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Struggling Newsweek joins with fledgling Web site Daily Beast

AT THE HELM: Tina Brown, who has run the New Yorker and Vanity Fair, will lead the venture to bolster Newsweek, which had operating losses of $28.1 million in 2009, using the two-year-old site.
AT THE HELM: Tina Brown, who has run the New Yorker and Vanity Fair, will lead the venture to bolster Newsweek, which had operating losses of $28.1 million in 2009, using the two-year-old site. (Helayne Seidman For The Washington Post)

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By Paul Farhi
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 12, 2010

The Daily Beast Web site and Newsweek magazine will announce Friday that they are teaming in a joint venture aimed at giving the ailing newsmagazine some new-media energy and the fledgling Web site a modicum of old-media credibility.

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The combined entity, to be called the Newsweek Daily Beast Co., will be under the editorial direction of the Daily Beast's editor, Tina Brown, who was the top editor at Vanity Fair, the New Yorker and the defunct Talk magazine; she is also a former columnist for The Washington Post's Style section.

Under the new structure, Newsweek will remain a printed weekly magazine, but its Web operations will be incorporated into the Daily Beast's Web site, according to the announcement.

The Daily Beast -- which takes its name from British novelist Evelyn Waugh's satire of British newspapers, "Scoop" -- is a two-year-old news and commentary Web site. It is owned by IAC Corp., the Internet conglomerate headed by Barry Diller that owns dozens of Web sites, including CollegeHumor.com, the search engine Ask.com and the popular dating site Match.com.

For years, Newsweek, like other venerable newsmagazines, has been losing advertising support as well as circulation, which in 2008 dipped below 3 million. Audio-components mogul Sidney Harman bought the publication from The Washington Post Co. in August for a symbolic $1, plus the assumption of about $47 million in liabilities. Newsweek had operating losses of $28.1 million in 2009.

Harman, who turned 92 in August, will own 50 percent of the Beast-Newsweek venture and be its executive chairman; IAC will own the other half, with Diller serving as a board member. (Diller is also a director of The Washington Post Co., which is not involved in the new partnership.)

In a statement, Harman said, "In an admittedly challenging time, this merger provides the ideal combination of established journalism authority and bright, bristling website savvy."

It was unclear Thursday how the combined staffs would be organized under the new partnership, which was expected to be based in New York. But in a release announcing the deal, Brown said: "I see Newsweek and the Beast as a marriage between Newsweek's journalistic depth and the vibrant versatility the Daily Beast has realized on the web. The metabolism of the Daily Beast will help power the resurgence of Newsweek and Newsweek amplifies the range of talent and audience the Daily Beast can reach."

Newsweek was founded in the depths of the Depression in 1933 and The Post Co. bought it in 1961.

Many of the newsmagazine's stars have decamped for other jobs as the sale to Harman moved forward. Editor Jon Meacham, who last year tried to turn Newsweek into a general-news-and-commentary journal similar to the Economist magazine, left in August amid the ownership change. Columnist Fareed Zakaria now works for Time magazine; veteran Washington editor Evan Thomas has gone on to teach at Princeton; and Washington reporter Michael Isikoff has joined NBC News.

Newsweek's Web site had 3.9 million unique visitors in September, according to industry tracker Compete.com. The Daily Beast said it had almost 5 million unique monthly visitors, although Compete estimated its total at 1.55 million in September. By comparison, washingtonpost.com had 7.2 million such visitors in September, Compete said.

News of a possible merger has circulated for weeks. The New York Observer first reported Thursday evening that a deal was imminent, and the company confirmed it several hours later.


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