels silly to wish that Protagonize would still be here when I haven’t used it in so long. But it forms a very special place in my memories, as I’m sure it does for many hundreds of others, and I can’t help a little heartache at the knowledge that nobody new will have the chance to share in that.

    I wish you all the best in everything, Nick, and I hope you don’t feel like this is even an inkling of failure on your part. Financial viability isn’t everything, and all the money and /energy/ that you put into Protag didn’t just disappear – it helped fuel hundreds of dreams and foster a real community. You should be immensely proud.

  8. Jonty Stern says:

    A huge thank you for everything, Nick. I’m really sad about this. If there is a financial way out of this, do PM me to let me know what could be done to reverse this situation and I’ll see if I or anybody I know can assist.

  9. Jsimmons says:

    Thank you for keeping this site running as long as you have, Nick. It was always a refuge to come here all through high school and college. I can’t believe its been 6 years since I joined. Protagonize has been wonderful!

    Good luck to you in the future, Nick!

  10. Jo Williams says:

    this breaks my heart!

  11. Malshelt says:

    I am so saddened to hear the news. This was one of the few (if only) communities I knew of where new works were always uploaded in a spotlight for all to see. If anyone is aware of any other good community out there, please let me know so we can all still keep in touch somehow.

  12. Jo Williams says:

    I have had the best experience on protagonize and have made some fond memories! I have grown up on this website and will always hold this website close to my heart!

  13. Jo WIlliams says:

    Any idea how to go about saving discussion boards?

    • Nick says:

      Jo, we don’t really have a way to export discussions/group content. The best you’ll be able to do there is to copy-paste the content out by hand. Sorry about that. :(

  14. Katie Shepherd (xkatieshepherd) says:

    This is such a shame but I do understand your decision.

    I really want to thank you from the absolute bottom of my heart for providing such a loving, supportive community which really helped my passion as a writer grow and develop over the years. I have made friends on this site I will never forget and created characters that will always stay with me. This was my safe haven and the place I would spend hours hunched over a laptop furiously typing away new chapters, fuelled by my co-writers in collaborative stories or simply those supportive writers who enjoyed my work.
    I have enjoyed reading other people’s works and watching the extensive encouragement fellow writers would offer one another.

    Thank you for giving us this opportunity and know that you have touched and changed the lives of many through this wonderful site.

  15. Ceri (Aradia_Llewellyn) says:

    very very sad to see it go, Protag was a start for me and helped me build so much confidence. I pretty much grew up on here.

    Thank you so much to everyone on here who has taken the time to read my work, comment, and offer support and critiques.

    And of course thank you Nick for creating such a wonderful space for us to come together and grow creatively.

  16. The end of an era. Thank you so much Nick for making this community. Imade friends here I’d otherwise have never met and worked on stories and poems that otherwise sound not have been written if not for you and all the wonderful people I had the pleasure to work with during my time here.

    For the more technically inclined, I write a protagonize->markdown exporter tool a long time ago. It might come in use to someone:

  17. Sharon (moonwalker) says:

    This really breaks my heart, Nick. If not for your site, I would never have begun writing again after high school. I’ve been published in several anthologies and collaborative novels in the past ten years, and it’s all thanks to what I learned from being an avid Protagonist. I’m going to miss this site terribly, but I do understand your decision. Your family comes first. It has to. I made many good friends here. I’ll miss them. I already miss Protagonize.

  18. Paul Macklin says:


    I guess this day has been coming for some time now. And I can’t be surprised. It’s just such a shame, and so indicative of the industry.

    A big thank you to Nick, of course, who started this whole thing off and allowed so many of us to come together. It gave many of us a place to share our writing and our hearts. It has been the hub of many a drama, a romance, and friendship.

    Thank you to everyone I ever met on this forum. It has been an honour. Please, stay in touch.


  19. Chris Sadler says:

    That is very disheartening news, Nick. I am sorry to see anyone’s labor of love go down in flames. It looks as though my efforts to resurrect forgotten ADDventures will all be for naught now. This site was a welcome addition to my websurfing day. Good luck to you in all your future endeavors.

  20. WPR says:

    Nick, this is quite the predicament you have put me in! This was my one guilty pleasure, each and every day, unfortunately now I will have to find another way to get my daily fix :) That being said, I do understand and respect your decision. It must have been very painful indeed. We are all indebted to you for creating such a wonderful site, and I am sure, for many of us, provided just the right impetus to start writing again. I wish you and your family great success for the future, and I am very sure you will be very successful at whatever you do.

    Best of luck and God bless.

  21. Tyler (tylerdidit) says:

    I, too, pretty much grew up on this site. While I stopped using it (and stopped writing), I’m very sad to hear that it won’t be here for other people to experience writing the same way we all have here.

    I never thought I would feel genuinely sad to see a website go, but knowing how much time and effort (and money) you put in makes it easy to be sad. All I can say is that I’m sorry I never had more money to put towards the site :(

    I wish you all the best with your future and hope it brings you many successful, creative endeavors.

  22. Aria says:

    When I heard the news that this site will be shutting down, I logged back in and was instantly flooded with memories. Even though I’ve never been a frequent poster, Protag was still very much a cherished space for me. I was thirteen going on fourteen when I first joined and now I’m almost twenty, so it was the perfect niche for a teenage girl figuring herself out. The only regret I have is that I didn’t post, collaborate, and interact with my fellow users more. But…I will always be thankful for what experience I managed to take from Protagonize. It helped me identity with the idea of being an “actual” writer and allowed me to showcase what skill I’ve gained over the years. More importantly, it played an important in a very important relationship with a dear friend of mine. Protagonize, without a doubt, will always hold a special place in my heart for that reason alone, if nothing at all. Suffice to say, I’m gonna miss this place.

    Thank you for everything!

  23. thank you for everything you’ve done for this site and all who use it! I was thirteen when I joined, and am now almost nineteen, and i don’t think that i would have kept writing poetry if it wasn’t for all the encouragement and constructive criticism I received on protagonize, and all of the wonderful people I met on the site.
    Thank you for everything!

  24. C3Lady says:

    Thank you, Nick. Smac973 and C3Lady have a progeny as a result of this site. Thanks for the writing and the reading, and thanks for the forum that resulted in Ellie’s existence in this big old crazy world.

  25. trevor says:

    oh well, had to happen someday…thanks for a great experience which I’ll always hold dear in my heart –

  26. Jillian Hewitt (Jillian) says:

    Saying goodbye to Protagonize is as difficult as saying goodbye to an old friend. I’m truly heartbroken to see it go. As I mentioned in my last-ever Protag post just now, I can’t even begin to thank you, Nick, for what you’ve given all of us; inspiration, endless creativity, a safe-haven, a community, friends. I don’t think I’ll ever feel that same type of excitement as I felt when I got a notification saying someone had followed up one of my stories : )

    Protag will always keep a warm place in my heart.


  27. ToddBelman says:

    Damn. Just to be sure, everything I had saved on there is gone?

    • Nick says:

      Sorry Todd, the site is permanently offline now. You might be able to use Google’s cache to find some content, but otherwise everything is gone and the site is down permanently.

      • ToddBelman says:

        Did an email notification go out that the site was going down? I guess I’m at fault for my inactivity. OH, WELL.

        • Nick says:

          No.. it was a free site. We couldn’t afford to keep the site running, so paying to send out a mass email to 30,000 users would have just shut things down sooner. There was a month warning given and a short grace period afterwards for those who missed it. Sorry.

  28. Eric Rountree (aka Faltarego) says:

    Wow. I’m practically speechless (which is, for anyone who’s ever read any of my posts on Protagonize, an unusual state for me). I’m also heartbroken.

    While I haven’t been active on the site in a long time, it was, for a few years there, a huge part of my life. I met some amazing people, participated in some mind-blowing collaborative fiction, and honed my skills as a writer.

    In recent years, I would occasionally log in to the site to see what was going on, and perhaps revisit a couple of old favorites, but beyond that, my life and my writing had moved on. Nonetheless, this is a great loss to me. I loved Protagonize and the friends I made there, and it’s ending leaves a large hole in my heart.

    Nick, I deeply appreciate the tremendous amount of work that went into creating and running the site. Heroic amounts of work. It was a labor of love, I know, and I’m grateful that you were able to keep it running as long as you did. It allowed me to meet some like-minded souls, write some cool stuff, and have a helluva lot of fun.

    Thank you. And thanks to all the fine folks who contributed to the site and added a little bit of joy to my life for the time that I participated.

    All the best to everyone.

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