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Having just completed the sale of the Newsweek brand to the International Business Times, Barry Diller‘s IAC and Daily Beast editor-in-chief Tina Brown, who oversaw the newsweekly for the company, face another looming crossroads: Brown’s contract is up in January 2014, and it’s unclear whether she’ll continue in the Daily Beast’s top job, a position she has held since founding the site in 2008.
Spokespeople for IAC and the Daily Beast declined to comment on Brown’s future or the status of any contract renewal talks.
Before the sale, Diller called the Newsweek deal “a mistake” and made no secret of his desire to shed the money-losing weekly. But he has not yet signaled a drop in his support for the Daily Beast, which was reported to be 18 months from profitability before the merger scuttled those projections.
For her part, Brown is said to be committed to the Daily Beast.
Traffic on the site is on the uptick. Unique visitors have increased to 16.6 million a month, and the six-month running average is up 28 percent on a year-over-year basis.
In addition, ad growth is up 22.5 percent versus last year. A site refresh is also scheduled to be rolled out in mid-September.
Still, it’s unclear if the rosier numbers mean either or both sides will want to continue the partnership. Diller may run out of patience with continuing to lose money, and Brown might want to move on from a job that, while not a failure, has certainly diminished her stature as one of the great magazine editors of her generation.
Expect one of three things to happen in early 2014: Diller could cut his losses and shutter the entire operation; he could find a new editor-in-chief in the hopes that change of leadership moves the site to profitably faster; or he and Brown could agree on a new contract and continue their partnership.
Option one seems unlikely, given that the Beast’s improved performance suggests profitability is an obtainable goal. But whether Brown stays or goes seems undecided.
Either way, expect chatter about Brown and the Daily Beast to dominate media watchers’ attention in the new year.
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