Tina Brown returns to print, buying 'Newsweek'

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The Independent Online

Newsweek, the heavyweight current affairs magazine launched between the world wars, has been snapped up by The Daily Beast, the feisty website with no demonstrated ability to make money, created two years ago by Tina Brown.

The odd-couple marriage had been discussed but pre-nuptial talks broke down in October between Ms Brown, her backer Barry Diller of IAC/InterActiveCorp, and Sidney Harman, the stereo magnate, who bought Newsweek for $1 (62p) from The Washington Post this summer.

But the final deal to merge the two titles was resurrected on Tuesday evening and settled "with a coffee-mug toast between all parties", according to Ms Brown, at Mr Diller's glossy IAC headquarters in Manhattan. Thus, with a bold and unusual union of old and new media, The Newsweek Daily Beast Company will be born.

Ms Brown, 57, who arrived in New York with her editor-legend husband Harry Evans more than 25 years ago, has edited titles including The New Yorker, Vanity Fair and her own (long-lamented) Talk. Now she has an unexpected opportunity to return to the world of print. She confirmed that while Newsweek and The Daily Beast will continue to be distinct products, she will be the editor-in-chief of both.

Mr Harman, 92, will surely also welcome the buzz that Ms Brown should bring to Newsweek. Once regarded as a publication so influential it set the national agenda, it is today a shadow of its former self. Since changing hands from The Washington Post to Mr Harman it has lost much of its writing talent.

As writers and editors have been rushing to the exits at Newsweek, Ms Brown, by contrast, has been busy luring writers away from the print competition to join the Beast which, since its inception, has shifted from a news aggregator site to one with mostly original writing and reporting. Most recently, the long-time media critic at The Washington Post, Howard Kurtz, defected to her camp.

Some will still question the financial benefits of the merger. According to the Wall Street Journal, Newsweek was on course to lose $20m this year and projections for The Daily Beast suggested an annual loss of about $10m.