Let the media postmortems and second-guessing begin, now that star editor Tina Brown has accepted that the idea of merging her Daily Beast web enterprise with the Newsweek print dinosaur was not a good idea. The International Business Times, a publisher of online business news, announced on Saturday that it purchased Newsweek from Barry Diller's IAC, just a year after the magazine stopped printing and went fully digital. The transaction puts to an end the experiment following the purchase of the magazine from the Washington Post Co. by audio equipment billionaire Sidney Harman (who died in 2011) and subsequent merger with Brown's Daily Beast.
Monday's New York Times bleak case study on trying to merge a print weekly with a digital news site shows that Diller and Brown never really had a plan in the first place. While ad sales declined, Brown spent more and more money sending writers to Paris to find Anna Wintour and ordering 82 cover mock ups for one issue. She insists Newsweek did "great journalism," while Diller called her idea to revamp the magazine into a more webby enterprise "stupid."
Brown's optimism is coupled with stringent belief that she has her finger on the pulse of pop culture. This graf in the Times article got a chuckle from the Internet:
One employee said that Ms. Brown ordered up a Newsweek feature on Breaking Bad well after an article on the show had appeared in The Beast. Ms. Brown does not accept the idea that she did not have her finger on the popular pulse. “I was the first person to do anything on Breaking Bad. Nobody knew what Breaking Bad was around here at all,” she said. “We were the first to write about Borgen; I have been watching it for a year,” referring to the Danish political series.
Many on Twitter were eager to point out Brown's break with reality.
Breaking Bad had been nominated for 16 Emmys and won five before Newsweek put it on the cover. But Tina Brown discovered it.— Mike Riggs (@MikeRiggs) August 5, 2013
“I was the first person to combine hydrogen and oxygen molecules. Nobody knew what water was around here at all." - Tina Brown— Dave Itzkoff (@ditzkoff) August 5, 2013
But the main takeaway from the Times article is that Newsweek's failing wasn't, in Brown's mind, Brown's fault. She says that she just need "five more years" to make it work, and that “it doesn’t matter how talented you are right now. You used to be judged by your performance, but now it doesn’t matter what you do. It's quite a business." BuzzFeed reporter (and former Newsweek/Daily Beast reporter) McKay Coppins tweeted, "it's amazing how little responsibility Tina Brown takes for Newsweek's demise." Politico reporter Dylan Byers compared Brown to her contemporaries:
Beating dead horse, but Rick Stengel doing fine with TIME and D. Remnick doing fine with New Yorker; Tina's "zeitgeist" talk is abdication.— Dylan Byers (@DylanByers) August 5, 2013
Brown hasn't responded directly to the article or the criticisms against her, but she tweeted this Monday morning:
.@Newsweek adventure over. Bravo to all who worked so hard..next we'll turn around the U.S. Postal Service...— Tina Brown (@TheTinaBeast) August 5, 2013
And now she's in a Twitter fight with Howard Kurtz.