Seattle’s digerati turned out in full force at The Bagley and Virginia Wright Gallery Sunday night to hobnob with Tina Brown, the legendary former editor of Vanity Fair and The New Yorker. Brown was in town to promote her latest and, perhaps, most ambitious media experiment to date: merging an old-media brand (Newsweek) with a young digital upstart (The Daily Beast).
Since Brown took over, Newsweek’s newsstand sales have risen 30 percent and subscription renewals are up more than five percent. Meanwhile, The Newsweek Daily Beast Company — as the new entity is called — now boasts more than seven million monthly visitors.
In 2008, Brown started The Daily Beast in partnership with Internet and entertainment mogul Barry Diller, competing against her good friend Arianna Huffington of The Huffington Post. Now, with Newsweek in the mix, Brown has the interesting challenge of trying to move between the worlds of print and digital.
So far, she said that’s working pretty well.
Brown told the Seattle crowd that she’s “having a lot of fun” at the combined entity, describing the “exciting and wild ride” of her first few weeks on the job. “We took over Newsweek just at this time when the whole news cycle went completely insane,” said Brown, noting the revolutions in the Mideast, the killing of Osama Bin Laden, a nuclear meltdown in Japan and a royal wedding.
The news organization’s coverage of Bin Laden — in which Newsweek produced a special issue in 36 hours — was a sign of how the digital and print worlds can work together. Brown explained the powerful combination of having top-notch online and print reporters (who, unlike some news organizations, get paid for their work) cranking out high-quality stories on their beats. Together, she said the organizations can be much more nimble, creating an “organic energy” between the two.
After meetings with advertisers today, Brown and Newsweek Daily Beast CEO Stephen Colvin plan to dine at the home of Starbucks chairman Howard Schultz. Attendees at Sunday night’s cocktail party — hosted by JJ McKay — included Wetpaint CEO Ben Elowitz; Ignition Partners’ Jonathan Roberts and Cameron Myhrvold; The Seattle Times executive editor David Boardman; artist Dale Chihuly; chef Kathy Casey; Zino Society’s Cathi Hatch; and former Microsoft executive Charles Simonyi.
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[Photos via Thor Radford].