Why There's No Place Like DailyCandy
The DailyCandy home page today bears a single story:
It’s been sweet.
The beloved online newsletter and fashion, beauty, and lifestyle website closed its doors on Friday, marking the end of the 14-year-old brand’s run.
To parent company NBCUniversal, the shuttering was a business move—DailyCandy was no longer bringing in the traffic and revenue it needed to sustain itself. But to the followers, to the readers, and especially to the employees, the end can only be described as a shame.
Looking back on the daily email newsletter that really started them all, I sat down with Pavia Rosati, executive editor from 2001 to 2010, to talk about what made DailyCandy so special as a brand and as a workplace.
There’s simply no place like DailyCandy.
When I read the news, my heart was broken—I can’t imagine how you felt.
Everybody’s heart was broken. It really is, more than anything, a shame. I think there’s no justice in a world where iVillage gets to survive and DailyCandy doesn’t. Which is not to be mean to iVillage, but DailyCandy is just so much more special. iVillage isn’t special—it’s a commodity.
You had been there almost since the beginning. What made DailyCandy so special?
You know, we managed to make something very big, for a big audience, feel incredibly personal. People—so many people—felt this incredible possession and ownership over the product we were creating. Readers would say, “Oh my gosh, you’re speaking just to me!” and that’s really special.
Of course, we began doing this in the early 2000s, the era when email was still a very intimate way of reaching people—before flash sales came along and cheapened email like no other business has been done before. Back then, it was still exciting to get an email, because it was a form of communication, not marketing. That also helped DailyCandy cement the personal relationship we had with people.
I think another reason is that we weren’t talking about the people everyone else was talking about. Marc Jacobs is amazing, but Marc Jacobs didn’t need any help from us. DailyCandy had the privilege of talking about the side project that a design assistant at Marc Jacobs was working on. It was so rewarding to turn our megaphone onto up-and-coming talents—designers, chefs, mom-and-pop shop owners, everyone. This was also a time when celebrity culture was starting to peak in the media, and we didn’t decided we weren’t going to pay attention to it. It was a joy to be able to tell a publicist, “I really don’t care which jeans are covering Britney Spears’ ass right now.” I think people responded to that.
You were at DailyCandy for almost 10 years. What kept you there so long?
You know, I got job offers from very big media companies—people used to call me and offer to double and triple my salary. It is always flattering to be wanted, of course, but then I’d look at the product and I’d say, “Ugh, really? I can’t do that. I can’t go work on that.” I once told a very persistent recruiter, “You have to understand, I get a little sick to my stomach every time I look at that website. Please stop calling and telling me it’s a great product.”
What kept me there were the people. DailyCandy facilitated an amazing life for me. I loved the people I worked with, I loved what we were building, I loved how much faith our readers had in us, I loved that all we did was put nice things out into the world. We just lived to spread joy to our readers and to the companies we covered. It was never a bad day when DailyCandy called you. Who would leave that? It was so special, and I feel lucky to have been part of it.
What are the biggest lessons you learned during your time there?
Small is better. When you try and appeal through mass generalization to a mass audience, you appeal to nobody. I always knew that and would have said the same about all the other work I’ve done, but it became such an ingrained habit at DailyCandy.
And I don’t know that it’s a lesson, but it was unusual to see that I would remain so close with the people I worked with after I left the company. At every other job I’ve had, I’m best friends with my colleagues—and then pretty much lose touch with them when I left the company. But at DailyCandy, we’ve stayed so close. We’re involved in each other’s lives. We’re still going on vacations together.
You saw the company grow from a small, few-woman team to a large organization. What was that like? Any advice for others going through it?
If you can get people to agree with your mission, you’re 90% of the way there. All companies are going to have problems and all companies are going to struggle, but if everyone at the company feels ownership over and some responsibility for the struggles—and also for the successes—it makes everything much easier.
We also hired the right people. When I was interviewing DailyCandy’s city editors, I would plan three-day trips to a city. Then, starting at 8 AM, I’d meet a different girl every hour on the hour. (There were some guys, but 90% of the people I met with were girls.) At the end of the day, I would ask myself, “Who do I want to have dinner with tonight?” And that was always the person we ended up hiring. It was one thing to have someone who was good on paper, but another thing to have someone who you want to spend time with—who was a compelling person with a good story.
You’ve said before that you tell new hires that DailyCandy will be the “golden era” in their careers. Was it for you?
I’m running a travel startup now [with former DailyCandy colleague, Jeralyn Gerba]. Fathom is amazing. It's a different product, a richer product, and I love it and am incredibly proud of it. But it’s not the phenomenon that DailyCandy was. Because lightening doesn’t strike that often. It happened with MTV in the ’80s and Wired magazine in the ’90s—media magic that reflected and defined its generation.
Fathom is a different kind of rewarding experience, but it comes with the stresses of running a business. I was able to have more fun at DailyCandy because I wasn’t responsible for making enough money to cover the Wi-Fi charges at the end of the month. The satisfactions are greater at Fathom, but the giddiness of DailyCandy—well, it’s just different.
But if I compare where I am with Fathom—two and a half years after launch—to where DailyCandy was at two and a half years, I wouldn’t have called it a golden era. It wasn’t yet what it would go on to be. And I hope Fathom becomes a golden era for me—absolutely.
But listen, we were younger, we weren’t stressed, we didn't have as much competition, and it was just so fun. My then-boyfriend, now husband, used to tell his friends back in London, “DailyCandy like a dorm room in a movie, where everyone is braiding each other’s hair and having pillow fights. You walk in and there are dogs, there’s candy—it’s really exactly what you think it’s going to be.” I never went to summer camp—I went to DailyCandy for nine years.
I wish I could put that feeling in a bottle and go work there now!
I wish everyone could go put it in a bottle and go work there now. It was really that special.
Adrian Granzella Larssen is the editor-in-chief of The Daily Muse, the award-winning daily career advice publication that's helped millions of people find and succeed at their dream jobs. A nationally recognized career expert, she speaks regularly to corporations and women's groups and has been featured in Forbes, Mashable, Business Insider, Fusion TV, and Real Simple. She has 10+ years experience in strategic communications and publications, most recently serving as head of online communications for the George Washington University Medical Center. Say hi on Twitter and Instagram.More from this Author