In almost no time at all, two websites that have been mainstays on many a bookmark bar will be going dark. On April 4, Television Without Pity and DailyCandy will cease to be, with 67 employees affected and readers left without so much as archival material to enjoy. You’d better start saving those old Melrose Place recaps to Word documents now, because they’re going to be locked away in some Raiders of the Lost Ark-style publicly inaccessible archive to be examined by top men.
It’s a bummer to see old friends go. Anyone who read Television Without Pity with any regularity knows that that site, in its heyday, was the progenitor of modern, social media-fueled television watching. It was right there when the mere existence and proliferation of the Internet made it possible for communities to be formed around television shows. Those communities meant that television wasn’t just for watching – it was for theorizing, analyzing, studying, and, most importantly, mocking.
DailyCandy, on the other hand, was a site after our heart – one of the first and best sites made to cater to the tastes of women. It was also pretty far ahead of its time, in one sense – it nailed down the focus on local deals, attractions, and finds that even today still isn’t always done satisfactorily.
The two websites also appear to not have all that much in common. Well, they have one thing in common – they’re owned by Comcast, either directly or through the many layers of subsidiaries that a behemoth like Comcast has at its disposal.
What we probably have here is a cautionary tale about getting bought out by a big corporation, and why all the big money that comes from a wealthy corporate benefactor doesn’t always help you grow and thrive.
To be fair, it’s not like getting bought out by Comcast was an immediate death knell – Television Without Pity was purchased in 2007, with DailyCandy following suit in 2008. They lasted just about as long post-buyout as they did pre-buyout, and there’s no way to guarantee that either site would have survived as long as they did without Comcast. The decline in traffic might have happened anyway, as old, familiar talent leaves and new writers come in. And, the history of the Internet is awash in stories of websites that failed because they couldn’t adapt to the changing online advertising market. It happens.
But, there’s one pitfall to getting bought out that does merit consideration. When you’re a plucky, independent company, resources might be hard to come by, but the survival of your company, whatever it is you do, is central. All planning is to that end. When you join the collective, that changes. Suddenly, you’re owned by a corporation that doesn’t necessarily need you to survive. And, when a day like April 4 comes, and the parent company decides you’ve outlived your usefulness – well, there’s not much you can do. There’s no scrambling around to try to figure out how to keep the ship afloat, like you might have been able to do as an independent. The guys up top have spoken, and so it must be.
Interestingly, the news was broken by Re/code, the new tech blog created by the founders of AllThingsD when they jumped ship from NewsCorp to, you guessed it, NBCUniversal (and thus, Comcast). A new tech site fronted by well-known names in the industry is, of course, worthy of investment dollars from the mothership. As for our dearly departed, here’s NBCUniversal’s statement:
DailyCandy and Television Without Pity were groundbreaking businesses when they launched more than a decade ago, and the teams there have done great work creating unique voices in the digital space. However, as NBCUniversal continues to evolve, the decision was made that DailyCandy and Television Without Pity are no longer viable businesses for our company. Effective April 4, DailyCandy and Television Without Pity will cease all operations.
How long will Re/code be a ‘viable business?’ Probably for a really long time. But when the guys in charge decide it isn’t anymore, I doubt anyone at Re/code is going to have any more say in the matter than the 67 employees at Television Without Pity and DailyCandy who ‘might be offered jobs at other NBCU properties.’