Last night’s TFI25 Gala wasn’t without a bitter sense of irony as Canadian fashion journalists, working in a media landscape irrevocably altered by the Rogers and Bell Medias of the world, came together to celebrate the philanthropy of the Rogers’ princess, Suzanne Rogers.
Just weeks after Bell’s cancellation of Fashion Television, Rogers Digital Media announced the closure of eight properties, including Sweetspot.ca. This despite the fact that Sweetspot was the #1 site for women aged 25-52, pulling in an estimated 125,000 unique visitors and 1.2. million pageviews per month–significantly more than either Flare.com or Louloumagazine.com.
“We acquired these websites over the past several years, and despite solid user and advertiser engagement, we are making the strategic decision to focus our resources on multiplatform integration and growth opportunities for our premium brands,” said Jason Tafler, chief digital officer for Rogers Media, in an e-mail to Rogers employees.
That sounds a lot like corporate speak for “we bought out our brands’ competitors, let them carry on in futile existence just long enough to indoctrinate their readers into the Rogers family, then shut them down in hopes that their traffic would auto-transfer back to our original brands.” A goodbye note on Sweetspot reads, “If you made SweetLife your home for fashion and beauty, we encourage you to visit flare.com and louloumagazine.com for your style fix.” I guess, technically, Rogers can now call Flare.com #1 for women ages 25-52. Funny how that works.
Never mind the slew of young female journalists who just unceremoniously, and without warning, lost their jobs. I was hired to contribute several articles to SweetLife and SweetHome just three days ago– those are now off. Even worse are the talented (mostly) women who contributed to Sweetspot’s success on a full-time basis. Media jobs are scarce these days, full-time jobs even scarcer, and most rare of all– jobs for women.
The American Society of Magazine Editors’ National Magazine Awards had no female nominees this year in the major categories. Not surprising when of the 86 submissions, 59 were written or co-written by men–which means 68.6 percent of submitted stories had a male author. “There was also a big imbalance in subject matter–the number of articles about men outnumbered those with female subjects by nearly a 2:1 ratio,” wrote Lucy Madison in an article for The Awl.
Ironically, Rogers announced an increased commitment to female consumers just weeks ago– clearly a Rick Santorum-like commitment to women that doesn’t include choice or supporting young women in the workplace. The number of unemployed female journalists in this city just shot up big time. The competition for those (most of us) who freelance just got that much more intense. Readers in search of female-orientated content will be herded like sheep to whatever sites Rogers deems most profitable, regardless of their preference for Sweetspot.
But rather than ask tough questions, the industry celebrated the Rogers clan because they agreed to pony up $25,000 to the winner of TFI New Labels, an annual competition for emerging Canadian design talent, in what will amount to a massive publicity coup for Suzanne. On the event’s invite, it was her name splashed in the most gigantic of fonts sans mention of the young designers she’s supporting.
The majority of the evening itself saw much of the accredited media contingent separated via physical barrier (OK, second-class runway) and curtains from the socialites–so far removed that most of us didn’t even hear them announce the winner. I had no idea Sid Neigum had been crowned until a PR girl mentioned it in passing a whole fifteen minutes later. A fellow journalist compared us to “the untouchables” across “the great divide.” Rumour had it one of the city’s most prominent young style and entertainment editors was blacklisted from the festivities because of ‘unflattering’ press. Over the next few days, there’s bound to be more coverage of whatever obscenely-priced frock Suzanne wore than of all the TFI New Labels competitors combined. Stanley Capobianco, who?
While many young women who committed time and effort to Sweetspot and the Rogers Media empire try to make sense of the shock, wonder where their careers will go from here, and stress over next month’s rent, Suzanne still had her shining moment–far removed from most of the industry’s young talent. The events of this week should result in some tough questions for those who control large portions of the Canadian media scene. With the axing of Sweetspot, the outlook for young female journalists and readers just got a lot more sour.
Sabrina Maddeaux is Toronto Standard’s style editor. Follow her on Twitter at @sabrinamaddeaux.