What Can Brown Do For You?

Tina Brown is a magazine brand unto herself. The former editor-in-chief of Tatler and Vanity Fair, Brown’s best known for revolutionizing The New Yorker during her stint in charge from 1992-1998. She then started Talk for Miramax, only for the magazine to fold in early 2002 after burning through millions of Harvey Weinstein’s money.

Now, Brown’s making her mark on the web with The Daily Beast, “a speedy, smart edit of the web from the merciless point of view of what interests the editors.” So, it sounds like a news aggregator – a compilation of the day’s news in one place – even though Brown goes on to say, “The Daily Beast doesn’t aggregate. It sifts, sorts, and curates.” Seems the sort of distinction a former New Yorker editor would make.

There are two aggregators I read on a daily basis – The Huffington Post and Drudge Report. When The Daily Beast was launched, there were the inevitable comparisons, especially between The Beast and Huff Post. The New York Times even ran an article comparing Brown and Arianna Huffington. But there are clear differences between the sites, differences that are explained by the personalities of the proprietors.

For all intents and purposes, The Huffington Post is an immense blog. The New York Times reports Huffington started it as a liberal alternative to Drudge, with constant updates and a partisan bent. The front page is a cluster of bloggers, editors, and contributing writers, with original articles and external links. Huffington gives a home to a vast range of voices that align with her political philosophy.

Tina Brown’s website looks and acts like a magazine. While the “Cheat Sheet” and “Buzz Board” link to other locations, The Beast offers more original content than other aggregators, and gives it more prominent placement.

The entire presentation contributes to the magazine feel. The layout, with its use of images, headlines, and subheads, looks like a magazine should on the web. Articles use magazine design tricks such as pull quotes to continue that feeling.

Like the start-up mags that can afford it, Brown’s also used her network to employ some big names. For example, The Beast got Scott McClellan, President Bush’s former press secretary, to review Oliver Stone’s W, and gave him over 1200 words to do it.

Advertising Age recently reported that more than half of the 20-odd full-time staffers will earn six figures a year. The medium may have changed, but Brown hasn’t.

The Beast also only updates once a day, whereas Huff Post and Drudge change constantly. Without continuous updates, each day of The Beast feels like a separate issue.

While The Huffington Post bills itself as “the Internet newspaper,” The Daily Beast tries to be the must-read Internet magazine. It’s not a one-stop shop for news, but it’s an interesting addition to the day’s web commentary, and one that’s gotten people talking. And on Planet Tina, isn’t that what counts?

– Nate Smith

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