The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Tina Brown’s Mysterious Career: How Much Is That Zeitgeist in the Window?

Posted on | January 2, 2013 | 48 Comments

Cheap easy-to-use digital self-publishing software has made many things obsolete, including overpaid magazine editors who once allegedly had an inerrant instinct for finding The Next New Thing:

Audaciously drawing grand (and almost completely unsupportable) conclusions from small things. Carnival barking in print form. Everything’s the Most Important, the Latest, the Best. News You Can Use; Is Your Hair-Dryer Giving You Brain Cancer? Tune in next paragraph to find out. . . .
I guess it turned out that Tina Brown didn’t have a skill so much as she had an inclination, and it turned out many thousands of other people had the same inclination, and the same level of skill. Her One Great Big Trick — making splashy but daffy claims about What It All Means — turned out to be a pretty small trick, easily duplicated.

That’s from Ace of Spades, who’s probably getting tired of me grabbing his good ideas and then yammering on forever like I’ve made some kind of glorious discovery, seeing as how this is the second time today I’ve run that predictable play. But if you run off-tackle left on first down and gain six yards, what the hell? Run off-tackle left on second down, and keep running it as long as you’re still gaining good yardage.

Stick with what works, and force the defense to adjust, then hit them with something new — a play-action pass that starts out looking like off-tackle left — to take advantage of their adjustment. Otherwise . . . off-tackle left.

The meta-analytic point I’m trying to make is that nothing is so fresh and original that it can’t grow stale, or be replaced by imitations. If you are no longer having success producing the same thing you were producing 10 or 15 years ago, consider the possibility that you have failed to adjust efficiently to changes in the market.

So, back to Tina Brown: Was she ever really all that? Or was it the case that Tina Brown developed an exaggerated prestige as a magazine editor based on misperceptions that she deliberately exploited in order to enhance her image as Queen of the Zeitgeist?

What is Tina Brown’s great skill? I would argue that it is her ability to persuade rich people to lose money. Lots and lots of money. More than two years ago, when the “Newsbeast” merger was announced, I pointed out this trait and made a prediction:

Looking through the history of Ms. Brown’s career Tatler, Vanity Fair, New Yorker, Talk . . . .
The investors can expect to lose a crapload of cash in the process. The New Yorker reportedly lost $42 million in three years (1995-97) under Ms. Brown’s editorship. Talk lost an impressive $80 million during its two-year existence. Whatever else you might say about Tina Brown, she’s undeniably brilliant at convincing investors to lose money on her projects.

How many people can run a business that loses $42 million in three years, then convince someone to back them on a new project that loses $80 million in two years? And if you’ve got that kind of money to throw around — “Here, Tina, go lose us $20 million a year” — you can buy yourself an awful lot of prestige, e.g., two tables at the White House Correspondents Dinner and an after-party to die for.

With $20 million a year to throw away on a Web site, one of the things you can do with that money is hire a roomful of publicists to promote the idea that you’re an innovative genius.

Maybe, once upon a time, Tina Brown really did have something fresh and original, but her reputation as the magazine “It Girl” was always a very expensive product, one she purchased with other people’s money.

Nice work, if you can get it. But there are lots of smart people who lack Tina Brown’s knack for talking rich people out of their money, and it’s a crying shame they can’t afford a roomful of publicists to promote their reputations as innovative geniuses.

That’s why I promote Ace of Spades for free. It’s the least I can do, considering how much of his stuff I steal every day.

If Blogging Were Astrophysics,
He’d Be as Famous as Stephen Hawking

UPDATE: Brace yourselves for emetic news:

Andrew Sullivan raises over $100,000
for ad-free blog in first six hours

Shortly after announcing that he would be leaving The Daily Beast and moving to a purely subscription-based business model, blogger Andrew Sullivan says he has seen “amazing” results. “We’re well into the six figures,” he tells TechCrunch. Sullivan estimates that in the roughly half-day since he made his announcement, about a third of the people who paid for a subscription to The Dish have given more than the $19.99 per year minimum

I’d stick my head in the oven, but our oven is electric . . .


UPDATE II: Let any independent conservative blogger try to answer this question: “What the hell is it with liberals and the ‘more money than sense’ factor?”

Sullivan said he wasn’t sure how many subscribers at a base rate of $19.99 a year he would need to make the enterprise work long-term; the blog not only consists of him, but seven staffers. (Reuters’ Felix Salmon estimates that he’ll need to earn $750,000 a year to keep the operation running.)
“To tell you the truth I’m not entirely sure, because the price point has more or less been blown through by about a third of our subscribers. About a third of them are paying more than we asked for,” he said, adding that the largest individual subscription thus far was for $10,000.

TEN THOUSAND DOLLARS? A blog with a staff of seven? Hot Air went for years with a staff of three.

If any right-wing billionaires want to know why liberals dominate the media, I’d be willing to explain it to them for, say, $8 million or so.



48 Responses to “Tina Brown’s Mysterious Career: How Much Is That Zeitgeist in the Window?”

  1. instapundit
    January 2nd, 2013 @ 9:33 pm

    RT @smitty_one_each: TOM Tina Brown’s Mysterious Career: How Much Is That <em>Zeitgeist</em> in the Window?

  2. KingShamus
    January 2nd, 2013 @ 9:42 pm

    RT @smitty_one_each: TOM Tina Brown’s Mysterious Career: How Much Is That <em>Zeitgeist</em> in the Window?

  3. JeffS
    January 2nd, 2013 @ 10:27 pm

    If they’re going to throw money away, why not from the back of an airplane at 5,000 feet? They could recording the resulting frenzy for a new reality show, and make a real profit.

  4. JeffS
    January 2nd, 2013 @ 10:56 pm

    A hundred grand? Expect another extend vacation by Sully in the near future.

  5. Taxpayer1234
    January 2nd, 2013 @ 11:26 pm

    Sounds like Sullivan’s PR machine is going full bore. Bet the reality isn’t nearly as pretty.

  6. AnonymousDrivel
    January 2nd, 2013 @ 11:41 pm

    I simply don’t believe the numbers from That Which Would Stalk Sarah Palin’s Vagina. Four thousand+ subscribers in six hours? In this economy? In ANY economy?

    Sounds like hype-marketing spin to me.

  7. McGehee
    January 2nd, 2013 @ 11:55 pm

    Queen of the Zeitgeist

    She may very well be. It’s just that the zeitgeist isn’t “all that” either.

  8. McGehee
    January 2nd, 2013 @ 11:57 pm

    I’m going to start a business as a money disposal contractor catering to rich proggtards.

    Let me take all that filthy lucre off your hands! I’ll write you a receipt for any cause you want it given to! Go ahead and claim it on your taxes!

  9. Jimmie
    January 2nd, 2013 @ 11:58 pm

    Had a much longer comment, full of invective, here. Deleted it. What’s the freaking point? Conservative new media is, by and large, a ghetto, dominated by a few well-connected media companies and the rare blogger who hustles his ass off to barely eke out a living.

    That’s why I’ve shifted my gears in 2013. Screw the conservative movement until it can get up off of some of that cash. I’ve gone mercenary.

  10. Becca Lower
    January 3rd, 2013 @ 12:06 am

    it appears that somebody told him.

  11. M. Thompson
    January 3rd, 2013 @ 12:53 am

    My god.

    It just shows how wrong we’ve been for a few years. It’s time for a long march through the news rooms.

  12. Proof
    January 3rd, 2013 @ 1:17 am

    Staff of seven: Three to do the research, three to do the writing, one to throw under the bus when the first six get it wrong.

  13. Adjoran
    January 3rd, 2013 @ 1:19 am

    Tina Brown is the Chauncey Gardiner in Jerzy Kosi?ski book & movie Being There, and everyone else is the Rands and the corporate directors and others who believe his every pronouncement some deep observation – because everyone else they know seems to believe that, too. The only difference is Chauncey never pretended to be anything beyond his own simple self.

    I also doubt seriously that Sully is attracting subscribers @ almost 1000/hour for $20+, and if he did he has skimmed his base already.

    But it is entirely possible his fetid mind considers $1000.00 to be “six figures.”

  14. Adjoran
    January 3rd, 2013 @ 1:23 am

    At least one is probably his “husband” who probably just collects a check. The researchers are probably part-timers who work from home or Starbucks.

    I’m guessing that at least a couple of the others are just voices Andrew hears.

    And he even saves on the obligatory balding sidekick (Ed Morrissey, Ed Driscoll, Smitty) since he can play that role himself when he’s not playing Expert on Human Gestation. He don’t know nuttin’ ’bout birfin’ no baby, nohow.

  15. Adjoran
    January 3rd, 2013 @ 1:25 am

    If it’s about Sully, put the invective back. He picked on a little special needs baby. He deserves anything anyone could possibly say about him – as well as a good old fashioned butt-kicking.

  16. Adjoran
    January 3rd, 2013 @ 1:26 am

    Too late, Brett Kimberlin already had that idea.

  17. K-Bob
    January 3rd, 2013 @ 2:09 am

    This Mr. ahh, “Spades” is it?… I dare say he must be a grand fellow. I do so hope he is Republican.

    Can I bother someone to pass the chutney?

  18. K-Bob
    January 3rd, 2013 @ 2:11 am

    …except that he wants to have be punished with Baracks’s baby

  19. K-Bob
    January 3rd, 2013 @ 2:15 am

    I’ve decided to bypass the parties for 2016. I’m voting West, unless he dies first, or I do. Like doing “prep,” that task is done, baby. All I need to do is convince 62 million of you to do the same thing.

    Just ignore the parties. We can form a third party after we win.

  20. K-Bob
    January 3rd, 2013 @ 2:17 am

    If Stacy added a “Tranny Hookers” tag, he could snag that many people in a few hours, too. We have people of quality following this site.

    I say, do you have any Gray Poupon?

  21. K-Bob
    January 3rd, 2013 @ 2:17 am


  22. K-Bob
    January 3rd, 2013 @ 2:26 am

    I suspect he pays for that kind of service. We need something worse. Like sarcasm.

  23. jwallin
    January 3rd, 2013 @ 2:35 am

    They lost money ON PAPER. (ask Hollywood how that works; they’ve got billion dollar franchises that supposedly have never made a dime) Plus maybe they wanted to “lose” that money for some strategic/tactical reason.

    As for Sullivan; it’s well known that for whatever reason, gays have a lot of money to toss around so I’m not surprised that some devotee’ decided to “gift” “glutes” Sullivan with 10 large.

    Maybe his actually political reach will now be truncated due to the niche market he’ll be operating in. (I know, I don’t spend a lot of time mulling over whatever drivel he’s currently peddling unless some blogger I USUALLY read makes a point of it.)

    Let it all Burn.

    That degenerate, wastrel, perverted gadflys have attained positions of wealth, power and influence only highlights the depths that the Nation has reached.

  24. Evi L. Bloggerlady
    January 3rd, 2013 @ 2:36 am
  25. Evi L. Bloggerlady
    January 3rd, 2013 @ 2:38 am

    Zeitgeist: Is that a German form of vegemite?

  26. Evi L. Bloggerlady
    January 3rd, 2013 @ 2:40 am

    I think it is actually possible. But will the site consistently bring in $750K to $1,000,000+ a year? We will see.

  27. Red47
    January 3rd, 2013 @ 2:40 am

    Brown is NOT to blame for those failures. Look at the dates…before we had Bush43 in the White House. If he had been there to write’s all Bush’s fault.

  28. smitty
    January 3rd, 2013 @ 2:52 am

    @taxpayer1234 Oh, just because two of the six figures are starboard the decimal is no reason to H8.

  29. smitty
    January 3rd, 2013 @ 2:53 am

    That’s really just the dope budget.

  30. Steve Skubinna
    January 3rd, 2013 @ 3:55 am

    The One Big Thing I recall about Tina Brown is that when she took over New Yorker the word “fuck” began apearring in its pages.

    Truly a monumental, epic moment in journalism.

  31. jwallin
    January 3rd, 2013 @ 4:17 am

    I’d . . (wait for it) . . . HIT THAT!!!!

    She’s actually looking attractive for a liberal feminist loon.

    I’d want dick insurance before we “did anything”.

    who knows what’s down there.

  32. Bob Belvedere
    January 3rd, 2013 @ 8:10 am

    If I were a citizen of another country and contemplating moving to The United States, I have no doubt I’d end up saying: ‘On second thought, let’s not go to Camelot. It is a silly place’.

  33. WJJ Hoge
    January 3rd, 2013 @ 9:24 am

    A fool and his money are soon parted. That may explain the differences among the folks who read certain blogs and the amounts in those blogs’ tip jars.

  34. McGehee
    January 3rd, 2013 @ 9:28 am


  35. McGehee
    January 3rd, 2013 @ 9:31 am

    A fool and his money attract a crowd.

  36. Rob Crawford
    January 3rd, 2013 @ 11:59 am

    And it ignores the possibility that the initial surge is the total demand.

  37. Anon Y. Mous
    January 3rd, 2013 @ 12:00 pm

    I’d stick my head in the oven, but our oven is electric . . .

    Electric won’t work for suffocating yourself, but you could still use it to cook your head. If that helps …

  38. Rob Crawford
    January 3rd, 2013 @ 12:00 pm

    Keep in mind that the photo is ‘shopped.

  39. Quartermaster
    January 3rd, 2013 @ 12:34 pm

    This is the proper location if you seek gratuitous, or otherwise, sarcasm and snark. RSM is a past master.

  40. Quartermaster
    January 3rd, 2013 @ 12:39 pm

    Yeppers. It would still kill him, but he would need to bring a magazine to pass the time.

  41. Steve Skubinna
    January 3rd, 2013 @ 2:17 pm

    Cut, jib, newsletter.

  42. Steve Skubinna
    January 3rd, 2013 @ 2:18 pm

    You could probably figure out how to bypass the door interlock on your microwave.

  43. Paul H. Lemmen
    January 3rd, 2013 @ 3:55 pm

    A euphemism for bull-shit …

  44. richard mcenroe
    January 3rd, 2013 @ 3:57 pm

    Think Google Map photo of the Appalachians on the farthest-out setting.

  45. K-Bob
    January 3rd, 2013 @ 4:50 pm

    Indeed. When my supply of sarcasm and snark is running low, I come here to get re-supplied.

  46. McGehee
    January 3rd, 2013 @ 5:42 pm

    Just not a high capacity magazine!

  47. K-Bob
    January 3rd, 2013 @ 8:39 pm

    If’n you look reeel close like, you just make out uncle Cletus’ still, there in the holler.

  48. » Repetitive motions
    January 3rd, 2013 @ 10:22 pm

    […] Robert Stacy McCain goes meta-analytical on us: [N]othing is so fresh and original that it can’t grow stale, or be replaced by imitations. If you are no longer having success producing the same thing you were producing 10 or 15 years ago, consider the possibility that you have failed to adjust efficiently to changes in the market. […]