Tina Brown says The Daily Beast website is on track to be profitable this year, but Lucia Moses points out that getting the combined NewsBeast into the black by early 2013 — Daily Beast backer Barry Diller insists that’s possible (Moses uses: has said is reasonable) — will be a daunting task. “If that task takes years and Newsweek can’t find a way to regain the relevance weekly newsmagazines have lost since the explosion of news on the Internet, then Diller and Jane Harman, Sidney Harman’s widow, could reach the point where they finally decide to cut bait,” she writes. “The idea that NewsBeast could ever become a successful operation has always seemed far-fetched.” On the bright side, Newsweek’s newsstand sales are up under Tina Brown, “but newsstand sales are only 3 percent of the magazine’s circulation, and they don’t make it much money,” notes Moses. Reed Phillips, managing partner at media investment bank DeSilva+Phillips, tells her:
“I don’t think it’s a quick turnaround. Advertisers are going to take time to get comfortable that Newsweek is on a solid foundation. And the ad market’s jittery already. I think the biggest challenge is, it has to be redefined in a way that has to be engaging with readers. New York magazine did it. With the talent The Daily Beast has, there’s anticipation that that can be done. And it needs more of an edge compared to what it was in the past, before they bought it.”
Brown said last November that it will take “a while” for her to make on Newsweek, and that the print/website combo is “a good model.” She told WWD.com: “You’re seeing this with Bloomberg and BusinessWeek, and Politico and its newspaper, and now you’re going to see the Daily Beast and Newsweek.”
It’s also worth noting that most of the eight posts I presented Moos with were all from the last two weeks. They weren’t carefully scouted out like needles from a haystack to prove a point about Romenesko’s or any other Poynter writer’s attribution habits—they illustrated a systemic, ongoing aggregation practice.
When we finally spoke, Moos told me that she did not know when or exactly why posts at the Romenesko+ blog got so long; she insists it was not a conscious decision. (Choire Sicha’s Awl post on the matter documents the transition well.)
Though she resisted the notion that Poynter has an ‘over-aggregation’ problem and didn’t want to confuse the issue with incomplete attribution (again, the issue she focused on), she noted that, in response to her post yesterday, several individuals had e-mailed her with related concerns about the length of Poynter’s posts.
“It’s something I really need to look at—now that posts are longer, the blog has lost that impressionistic, easy to browse sense of what’s happening today,” Moos told me.
On at least one occasion, Poynter has taken over-aggregation so far that the term no longer applies. See this one, in which an entire 700-word article from CJR is cut and pasted into a Poynter Romenesko+ post. (We don’t know if anything on that scale happened to anyone else, but we sure noticed.)
The consequences of over-aggregation are obvious. There’s no incentive for readers to visit the source site and the aggregator site gets all the traffic. It’s telling that Poynter’s site often hosts discussion and comments about articles that would be better placed on the original site.
Moos assured me that Poynter does not intend to have this effect, and aims to give credit and send traffic. She points out that each day she gets a lot of e-mails from people who want Romenesko+ to link to their site: “clearly people see it as a benefit to be linked by us.”
I have little doubt this was once true, and probably still is, but I believe these changes in Poynter’s aggregation practices have started to erode the benefits of having a link on the Romenesko blog.
Meanwhile, Moos says these lengthier posts have coincided with a period of renewed success for Poynter. After watching its audience of newsroom employees decline in 2009, she said in our interview before Jim Romenesko resigned, that the site has pursued “a deliberate strategy to bring some new audiences” by “bringing new types of content, new sources, new writers, and by giving Jim the kind of break he asked for that he hoped would allow him to do some more original reporting.”
Moos doesn’t know how effective these changes have been, but she says their audience has “grown exponentially” this year, and that she believes social media deserves some of the credit.
Social Media and Linking