Media Interviews
In their own words

Tina Brown: The Web Audience is 'Vibrant, Growing'
The co-founder and editor of The Daily Beast describes the first year of her Barry Diller-backed news site as a mission to "establish a voice." The second year will bring more multimedia — but no content fees.

By Patrick Phillips
I Want Media, 10/07/09

Tina Brown celebrated the first anniversary of The Daily Beast by having her Web "news curator" publish a Q&A interview with ... herself. (One wonders: Would she have published a self-interview when she was editor of The New Yorker? Maybe it's an Internet thing.)

I Want Media approached the former print media maven more than a week ago about doing an interview to discuss the lessons she learned in her first year as a Web-based publisher — especially one who is backed by IAC boss Barry Diller. After posting her own Q&A, she responded to I Want Media's Q's. Damn, scooped by Tina Brown.

In this interview, the former top editor of Tatler, Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, and the now-defunct Talk chats about Diller, Twitter, The Huffington Post, and old media's "volcanic realignment."

What have you learned in The Daily Beast's first year online?

Tina Brown: I've loved adjusting to and working at the Web's incessant pace. It's easy to iterate online -- to test out new ideas, listen to feedback from the audience, keep what works and reject what doesn't. It is a very nimble process. I've also learned that there was, and still is, a real hunger for smart content aggregation or "curation" as I have come to think of it.

The Daily Beast impresses as an online, interactive redo of Talk magazine. Is that a fair assessment?

Brown: We've been compared to magazines before and I do think there are some similarities given the emphasis we place on photography and imagery. But at core we are a news site, covering and often breaking news 24 hours a day, every day. And there is one major difference: this time my partner is Barry Diller, not Harvey Weinstein.

I don't see many ads on The Daily Beast. How do you plan to make money?

Brown: Early on, Barry challenged us to replace banner ads with a more innovative approach that is as stylish and smart as the rest of site. This means taking a more integrated sponsorship approach to advertising, which has proved much more successful in terms of reader interaction (higher click-through rates, etc) and feedback.

Thus far, we've had advertising from great names such as Ligne Roset, Bottega Veneta, David Yurman, Showtime, British Airways and many more. We realize this is a transitional time for advertising, but as more money is allocated online, we believe leading brands will want to do something more creative. We will be very well positioned.

What's Barry Diller like as a boss?

Brown: Barry is very passionate about The Daily Beast, and very involved in its growth and performance. He makes insightful suggestions about ways to improve the site. Like any backed startup, we are held accountable for numbers, growth and revenue. We all love it when he gives us feedback. That being said, he has let us take this first year to establish the brand and the voice.

I'm pleased to say that at the first year anniversary, we've exceeded all expectations –- both on the business and editorial sides. We closed September at 3.9 million monthly unique readers and 35 million page views, which is up 70 percent and 220 percent, respectively, since our first month.

On the editorial front, we've recently been awarded an Online News Association award for Christopher Buckley's commentary around the election and two OMMA awards for Best News and Best Politics.

Barry and Rupert insist people will pay for online content. What say you?

Brown: At some point in the future perhaps, but nothing this year or next it is safe to say.

How will The Daily Beast's new book imprint benefit the site?

Brown: I have always thought there was a gap between online writing and full-length books that was no longer being fully met by a dwindling market for magazines. Our new venture, Beast Books, will allow us to take ideas that we know have exploded on the site and develop them further. We hope it will become a solid additional revenue stream for the business.

I enjoyed your former CNBC show "Topic A with Tina Brown." Have your considered a Daily Beast online video show?

Brown: This past year we focused on getting the site up and running, establishing a voice, breaking news and really finding our form. In the second year, you can expect more multimedia offerings. Watch this space!

Who do you consider to be The Daily Beast's competition?

Brown: We like to call them "co-opetition." Given the meritocracy of the Web, we are always sharing links to and from other news sites.

The Huffington Post appears to keep growing, launching local editions. Do you see it potentially replacing newspapers?

Brown: No. I still believe strongly that there is a market for print, but we will continue to see interesting hyper-local models evolve. At any level, I believe there needs to continue to be investment in print journalism -- notably investigative units.

Do you still read newspapers in print?

Brown: I love print. I'm married to a newspaper editor, and we still consume a lot of magazines and newspapers. Every morning after I have noodled around with The Daily Beast's headlines and lineup I go out to breakfast at the diner on the corner with Harry and we go through the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Post, the Daily News, the Financial Times, the Washington Post; all of them. I'm still a junkie.

Do you miss working in magazines?

Brown: I'm very happy right now. I love the fast pace, the ability to keep innovating, the sense that there is a vibrant, growing, responsive audience out there. It is a sorry time in magazines, none of the talented people I know who work for them feel it’s a great time right now.

Any Web sites or online services you find interesting?

Brown: I am a peripatetic Web surfer. I spend time on Politico, The Huffington Post, Real Clear Politics, I Want Media (YES!), Mediabistro, Talking Points Memo, The Drudge Report, PopEater, TMZ, BBC,, Arts & Letters Daily. I also love what Yahoo! and AOL are doing as they reinvent their news coverage.

I presume this isn't your Twitter feed: Why aren't you tweeting?

Brown: Twitter is a fantastic news tool. I don't tweet myself but I do use Twitter to follow the real-time reaction to our pieces. We tweet on behalf of The Daily Beast and encourage our writers to.

Is the Internet-led transformation of the media world a good thing?

Brown: It is largely a good thing, but not without its growing pains. I see this very much as a transitional phase we are in. It's painful if you are caught on the wrong side of it, but there is no doubt in my mind that when this volcanic realignment in media has finally shaken out in the next three years we will see a golden age of journalism and video.




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