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Tina Brown Out at Daily Beast; May Signal Internet Shake-Out

Tina Brown tried to bring old-school journalism to the Internet, including a big contract.

Tina Brown tried to bring old-school journalism to the Internet, including a big contract.

Tina Brown who tried to carve out an empire at Barry Diller’s company as Editor-in-Chief of The Daily Beast and, for a time, Newsweek, is the first big-name print media star to fall on the Internet.

Diller’s IAC/InterActiveCorp will not renew Brown’s likely million-dollar-plus contract when it expires in January, according to Ad Age and BuzzFeed.

Her departure could signal the beginning of a major shakeout among high-cost Internet publications that have yet to see ad revenues come close to matching expenses. Meanwhile, smaller independent sites like TheImproper continue to build a presence.

“The key to survival on the Internet is revenue neutrality and organic growth,” said Improper Editor & Publisher Keith Girard. “We’re in this for the long-haul. Our revenue and expenses have to match.

“Sites that have been flying high on venture capital or borrowed money are starting to fall off the table because expenses have become a black hole that revenues don’t come close to filling.”

Brown, best known as editor of Vanity Fair magazine from 1984 to 1992 and The New Yorker from 1992 to 1998, partnered with Diller to found The Daily Beast in 2008, heralding an explosion of new media on the Internet.

Diller bought the storied weekly newsmagazine Newsweek from The Washington Post Co. in the face of falling ad revenue and subscriptions. He combined Newsweek and The Daily Beast into one company and Brown was named editor-in-chief of both.

But the print edition of Newsweek quickly fell by the wayside in the face of a continued erosion of revenue and readers. It’s now only a digital adjunct of The Daily Beast, isolated in a sub-directory without an Internet profile of its own.

Meanwhile, The Daily Beast, never really found its niche, with its scattered coverage of business, politics, entertainment and art. The Web site attracted 5.6 million unique visitors in August, according to Ad Age.

But that’s a weak performance given it’s high Google page rank of 8 out of a possible 10. In contrast, gawker.com had about twice the traffic at 11.4 million visitors with a lower page rank, according to Quantcast, an internet measuring site.

To her credit Brown maintained high journalism standards. She has not engaged in the growing practice of sharp-elbowed gossip sites. They routinely publish “made up” or questionably sourced stories that serve as “link bait” to attract readers and game the all-important Google rankings.

The fate of The Daily Beast is reportedly up in the air, according to reports.

Some speculate that Brown’s departure is a cost-cutting move. Diller has already sold Newsweek to IBT Media. Newsweek Daily Beast Co. Chief Executive Baba Shetty left in June after just nine months, Ad Age reports.

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