Barry Diller (Wired), Tima Brown (Observer.com), Sidney Harman (USC), David Carr (NYT)
As 92-year-old Sidney Harman embraces his new role as a multimedia mogul with the unbound enthusiasm of a startup entrepreneur…
Tina Brown, who will edit both platforms, says she couldn’t be happier, and…
David Carr, the NY Times’ media columnist, finds the whole dance beyond ridiculous.
Let’s start with Diller, whose media ventures — including Daily Beast (which he’s reportedly funding to the tune of $10 million a year) — have until now all been New Media digital. But Diller said a few weeks ago that with or without Newsweek, Daily Beast would eventually have a print edition. He’s quoted in the NY Times:
Advertisers like to have a print representation of what they’re trying to say.
Harman, the nonagenarian electronics magnate who never owned a media company before buying Newsweek one month ago (for $1 and the assumption of $40 million in liabilities), acknowledges that he’s in for quite a ride. Appearing with Brown on media critic Howard Kurtz‘s CNN program “Reliable Sources” on Sunday, he said this about Brown, who he insisted was his only choice for Newsweek editor:
This is an indomitable force. This is the unique talent in journalism, thoroughly established, still gloriously curious, and to use her favorite word, totally animated. That’s an irresistible combination.
Brown, in turn, praised Harman:
In taking over Newsweek he really has done something amazingly courageous because he’s basically stuck his neck out and said, I believe in great journalism and I want to protect it.
And then Monday’s NY Times hit the porch.
Media columnist Carr ridicules the NewsBeast deal in a piece that begins:
Putting together The Daily Beast and Newsweek makes little financial sense, includes not much in the way of editorial synergies — is it The News Beast or The Daily Week? — and marries two properties that have almost nothing in common other than the fact that they both lose lots of money.
Other than that? A great idea. Brilliant, really. And it will be fun to watch.
Carr quotes a former media investment banker, Mark Edmiston:
If you leave Tina out of it for a moment, what is the model? I don’t see how you can take two money-losing businesses and put them together and come up with a single entity that makes money.
While Brown will (as always) be in the driver’s seat day-to-day, Harman said he’ll be very much involved. (Brown, for whom editorial independence has always been sacrosanct, will report to a board, not directly to Harman.)
Diller, meanwhile, told Kurtz by e-mail that he’ll be less involved. “I’ll be the cheerleader I’ve always been with the Beast, and chime in with my usual wayward ideas,” he said.
Newsweek is “a fantastic legendary brand and I have this tremendous weakness for fantastic legendary brands,” Brown told Kurtz, referring to her tenure at Vanity Fair and the New Yorker.
The DNA of that magazine is really a great great one. With the adrenalin and news metabolism of the Daily Beast joining forces with Newsweek’s terrific deep culture of news and quality — it’s a great combination and the two things are going to animate each other.
How difficult will it be to bring the two organizations together and to save Newsweek — which reportedly lost $40 million last year?
“It will be difficult, it will be manageable, it will be done,” Harman said.
Perhaps too difficult, in the view of the NY Times’ Carr, who concludes his column:
Imagine trying to sell packaged advertising: “Not only will you get a great ad position on a fresh, provocative Web site, but we will also sell you a large brand advertisement in a storied weekly that circulates to 1.5 million Americans.” Gee, that sounds like a very unusual animal, one that has the head of a goat and the backside of a cow.
When the merger talks fell apart three weeks ago, staff members at The Daily Beast were relieved and couldn’t help noticing that Ms. Brown seemed “almost giddy that she didn’t end up with this 1,000-pound rock strapped to her back,” according to one staff member who didn’t want to be quoted talking that way about the boss.
Now she has to get the rock off her back and start rolling it up a hill.
Here’s “Reliable Sources” (the NewsBeast segment is up first) —
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