After a series of on-again, off-again talks, Newsweek is merging with The Daily Beast, the IAC-owned online news site run by Tina Brown. The new joint venture will take the ungainly name of the Newsweek Daily Beast Company. Last August, the Washington Post Company sold Newsweek for $1, plus the assumption of $40 million in debt, to stereo tycoon Sydney Harman.
Now Barry Diller is getting his hands on Newsweek and mashing it together with his high-profile media play, the Daily Beast. It sounds as though the two publications will remain separate for now, with Tina Brown becoming the editor in chief of Newsweek as well. That makes sense. Who wants to read the Daily Beast in print? It is like the TMZ of news.
Combining the two news brands would be a disaster. Just look at what each publication stands for. Newsweek is a storied publication whose tag line is, “What Matters Most.” The Daily Beast’s, meanwhile, is. “Read This Skip That.” Some of the headlines on the Daily Beast right now are: “Mel Forced To Pay Oksana 60K In Child Support,” “Inside The Mind Of A Monster,” and a photo slide show of “Controversial Poses: Naked, Pregnant, And Gorgeous.” Newsweek’s headlines are more along the lines of “In Iraq, a Government At Last.”
The plan seems to be to combine the newsrooms and the ad sales, but keep the properties independent. The magazine will be a place for longer narratives and investigative pieces. The web will be for breaking news. Brown writes:
And for Newsweek, The Daily Beast is a thriving frontline of breaking news and commentary that will raise the profile of the magazine’s bylines and quicken the pace of a great magazine’s revival.
Newsweek is a valuable brand, and Brown is capable editor who once ran the New Yorker. But why make a bet on a dying, debt-laden print magazines now? And online it might make more economic sense to combine the two sites and gain broader reach. (Update: IAC confirms the two sites will likely be combined under the Daily Beast). Comscore estimates that the Daily Beast is pulling in 2.9 million unique visitors a month, while Newsweek.com is attracting 5.4 million. But those are two very different audiences looking for different things.
Also, that name, the Newsweek Daily Beast. It just hurts my eyes.