'The Daily Beast' Lays Off Two Dozen Staffers

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Barry Diller

Last week's carnage reportedly leaves Barry Diller's online publication with roughly 65 employees, about what it launched with in 2008.

The Daily Beast let go of two dozen writers and editors last week, insiders said on Tuesday, reportedly leaving the embattled website with roughly 65 staffers, about what it launched with five years ago.

Most of those laid off were in New York, though some were also in Washington, while in Los Angeles, all but one employee, senior writer Andrew Romano, was let go (senior writer Allison Samuels was offered the opportunity to relocate to New York but declined; she will remain a contributing editor to The Daily Beast). The last day for those laid off was Friday, insiders said, and by Tuesday their Daily Beast e-mail accounts had already gone inactive.

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The Daily Beast, which recently reversed an ill-fated merger with Newsweek magazine, is owned by Barry Diller’s IAC/InterActiveCorp. The Daily Beast and IAC declined to comment on Tuesday.

While The Daily Beast website is attracting traffic -- executive editor John Avlon recently boasted of a 36 percent year-over-year gain -- the asset has been a drag on earnings for IAC, which doesn’t break out Daily Beast's financials specifically but said that its media division posted an operating loss of $44.8 million in 2012.

Much of the unit’s loss can be attributed to the acquisition of Newsweek in 2010, and then its full acquisition last year, a move that Diller ultimately acknowledged was a “mistake.” IAC last month closed a previously announced sale of Newsweek to International Business Times Media, which will continue to run it as a digital-only product. The first issue under IBT’s ownership proclaimed in a cover story that “Iran’s nuclear capabilities may be greatly exaggerated.”

Daily Beast Editor and founder Tina Brown, one of the best-known magazine personalities in the industry, having also edited the New Yorker and Vanity Fair, announced last month she’ll leave when her contract expires in January. Brown said she will create a venture called Tina Brown Live Media that will stage events like "Women in the World," a conference she launched as The Daily Beast editor.

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After Brown’s departure was announced, a memo from Diller to staffers left room for doubt about The Daily Beast's future and caused widespread concern throughout the organization. “I can’t make promises for the future,” Diller said. “I’m hopeful we can continue to publish the Beast with as much energy, verve and moment as Tina has given us. What I can promise is that we will come to a conclusion by the first week in October.”

Just a few days later, Rhona Murphy, the interim CEO of The Daily Beast, issued her own memo, seeking to calm staffers and potential advertisers although even it was somewhat ominous. "The Daily Beast is not for sale and is not closing," Murphy wrote. "IAC has approved in concept the operating budget for 2014." She gave no assurances that IAC support would continue past that date.

Email: Paul.Bond@THR.com