When Good Ideas Go Away (Goodbye to Umano)

Screen Shot 2015-06-09 at 8.53.41 AMSo Umano, that smart news platform that reads the news to you, is pulling the plug on this operation in a matter of days. You know this, I know this. My heart aches over this, the way it does when any great, original idea goes away, and not because it’s a bad idea, but because the market is a tough mother. I won’t pretend to know what decisions went into this one, but I’m sure they weren’t easy.

For years, I was a senior editor at a magazine called Whole Living, formerly Body+Soul. It’s where I cut my teeth in publishing, where my career really took off. I put that issue to bed for years like a child, even as it kicked and screamed, and other times was as sweet as could be. I’d never loved a job more. I poured my best writing into it. It’s where I learned how to be an editor, which is the art of choosing some things and not others–from ideas down to the tiniest words. I also learned to weather some serious corporate storms, and say goodbye to a whole team and set sail solo to new offices in New York where I knew no one, and had to start all over.

I was laid off from that magazine when times got tough, and not too long after, times got so tough it closed altogether. I was still sad, just as you would be if you found out an ex-boyfriend who broke up with you first had suffered an ill fate. Not good.

And when people asked me, But why? It was such a great magazine! So many people loved it! My response is: Yes, it was! And they look for some secret flaw that would give the answer, as to why some things don’t last. And the truth is, sometimes it’s not about how great you are. Whole Living died the death of a thousand other publications—not because it wasn’t beautiful and artful and thoughtful and well done, but because the market has its way, and it isn’t going the way of print. We mourn it and move on.

So when I learned that Umano was closing its doors, I was sad too—after all, I poured my best work into it, too. I cultivated my own subscribers and fans. You guys showed up and cared to hear me out. More than eight thousand of you have. You made me feel important, like I mattered. So when I say, but why? Umano is such a great idea, and there are so many listeners! I find myself up against the same argument as before: Just because you have fans, just because a thing works and works well doesn’t mean it gets to stick around.

That’s a hard lesson for all of us, isn’t it. For our business, our brands, for anyone who creates a thing they think and hope and pray will last. What we want is something that endures, really—whether it’s a business, or a relationship, or an app, for that matter. But, and I don’t mean to get too existential here, lasting may not always be the goal.

Trust me, I have very self-interested reasons for wanting you around! Aside from the fact that I love a captive audience. I hate that this party is breaking up and you all are going to go somewhere else. I can try to invite you to my house, but I know you won’t all come. But I want to thank you for being here in the first place. I do hope you’ll stay in touch, but more than that, I wish for you that you never stop pouring your best stuff into what matters, what you believe in, even if it wasn’t meant to last.

(Listen to it here while the site is still up)