The Other McCain

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Tina Brown to Newsweek Staff: ‘Don’t Worry, We Can Lose Millions Forever’

Posted on | July 26, 2012 | 13 Comments

Or words to that effect. Tuesday we got the not-surprising news that the merger of Newsweek with Tina Brown’s Daily Beast has failed to stem the multimillion-dollar losses at both operations. Tina Brown has never done anything else but lose vast sums of money — a journalistic career written in red ink, as it were — and I had predicted exactly this result when the “Newsbeast” merger was announced in 2010.

After Tuesday’s announcement that the Harman family was pulling back from its “investment” (Sidney Harman bought Newsweek for $1 in 2010), this required some explanation from Barry Diller, whose IAC conglomerate holds the controlling interest in Tina Brown’s red ink empire. And in a Wednesday conference call, Diller seemed to signal that Newsweek would cease print publication later this year:

Newsweek will eventually transition to an online publication, owner IAC/InterActiveCorp (IACI) said today, marking the beginning of the end for the money-losing magazine’s 79-year run as a print weekly.
IAC Chairman Barry Diller made the announcement during a quarterly conference call, saying the New York-based company aims to curb investments in the business. Newsweek is projected to lose as much as $22 million this year, according to a person with direct knowledge of the matter. Still, Diller stopped short of saying the magazine would undergo a “total” shift online.
“The transition to online from hard print will take place,” Diller said. “We’re examining all of our options.”
A plan for Newsweek will be announced as early as September, Diller said. Newsweek became part of his media holdings in 2011 when it merged with IAC’s Daily Beast Co., an Internet news startup that Diller founded with former Vanity Fair editor Tina Brown. The merger was part of an agreement with the late Sidney Harman, who acquired Newsweek from Washington Post Co. (WPO) for $1 and the assumption of liabilities.

It has been estimated that the Daily Beast was already losing $10 million a year before the merger with Newsweek, a magazine that was carrying $50 million in debt when Harman bought it for a token $1. Jeff Bercovici at Forbes reports:

IAC doesn’t break out the Newsweek/Beast’s fiances, but published reports have consistently pegged its losses at around $30 million last year. . . . While Diller said in December that the losses were moderating, a source with detailed knowledge of the business estimates it is now on course to lose as much as $35 million this year, with Newsweek accounting for more than $20 million of that.

That’s a lot of money to lose on a Web site and a magazine. Nevertheless, when Diller expressed the obvious fact that these staggering losses cannot continue infinitely, it evidently set off a panic among Newsweek staffers, requiring Tina Brown to issue this note to her staff:

Barry Diller would like to make it clear that he did not say on the earnings call as reported that Newsweek is going digital in September.
He made the uncontroversial, industry-wide observation that print is moving in the direction of digital.
Below, in summary, are the points he actually made on the IAC earnings call when he was reporting the tremendous results of the company this quarter.
1. The Newsweek brand is strong, and far stronger than it has been in years.
2. We wouldn’t finance The Daily Beast at anywhere near the level of ‘12.
3. That eventually, over time, digital would replace much of print (hardly a controversial revelation).
4. In September we would be evolving our plan for the year ’13, with many options to choose from.

Lots to chew on in that brief note, e.g.: How is a brand “strong,” in a business sense, when it is synonymous with catastrophic financial losses? More important, however, is the revelation that Diller won’t continue funding Tina’s operation “at anywhere near” its current levels.

What that will likely mean — if you read between the lines — is a hiring freeze, at the very minimum, and the possibility of significant layoffs.

In other words, the gravy-train years at the Daily Beast are coming to an end, Diller’s stockholders can’t continue forever footing the bill for these extravagant expenses, and Tina’s employees will be expected to endure some belt-tightening measures in coming months.

Tina Brown herself, however, will continue to be the privileged publishing diva she has always been, with an amazing knack for convincing people to let her throw away their money.


13 Responses to “Tina Brown to Newsweek Staff: ‘Don’t Worry, We Can Lose Millions Forever’”

  1. JeffS
    July 26th, 2012 @ 9:44 am

    If Newsweek ceases printing operations, the nation will lose a critical source of emergency toilet paper.

  2. What’s a Brand That Loses Money Worth? | hogewash
    July 26th, 2012 @ 10:11 am

    […] a Brand That Loses Money Worth? Posted on 26 July, 2012 by wjjhoge Stacy McCain asks that question about Newsweek now that the Harman family has pulled out of the company and the […]

  3. Cube
    July 26th, 2012 @ 10:44 am

    Better idea to save Newsweek – hire RSM as news director.  Because,
    1. He knows what news is.
    2. He knows how to run a website that ACTUALLY MAKES MONEY.

  4. Evilbloggerlady
    July 26th, 2012 @ 11:22 am

    Have Brown, Frum and Sullivan take a pay cut, for the good of Newsweek.  

  5. TC_LeatherPenguin
    July 26th, 2012 @ 11:43 am

    Nah. The better play would be for someone inside the operation to find out how much Mr. No Labels and St. Andrew of the Heartaching Gobsmack™ are getting paid, and leak it when the first wave of layoffs are announced.

  6. jwallin
    July 26th, 2012 @ 12:51 pm

    I HEAR that a subscription to Newsweek gets one a raffle ticket for 1 blowjob from Ms. Brown.

    Ms Brown goes down!!! Yeah baby.

    She fully demonstrates the PETER PRINCIPLE in all it’s manifestations and meanings.

  7. JeffS
    July 26th, 2012 @ 1:29 pm

     Heck, have the bosses work for free (don’t they want to leave the 1%?), and the staff work on commission based on the net profit of Newsbeast (aren’t they part of the 99%?).

  8. Answer: You won't lose millions on DaTechGuy on DaRadio » Datechguy's Blog
    July 26th, 2012 @ 1:30 pm

    […] then laided out several points to support her statement. Robert Stacy McCain saw these points commenting: How is a brand “strong,” in a business sense, when it is synonymous with catastrophic […]

  9. Mikey NTH
    July 26th, 2012 @ 3:43 pm

    Some employee needs to sneak into Tina’s office and swap her parachute for a knapsack.

    That one never gets old.

  10. Rich Vail
    July 27th, 2012 @ 6:12 am

    Tina Brown is like ALL Liberals, they  think they can spend other people’s money forever and not ever have to face the consequences. It won’t be long now until Newsweek has been tosssed upon the dustheap of history where it belongs.  You can only piss off half of your prospective customers for so long, eventually that shit catches up to you…

  11. Gringao
    July 29th, 2012 @ 6:00 pm

    Nah, it’s too glossy for TP.  Newsweek isn’t even up to snuff as buttwipe.

  12. Gringao
    July 29th, 2012 @ 6:02 pm

    Is second prize two TB BJ’s?

  13. Tina Brown’s Bankrupt Magazine Newsweek Calls Mitt Romney a ‘Wimp’ : The Other McCain
    July 29th, 2012 @ 8:17 pm

    […] Calls Mitt Romney a ‘Wimp’Posted on | July 29, 2012 | 1 CommentNewsweek magazine lost $20 million last year, each weekly issue therefore representing an operating loss of $400,000. Two years ago, Sidney […]