Looks like founding editor Tina Brown‘s time at the Barry Diller-owned The Daily Beast is finished. Diller’s IAC will not be renewing the former New Yorker and Vanity Fair editor’s contract in January, say news reports today. A separation settlement is still being negotiated. Brown is starting a new company called Tina Brown Live Media to facilitate events like the Women In The World conference she started three years ago. Editor-in-chief Brown and Diller started the Daily Beast back in 2008 and merged the news site with Newsweek when IAC purchased the weekly mag in 2010. IAC shuttered Newsweek’s print edition in late 2012 and sold the entity in early August. Buzzfeed reported Brown’s upcoming departure earlier today.
UPDATE 9:25 AM: He’s out at the Daily Beast but CNN has decided not to cut Howard Kurtz loose for his sloppy reporting about NBA player Jason Collins’ coming out. “There has been no status change with Howard Kurtz, he remains the host of Reliable Sources. He will address this issue on the program this weekend,” a CNN spokesperson said today. No word if the Jeff Zucker-run news network will be renewing Kurtz’s contract as the long time host of the Sunday media show when it is up.
1st UPDATE, THURSDAY PM: Howard Kurtz’s job problems today may not be over. I have learned that CNN is reviewing what happened at the Daily Beast and its Reliable Sources host’s sloppy reporting on NBA player Jason Collins. “Some things have been raised this week and CNN wants to review the situation,” a CNN insider tells me about the cable news network’s relationship with its long time Sunday media show host after the Daily Beast dumped him Thursday. No word yet if that means Kurtz is canned at CNN but the fact that such a discussion is occurring can’t be a good sign.
PREVIOUSLY 1:42 PM: Media critic/reporter Howie Kurtz is the host of CNN’s Reliable Sources but he was fired today from his other gig at The Daily Beast for sloppy reporting on pro basketball player Jason Collin’s coming out. “@TheDailyBeast …
Tina Brown, who edits Newsweek and The Daily Beast, announced this morning that the nearly 80-year-old weekly newsmagazine will go all-digital. The December 31 edition will be the last one in print. Its online successor, to be called Newsweek Global, will offer a single, subscription-based international edition designed for e-readers, tablets and the Web and targeted to opinion leaders. Even so, Brown and Newsweek Daily Beast CEO Baba Shetty say that they “anticipate staff reductions and the streamlining of our editorial and business operations both here in the U.S. and internationally.” The execs say that they are “transitioning Newsweek, not saying goodbye to it,” adding that they “remain committed to Newsweek and to the journalism that it represents. This decision is not about the quality of the brand or the journalism—that is as powerful as ever. It is about the challenging economics of print publishing and distribution.”
The news comes from IAC/InterActiveCorp chief Barry Diller in a conference call with analysts to discuss his company’s earnings. Newsweek/Daily Beast is “squarely on our heads,” he said following the recent decision by the family of Sidney Harman to pull back its funding for the joint venture. Diller says that IAC also won’t “contribute to the losses of the business as they’ve been this year…Our investment next year will be considerably less.” Does that mean Diller will scrap the print publication, and just offer news and commentary online? Not clear. “The transition will happen,” Diller says although he adds “I’m not saying it will happen totally.” But either late this year or early next “it’ll be different. I can’t tell you in what ways.” The problem is that advertising in newsweeklies is “entirely elective.” Yet he praised editor Tina Brown’s efforts. “The brand is stronger than when we acquired it,” he says. “There’s been true improvement in the book. Tina Brown and her staff have done a superb job.” Although IAC doesn’t breakout financials for Newsweek/Daily Beast, it said this morning that the inclusion of the property in the Q2 results contributed to higher losses for the Media group. IAC took an $18.6M pre-tax non-cash charge to recognize the declining value of its investment in the property.
It’s up to Barry Diller‘s company to chart a course for the Tina Brown-run print and Internet publication. The family of one-time audio pioneer Sidney Harman decided to pull back from the joint venture with IAC. Harman was actively involved in the operation, but he died in April 2011. As a result, “the Harman trust has indicated that it does not intend to make further capital contributions to the venture,” it told Reuters, which broke the story. Harman’s wife, former California Rep. Jane Harman, will remain on the board. The big question now is how long Diller’s IAC/InterActiveCorp will be willing to stick by Newsweek/Daily Beast. Word has it the board doesn’t like the business, although Diller’s control of 42.8% of the company votes means he usually gets what he wants. The print publication had an operating loss of about $39.5M in 2009; the Washington Post sold it in 2010 to Harman for $1 along with his assumption of liabilities. But its circulation has continued to fall: It was down 31.6% in 2010 and then 3.4% last year to 1.5M. Meanwhile, the ad-supported online publication is estimated to be losing about $10M a year.
This, after talks were abandoned just recently. The new venture will be called the Newsweek Daily Beast. Tonight, Tina Brown, Daily Beast’s co-founder, announced the merger — “some weddings take longer to plan than others” — and will top edit. The Daily Beast is underwritten by Barry Diller’s IAC/InterActiveCorp (who’s been looking to get out from under) while Newsweek was recently purchased by Sidney Harman for $1 (because no one else wanted to keep the print edition going). Both media outlets are money-losing ventures, with Newsweek losing about $20M a year, and the Daily Beast about $10M this year. So now the combined company is a $30M a year loser?
The Wall Street Journal is reporting that talks between The Daily Beast and Newsweek have cratered. The two companies had been discussing a deal to make Tina Brown editor of Newsweek. But details couldn’t be worked out surrounding the division of power between Brown, new Newsweek owner Sidney Harman, and Barry Diller, who’s chairman of Daily Beast owner IAC. Harman recently purchased Newsweek from the Washington Post Co. for the sum of $1.