Like taking candy from a baby. That’s how DailyCandy started. Namely, because they invented the online women’s lifestyle game. Launched in March 2000, the concept was fresh and without competitors. Likewise, the Internet was still relatively new—it hit the mainstream about 1999 when half of us still logged on to AOL with a 56k modem (and accompanying dial-up sound that launched a million pre-teen fights and broken hearts).
If you were a new company, being featured on DailyCandy was a must. If you lived in LA, getting Crystal Meers, then LA editor, to pay attention to you was a huge win. Shouting “Crystal responded!” from the sad square of your PR cubicle was enough to get on your boss’ good side for at least 24 hours… until she never responded again (which was often the case; damn you, Crystal). But over the course of 14 years, Daily things have gone from simple and unique to no more.
Last week it was announced that the women’s lifestyle site that started it all with a few sweet tips, was going down. And not in a blaze of glory, but in what appears to have been a slow burn, the bad Usher–you know that it’s over/We know that it’s through/Let it burn– kind of burn. Since the site was purchased in 2008 by Comcast Corp. for $125 million from New York-based Pilot Group, traffic declined, and Comcast’s Interactive Media division pulled out all the stops for its new acquisition.
Despite its user base of six million, when NBCU hired digital exec Alison Moore in late 2012, the site’s numbers were trending down, with a low point of less than 250,000 uniques per month between October and December. January 2013 was the worst, with numbers only hitting 150,000 unique visitors.
To all unknowing, outside parties, DailyCandy was still the Candy Grail. They updated the homepage. They engaged readers with celebrity editors and model interviews and beautiful pinnable pictures. They produced a plethora of video content, often with fashion bloggers whose sites were likely part of Candy’s own demise.
And yet in meetings and over power lunches, when smaller sites referenced end goals, DailyCandy was always part of the conversation: a small site that started with a handful of employees and was bought by a big media company. From the outside it looked perfect.
Yet if the past week has taught us anything, it’s that life is not so pretty once we venture past homepages or Instagram feeds. The lesson is still the same: the book should never be judged by its cover—something we forget time and again when we’re deep in the throes and envy of comparison.
The Monday previous, the fashion world collectively cried when news that 49-year-old designer L’Wren Scott was found dead by her own hand. Her beginnings in the fashion world were seemingly easy enough. At 6’3” the raven-haired beauty captured the eye and camera of fashion photographer Bruce Weber while skiing in Utah.
Twenty-nine years later, Scott’s assistant found her in a much darker position, hanging from a scarf in her 5.6 million dollar Chelsea apartment.
All who knew her well, including partner Mick Jagger expressed disbelief at the news. No one, they wept, could have foreseen this tragic end. Including her 11,000 Instagram followers, to whom life surely appeared picture perfect. Even her last days projected a curated image: the clothes, the jet planes, the exotic locales. Not even the right filter could have misled her adoring public. Or could it?
Not featured: the alleged suspicions (later denied by her company) of a 6-million dollar debt and surely an emotional bankruptcy that led to her passing.
Both examples, though superficially disparate in their ultimate and respective demises, represent the growing problem of what it means to keep up with the Internet. In their own way, each bore the silent burden, the chasm between the reality and the marketing–a gully which grows deeper and more intense with each passing year. And self-promotion (whether of person or corporation as person) becomes a dangerous game of chicken that you’re playing with yourself.
Do more. Produce more. More video. More glamour. More glitz. Put on the ritz and make believe that everything is perfect. Project the illusion of grandeur, success, la dolce vita, at all costs, and above all else, never let them see you bleed, or bend, or go under.
All though we can seem to stop ourselves from prejudging the worth of something by it appearance, the story keeps on repeating: It’s a slow and sad burn to the bottom.
“I always say luxury is a state of mind,” Scott told The Sunday Times of London last November. “Because for me, it really is.”
But when the state of mind is a compulsory need to project an image of perfection, of success, of owning the market, and the reality is a much darker, the disparity creates an unmistakable strain. Eventually, even the biggest and brightest will break.