BuzzFeed’s Peter Lauria, a former Daily Beast employee, scooped Daily Beast editor Tina Brown on Wednesday by announcing her plans to leave the news outlet when her contract expires in January. Upstaging Brown, whose new project is to advance “theatrical journalism” in her Tina Brown Live Media organization, Lauria’s BuzzFeed article cited a “source with direct knowledge” before Brown herself could reveal the news to her staff. Lauria adds, “Brown confirmed her departure in both a meeting with staff and in an email sent to friends and contacts after BuzzFeed broke the news on Wednesday.”
While the Beast posted a 22-percent traffic increase for August of this year, the public has been hearing for months how little money the site, started by Brown in 2008, is generating. The Beast, reportedly, will either be in line for the chopping block or in search of a new editor: “[T]he latter option would require ‘looking at the business to see if it can be turned around.’” Lauria reported.
Aside from the $12 million dollars The Daily Beast was on track to lose this year, other significant factors prefaced Wednesday’s announcement: the failure of the NewsBeast merger and the fact that Brown was already nearing the end of her contract. She said in a press release, “I leave The Daily Beast knowing it has never been better. There is in place a brilliant team of gifted editors and writers who will continue to win prizes, break important news and blaze a Beastly trail.”
On Brown’s resignation, The New York Times writes:
An executive with direct knowledge of the negotiations said her split with Mr. Diller was friendly, and that she had been saying for more than a month that she did not want to continue in such a stressful position into the new year.
Forbes’ Jeff Bercovici notes that Brown now hopes to pursue her developing interest in business operations:
According to several sources familiar with her thinking, Brown was determined that her next role be one where she have more control over business-side operations. Meanwhile, it was becoming apparent to her that the conferences business had more revenue potential than the Daily Beast, with its relatively weak traffic and a tabloidy story mix that made some advertisers uneasy.
“The Daily Beast is not for everybody,” one person at the center of the situation told me recently. “The IBMs and Bank of Americas perceive it as sensationalist. They’re resisting the media spend that’s attached to it more and more. They want to know if they can just do the conferences.”
While the fate of the Beast is officially yet to be decided, that analysis suggest it may not survive Brown’s departure for long.
The Daily Beast’s own report (which, as CJR’s Ryan Chittum notes, emphasizes all possible positive aspects of the news), says that Brown’s spirit will continue at the Beast even after she leaves:
In her remarks to the newsroom, Brown compared her departure to her exit at some other high-profile media companies, and noted that they—Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, Tatler—also had had such strong teams in place that they continued to thrive after she left.
“The Beast roars on,” Avlon told staffers. “This is a time of great transition and sadness, but Tina’s spirit, which has invigorated the Beast, is going to live on whether she is here in the flesh or not.”
Brown said she told Diller this summer that she was leaving the company, saying she wanted to pursue her passion for creating live events that provide insight into the news.
So, what’s next for Brown? “Tina Brown Live Media … will merge Brown’s lifelong commitment to journalistic inquiry with her innate ability to dramatically stage storytelling. Devoted to sponsor-supported summits, salons and flash debates, with special emphasis on expanding the annual Women in the World summit she launched in 2010, the company’s mission will be to bring compelling narratives to life for a global audience,” reads the Daily Beast press release.
For the April 2014 summit, the statement continues, the Beast will remain a media partner.
If you are asking yourself, “What, exactly, is a flash debate?” the Washington Post’s Erik Wemple has an answer:
“It’s bringing a group of people together in a quick time period doing topics of the day. … The upcoming fiscal situation or the upcoming implementation of Obamacare,” says the source. That sounds a lot like cable news to the Erik Wemple Blog. Will these quickie debates be on television, on the Web, on the radio? “I don’t want to characterize what the platform would be,” says the source.
On the Women in the World conference, Wemple adds some snark into the mix:
Brown, said the source, will also walk away from her Daily Beast position with the “Women in the World” franchise, a conference program launched in 2010 by Brown in conjunction with Daily Beast/Newsweek. Of this enterprise, the source says, “It’s been so successful that they’re looking to expand it.”
Just what we journos love to hear about: A thriving conference business coupled with a faltering news outlet.