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Racked welcomes Pavia Rosati, DailyCandy's first hired editor, to discuss the media property's recent shuttering by NBCUniversal.
I was in a taxi in Rio when I learned the news by reading the URL: recode.net/2014/03/27/nbcuniversal-owned-dailycandy-and-television-without-pity-will-be-shut-down. A mere 62 characters, including dashes. Less than half a tweet.
So that was it then. The rumors, which had long persisted and had recently reached a fever pitch, were finally true. DailyCandy was being shuttered. No new suitor in Thrillist; no new corporate owner. It was over. My heart sank.
From 2001 until 2010, I was the executive editor of DailyCandy. The first editor ever hired, I scouted the new editions, recruited the editors, and ran the editorial team for all but the last few years of my tenure. I had been gone for a while, but the news cut deep and the loss was not mine alone. We who built the company remain a close-knit crew, and within a half hour, an email chain with my former colleagues Eve Epstein, Alex Burgel, Ashley McAdams, and Danielle Bufalini was in full swing. We all felt it.
I was introduced to founder Dany Levy at dinner at Odeon in the late 1990s through our mutual friend James Sanders, whose Duane Street apartment was the site of many killer media-literary parties. Sometime around the turn of the century, the desktop monitor at one of his parties displayed the sign-up page for a new website.
"It's DailyCandy. Have you signed up yet?" someone asked me. "It's Dany's new thing, and it's going to be great."
DailyCandy launched in March 2000. I was running AOL's Entertainment Channel then, a time when downtown girls who worked in tech were few and far between, if anyone can remember that far back. In her first year of operation, Dany and I would occasionally meet at Village to talk shop and see how and if we could work together. I, flush with AOL bravura, would suggest targets for strategic partnerships. She, in manic start-up mode, would look at me and say, "I need an intern."
In October 2001, DailyCandy was expanding from New York City and launching Los Angeles. I had left AOL and was planning to move to Paris when Dany called. Come in for a little while, she said. What the hell, I thought, and agreed to consult for three months. I stayed for nearly nine years.
DailyCandy was a dream job. Every day, our mission was simple: We had to delight our readers. That was it. We had to find something worth celebrating; something exciting and new that would make people happy. A restaurant, a designer, a beach town. And then we had to write about it in a concise, compelling, and fun way. Yes, our voice was so distinctive and so personal that it was easy to parody.
But we never pandered to or patronized our audience. This is important. So much women's media, especially back then, made women feel lesser than, and we never wanted to do that. We may have been writing about manicures, but we managed to get references to Hegel in the copy. What's wrong with that? Our readers had big brains, and we never thought to assume otherwise.
This was a model that clearly worked, because we absolutely revolutionized a corner of the internet by creating the blueprint for the email newsletter business. Dany Levy threw a lightning bolt, and it struck. Without DailyCandy, there would be no Thrillist, no Tasting Table, no Refinery 29, no Goop. These excellent companies have all since grown and evolved their businesses, but they began by following the DailyCandy playbook. DailyCandy is the mother of them all.
And what a thrill. The Pilot Group came in and helped fuel our growth through smart and strategic guidance. This was a heady time of new cities and incredible expansion.
We always assumed that people would come to DailyCandy for a few years and move on. Only something funny happened: No one ever left. No one wanted to leave. We all liked working at DailyCandy too much. We worked hard, but we loved what we were doing. If we were in the office at 7:30pm, it was because we were drinking scotch together in the conference room. Marriages, hook-ups, breakups, deaths: We logged a lot of milestones together.
Eventually, DailyCandy found a home in Comcast. And, well, it wasn't the best fit. Executives were put in charge who did not understand the company, and bad decisions were made almost immediately. I left around this time to launch the travel website Fathom, with my DailyCandy colleague Jeralyn Gerba, but I kept tabs on the company from the sidelines.
It wasn't always a happy sight. The core of the company—the incredibly talented editors who were the soul of DailyCandy—never wavered, but their corporate support wasn't strong. The rumors then started. Would DailyCandy survive? I found it ridiculous. Of course DailyCandy would survive. How could it not? It just needed tending.
When I met general manager Alison Moore, I thought the future was finally secure. She got it, and she was amazing.
But in the end, it wasn't enough. And that's the part that's pretty hard to believe. How can a beloved brand with some six million readers not be considered a business to keep? NBCUniversalComcast, really? How can you admit such a failure?
Although maybe the story is simpler. I am not privy to any insider intel, but maybe this media giant just moved on. This is sad but understandable. If you're a company like Comcast, and you're talking about billion-dollar mergers with NBC and Universal, DailyCandy is nothing more than a rounding error. And what a goddamn shame that something so special, so lovely, got steamrolled.
I used to tell everyone I hired, "I can't promise you many things, but I can promise you this: You will look back on our time at DailyCandy as the golden era in your career. What we're doing is groundbreaking, and it's working. We're the rocket ship."
I spent nearly a decade of my life every day at DailyCandy, and even longer before and after in the company's orbit. It was a pleasure, a privilege, a joy, and an honor to have been so closely associated the company that was the media phenomenon of its time.—Pavia Rosati