"The Beast is on a roar!" tweeted Tina Brown on Thursday afternoon, reporting the best traffic month ever for her website and a welcome victory for her recently gutted editorial team. The exclamation-laden tweet comes less than two weeks after WWD's John Koblin wondered whether Brown had "lost her fastball" in a pretty dire-sounding update on the nine-month-old marriage of Newsweek and The Daily Beast. The Tina Brown fastball, Koblin says, has to do with "her gut, her knack at spotting the zeitgeist." Others have criticized Brown for going a little overboard with attention-grabbing topics. (Remember that creepy zombie Princess Diana cover?) Well, traffic is traffic, and believe it or not, the company tells us the latest Newsweek cover story on "The Sex Addiction Epidemic" helped power The Daily Beast's surge.
As Tina tweeted, The Daily Beast saw their best month ever in November with 10.7 million unique visitors according to internal figures tracked by Omniture, an increase of nearly 80 percent over last year's traffic and an increase of about a million uniques over October. A company spokesman also told us that the magazine's advertising pages were up 59 percent over last year. Web traffic watchers know that the various services can vary widely, as is the case with The Daily Beast. For instance, the site Quantcast shows The Daily Beast having reached a traffic peak around May of this year, and while traffic is up in November, it's not a record. The advertising industry standard is comScore, but The Daily Beast didn't share those numbers with us. Nevertheless, the company credits the boost not only to the sex addiction story -- 2,000 Likes on Facebook! -- but the site's reporting on the Penn State and Syracuse scandals. The takeaway: sex sells, even when it's addictive or horrifying. But the commentary about politics and economics, an area Tina said she hoped to emphasize when taking over Newsweek earlier this year, is doing well, too.
"The Daily Beast's traffic surge comes from stories across the spectrum of topics we cover -- politics, society, international," the Daily Beast's new executive editor Jane Spencer told The Atlantic Wire. "Our most read stories in November included Buzz Bissinger’s scathing critique of Joe Paterno, Niall Ferguson’s Newsweek column on how the U.S. can avoid imminent collapse, our breaking news coverage of the GOP debates anchored by Howie Kurtz, and Chris Lee’s riveting cover story on the sex addiction epidemic."
Inevitably, one has to read The Daily Beast's good news in the context of its recent staff shakeup. Two weeks ago, the company fired publisher Ray Chelstowski; managing editor Tom Weber and Tina's longtime lieutenant Edward Felsenthal followed him out the door, both having resigned. It was only four days later that Koblin published unsettling story that seemed to suggest a chaotic environment at Newsweek and The Daily Beast. Koblin said the people working under Tina Brown as "a little broken" and quoted one unnamed staffer saying "It can be a miserable place to work." Not everyone appreciated Koblin's tone, and Newsweek International editor Tunku Varadarajan tweeted that, "He ignored everything that contradicted his 'thesis'."
It's remarkable to imagine champagne corks popping at The Daily Beast just two weeks later. We have not confirmed that they are actually drinking champagne in the company's Frank Gehry-designed headquarters in Chelsea, but they should. Breaking records is good news!