Branded and bullshit

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Yesterday one of my former colleagues at Fast Forward Weekly noticed that Branded Magazine, a new Calgary publication, had opened voting for their Best of YYC poll and directly mentioned that it wanted to keep Fast Forward’s Best of Calgary™ tradition alive. A couple of snarky tweets were sent and the arguments began.

Most people supported the snark, but some didn’t get the meaning, saying Fast Forward didn’t invent the reader poll and should just go quietly into the night. Fair enough, but they’re missing the point. Myself and the former staff I’ve talked to don’t care about a reader’s poll, or make any claim that it was a unique invention (though the trademark is still protected), we care about the fact that a vapid advertorial rag with no pretense of editorial integrity called Branded is purporting to keep a Fast Forward tradition alive.

This deserves comment.

Fast Forward Weekly was, as former staff writer Jeremy Klaszus so eloquently put it, a pain in the ass. We were at time reckless in our pursuit of stories to the detriment of our bottom line. We weren’t afraid to piss off advertisers for the sake of an opinion, a stance, a review or a news story. For us it was all about the readers and the smart advertisers stuck with us because they recognized our commitment to readers was the reason they bought ads with us in the first place. Others are only interested in the print equivalent of a rub and tug.

And so we have new publications like Branded.

Let’s get one thing clear, I don’t care that Branded is hosting this contest (if only it wouldn’t use the Fast Forward name in vain), or that the magazine exists. If it serves a certain segment of the population and those people enjoy reading it, great. It’s not my thing, and it doesn’t have to be. Best of luck to all involved.

That said, this magazine is about as far from a muck-racking publication as one can get, with features on what the markets are doing, to columns penned by a mortgage broker about housing opportunities and a section on eligible bachelors and bachelorettes. It’s a pile of mush.

I have serious doubts about the integrity of a Best Of poll in a magazine like this, and wonder if the people involved realize the intensity of the process and the controls we put in place to keep the Fast Forward poll honest and reflective of our readers — we scoured the results and eliminated chains, for example. We double checked different spellings of names and locations to ensure that every vote counted. We let anyone who fit the criteria win, even if they didn’t like us, or refused to advertise with us.

Branded is a disheartening representation of a staleness and lack of criticality that has engulfed Calgary and looks like a virus that will spread. There’s nothing of substance, just blind promotion. There’s advertorial rather than insight. It’s just an excuse for ads to have a home free of any uncomfortable statements or disagreements. It’s Calgary’s troubling boosterism wrapped up in a glossy package open to the highest bidder. It’s certainly not keeping any tradition of Fast Forward Weekly alive and they could have at least waited for the corpse to cool before claiming so.

p.s. I voted for Larry Heather in every category, maybe you should too, just to keep the spirit of subversion alive in some form.

13 thoughts on “Branded and bullshit

    • There was definitely fallout. Concord Group, which owns the Nationals, among many other restaurants and pubs, pulled all of their advertising after being with us for almost the entirety of the paper’s existence. Was it worth it? Depends, I suppose. I certainly think that a story about bouncers at a popular inner-city bar allegedly beating someone near death is a worthwhile story. In terms of what it accomplished, unfortunately very little in terms of concrete changes or actions, but one hopes that people are more aware of some of the dangers that could potentially exist with staff that might be overaggressive. At the very least we gave voice to someone that didn’t have one. I think it was worth it, but I know there are others that disagree.


  1. Being one of the folks that replied to the bitter-sounding tweet from FFWD… You’re right, I missed the point… Not because I didn’t know about the trademark, but because I don’t feel there is a fair comparison between the two publications. I picked up a copy of Branded once, and yes, I noticed the bias right away. It’s not journalism, that’s for sure… but it does provide a purpose. There are lots of people in Calgary that will pick up a brainless info-tainment magazine because it’s glossy and expensive-looking and strokable to the touch. This kind of casual reading is designed to bolster the reader’s ego, not their intellect. For this reason, I feel that the comparison of FFWD to Branded is one of apples and oranges.

    The only reason people are having this discussion is because the folks at Branded are trying to ride on the coattails of a publication that doesn’t even serve their target readership… and it blew up in their face. Not because they had malicious intent, but because they are still learning that their expensive-looking Brand is really quite disposable, and it will be years before they have earned the fierce loyalty and quality writers that FFWD did.

    As this public outcry on Twitter has demonstrated, there are plenty of people that respect the hard work and dedication that FFWD was faithfully delivering every week… but this city is also filled with snobbish BMW-driving mofos that will never care about Calgary the way FFWD did. These people need stuff to read and throw away too.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Holy talk about bullshit!!! Fast Forward magazine should be pleased that at least Branded magazine paid homage to FFFW by respectfully mentioning them in their publication Re: Best of Calgary! They certainly didn’t have to! And maybe you should try to go after Avenue Magazine for their Top 10 publications and the Calgary Herald for their Readers Choice Awards while your at it!! There’s no doubt about it, you are distinctly different types of magazines, but those of us who chose to read Branded aren’t morons. All I can conclude by reading this bullshit bashing from past FFWD editors and contributors and the like is big time sour grapes!! Like choking on them! I’m not a writer, no way affiliated with Branded or FFWD. I’m just a hard working self employed Calgarian that will continue to support efforts of any kind aimed to highlight our city, businesses and events. I’m disgusted and ashamed that any of my fellow Calgarians would do the opposite! My God! I hope you’re pleased with your rude selves! GO CALGARY! GO BRANDED. RIP Fast Forward Magazine, too bad you all choked to death. #brandedyyc, #ffwdweekly


    • Thank you for that crap, Elaine. AND in other news.. It looks like the neocolonial, neo-conservative, white-privileged, heteronormative, paradigm of capitalism, meritocracy, and “don’t rock the boat” is expanding it’s hold on on the minds of Canadians through yet another biased garbage-publication. Back to you Reh.


      • Nice! If only a guy had posted something like that you could reply to, you could have added to your triggered outburst of hard-liberal word salad! Here’s some additions for when you respond to me: Bigoted, mysogynistic, ableist, narrow-minded, rednecked……

        Honestly FFWD had a good run, but you guys didn’t play to your strengths. I understand wanting to take a journalistic stand, but your organization would have been well suited to promotion instead of actively biting the hands that fed you. I agree with the “neo-conservative” above you, this kind of outburst just reeks of sour grapes.


  3. I had recently picked up an issue of branded. I got three quarters of the way through before I threw it on the kitchen table with a note to my roommates that said “if anyone sees me reading this bougie shit, I have had a stroke. Please call an ambulance”


  4. Settle down hipsters. Fast Forward is closed. The business model failed. There’s no point crying about it. Had they capitalized on their strengths (reader polls, events, etc.) rather than coming up with articles that pissed off advertisers and most people didn’t read, they’d probably still be in business.
    I’m disappointed that Fast Forward closed and I’m looking for a new paper to pick up. Clearly there’s a void in the marketplace and other magazines, newspapers & websites are going to capitalize on it. They’d be stupid not to mention Fast Forward as they stake a claim for new readers.
    Trying to stay relevant by calling other publications copy cats is pretty pathetic, especially when the business model didn’t work. Nobody is copying Fast Forward, unless they’re going for the same fate.


  5. Nailed it. Shameless promotion and boosterism. One need only look at some of the people and businesses covered in the mag and their relationships with mag staff. James Boettcher and his business interests, for example, are in every issue and he is heavily connected to the mag founder. Can Calgary really expect a fair and open process? The association with FFWD would be offensive if not comical.


  6. Pingback: Sunday Best: Feb. 7, 2016 | The Keay

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