5 questions: Athena Tsavliris of Vitamin Daily

November 1, 2010

One of the lesser-known winning sites at the COPAs on October 20 was Vitamin Daily, which took home awards for Best Online-Only Website and Best Website Design. I asked Vitamin Daily’s Toronto editor, Athena Tsavliris, to tell me more about the site and its readers.

Tell me about your site and its design

I like to think of Vitamin Daily as your fabulous, in-the-know girlfriend – just as comfortable slurping noodles in Chinatown as she is perusing vintage tiaras at a private auction. She’ ll share the details of her address book – the city’s best threader, a couture-trained seamstress, the in-a-pinch dog sitter – and beeline you to the best burgers, bookshops and designer discounts in town. You sign up (it’s free) and get a daily email that recommends things to do in your city. We have offices in Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal (French and English editions) and Calgary. A typical week could include a rising indie label, a family-run pierogi shop, deco-inspired chandeliers, a local letterpress and a cobbler to stretch your Louboutins. The Vitamin Daily writers share a style, but each edition reflects the tastes, personality and lifestyle of its editor. What sets us aside from other similar sites is that our suggestions are heartfelt. We don’t flip press releases or wax lyrical about mascara we’ve never tried. If we’ve eaten/watched/read/heard/done something and loved it, we’ll share it.

The design is clean and simple and feminine. It is easy to navigate (our readers are time pressed and don’t want to futz about searching for things) and clutter-free. We feature our ‘ambassadors’ at the top of our home page. These women were photographed as part of a contest we held over a year ago. They are dancers, teachers, designers, students, doctors – the quintessential Vitamin Daily reader.

What’s your average traffic, and what part of your site is the most popular?

We send out 25,000 newsletters per day. Our most popular page is the Editors’ Diary, where we post pics and coverage from parties, events, festivals and our travels in Canada and abroad. We have some talented bloggers on board who fill these pages with great images and witty reportage. Katherine Holland posted a great blog from this year’s Canadian Online Publishing Awards, where we took home two awards. Our most popular archive is Fashion and Shopping and our Who We Are page gets a lot of hits, which I’m delighted about. We write in the ‘royal we’ so it’s good to know that our readers are interested in the people behind the words.

What feature of your site are you proudest of and why?

I am proudest of the quality of our writing. I can’t write about politics, just as Salutin can’t write about stilettos. We all have our areas of expertise, and here at Vitamin Daily, we work hard to make frivolity fun, intelligent and engaging. You’d be amazed how long it can take to write 80 pithy words on retro bikinis.

What websites and social media tools can’t you live without?

India Knight is one my favourite journalists and her Posterous blog is funny, intelligent and filled with drool-worthy things like Liberty print pillows and rainbow sponge cake. We featured Pia Jane Bijkerk’s book Paris: Made By Hand a couple of years ago, and I’ve been hooked on her beautiful blog ever since. I also really like checking in with local stylist Arren Williams and I can’t resist trolling through the pages of vintage collectibles at Atelier Mayer.

I find Twitter invaluable in terms of generating ideas, connecting with story leads and generally keeping in tune with Toronto. I only follow local feeds because I want to stay focused. This is a city of communities, and Twitter helps us connect. I love that I know what Corey Mintz had for lunch today!

You suddenly have an unlimited budget. What’s the first thing you spend it on?

Birkins! One for each member of our team in her colour and skin of choice. I jest. The Toronto team has grown since the early days of me working away alone in my kitchen. But with bags of cash we would hire more people in the city to further round out our team and drive subscriptions.

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