Rising to the Bait — Sort Of

Zandar is playing with me.

The divine Ms. M is packing up her toys and heading off to Tina Brown’s playpen for the formerly hip.

Zandar wants me to go medieval on somebody — McArdle, Brown, whoever.  But I won’t, because I am going to be busy popping popcorn.  I do not think this marriage will end well.

Why?

You may well ask.

After all, this hire is Brown’s MO.  McArdle is click bait; she carries with her quite a comment community, and eyeballs and buzz are Brown’s crack-cocaine.

And hey! Brown’s got the magic back — or so recent ad page and revenue numbers suggest.  Newsweek ads and cash are up about 27% year over year for the first quarter of 2012.  Page views at the Daily Beast are up too — up to 12.7 monthly uniques from ten-ish when the site merged with Newsweek.

Except…the Daily Beast, which has never made money, and Newsweek which hasn’t for a while, are still deep in a hole.  Brown has denied that the loss stretched to $30 million last year, as reported, saying that losses weren’t that “excessive” — but she has offered no alternate figure.

In that context It’s worth noting that Newsweek’s ad page total for Q1 2012 — 183.26 (sic) — works out to about 15 pages per issue, which, though that’s better than 12 pages/issue of a year earlier, isn’t what you’d call a robust commercial base. At the same time, that growing number of uniques —  not a number to sneeze at, certainly — is still insufficient to make the site profitable.  That should worry optimists, given what people are starting to notice about online advertising in the wake of the Facebook IPO.  Maybe Brown is right in saying that profitability is still visible on the initial five year plan for the merged network…and maybe we’re watching the early stages of a media Webvan.

So, to me, jaundiced as I am, cynical, utterly unmoved by the Bulgari-and-dead body juxtapositions that characterize the Brown style,* I couldn’t be happier to see McArdle move from a strong brand and a company in profit for the first time in decades to an admittedly larger, but much dicier platform.

In fact, I think the move reflects an inflection point.  Brown is supposed to be the queen of the zeitgeist, someone who can match copy, style and audience with a precision no one else can muster.  She spends with glee — and one has to assume that she used cash to lure McArdle from the cozy tent of The Atlantic.  But her Vanity Fair days are long gone, and Talk is a DeLorean of the magazine world — a hole into which money was thrown.  Not to mention — or did I say it? — The Daily Beast has never made money.  It has been a lovely landing place for predictable Brits and the other usual suspects, but somehow, despite the gains of the last two years, I can’t see a publication touting the always-wrong Niall Ferguson and Megan Freaking McArdle as the rising to the level of an elite, must-read site.

Worse — while McArdle does collect the hits and the sputtering indignation of people like me, it strikes me that you get her out of the Atlantic hothouse and she becomes both less consequential and more potentially damaging to the enterprise at large.  Newsweek, perpetually the “wait for me” second-place runner in the newsweekly stakes, still carries with it the whiff of journalism. Every slip of McArdle’s calculator erodes whatever such halo may be left.  Not a good prospect.

Enough — I’ve never run a publication, and I’m pretty sure that my tastes would guarantee circulation in the high single digits, if not more.  Maybe this is a match made in heaven, and I’ll learn again that it’s Tina’s world, and we remain here at her whim — we make good pets, after all.

But for now, I’m just going to sit back and wait for the next great McArdle fiasco.  Good times.

*See, e.g., this quote from a saccharine  New York Times Brown profile way back in 2011:

“There’s a great kind of high-low, newsy, sexy thing that the European newsmagazines have,” Brown said. “They have this great sort of slightly freewheeling pagination, where they go from a great sexy picture of an expensive watch to Libya or something.

Let me hear you say, “Oy.”

Images: William Hogarth, A Rake’s Progress, Marriage, 1732-1735.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Café in Davos1928

 

64 replies
  1. 1
    Yutsano says:

    So does this unleash the TNC to finally rip her a new one for her idiocies? Or am I being unrealistically optimistic again?

  2. 2
    Another Halocene Human says:

    How much is an Atlantic subscription? Are there web-only deals? Want to give TNC some dosh now that I won’t be subsidizing McArdle’s Stuff White People Like kitchen.

    Edit: corrected homonym error my 2nd grade teacher Mr. Utka would have sat me down and made me write out the rule for 8 times with proper penmanship. Sorry, prof.

  3. 3
    trollhattan says:

    Oy.

    Also, too, thanks for reminding me I miss Webvan.

    As I noted at Zandar’s bait station below, my “fear” is the Tina influence will get McGargle on more media, which is bad for the nation, bad for the planet. She’ll never not have a “job.”

  4. 4
    Terry says:

    Oy.

  5. 5
    Forum Transmitted Disease says:

    You read Newsweek when you’re in the dentist/doctor/mechanic’s office. They were never relevant, but now they are far more irrelevant than ever.

    I don’t think this will matter one whit to Newsweek one way or the other; they’re a few years out from bankrupt and gone no matter what.

  6. 6
    hitchhiker says:

    Libya or something.

    Yeah. That’s just the kind of bossing that young Ms. Mcardle needs.

  7. 7
    Tom Levenson says:

    @Yutsano: More up Fallows’ alley, I think. And I have my hopes.

  8. 8
    Carnacki says:

    Your reasoning is sound. The Atlantic still carries a certain cachet which gave McArdle a bit of credibility to hide behind so it’ll be easier for others to notice and point out that McCardle is not wearing invisible clothes spun from the finest gossamer, but is indeed naked. My apologies for that mental image.

  9. 9
    Odie Hugh Manatee says:

    Blenderella + Newsweak = Better Atlantic

  10. 10
    different-church-lady says:

    Hey, at least she’s no longer a melanoma blotting the skin of a respected 150 year old literary institution. Celebrate, is what I say.

  11. 11
    Odie Hugh Manatee says:

    Zandar wants me to go medieval on somebody—McArdle, Brown, whoever. But I won’t, because I am going to be busy popping popcorn. I do not think this marriage will end well.

    Fix’t.

  12. 12
    David Koch says:

    Tina Brown can not fail, she can only be failed.

  13. 13
    Daulnay says:

    I like the idea of concentrating economic fail in one place. Good move, McArdle! And now maybe Atlantic can get someone not stupid to fill her shoes.

  14. 14
    SteveM says:

    Waiting for her first Newsweek cover story:

    SLEEPING UNDER BRIDGES: Why It’s Good for Families

  15. 15
    Dave says:

    12.7 million monthly uniques on the daily beast seems…unlikely.

  16. 16
    Dave says:

    12.7 million monthly uniques on the daily beast seems…unlikely. I suspect they count every automatic refresh or something.

  17. 17
    MikeJ says:

    Yo TL, you doing anything for the transit? I thought you’d be into it what with your Einstein work, even if this one is for a different planet.

  18. 18
    Jeff Spender says:

    Man.

    I’m on pins and needles about the recall in Wisconsin. Maybe we can pull this off.

  19. 19
    Tom Levenson says:

    @MikeJ: Clouds are thinning where I am. With a bit more luck, I’ll be off to the Harvard Smithsonian Observatory (home to the (OK, “a”) Great Refractor) for a transit party…

  20. 20
    TooManyJens says:

    @Jeff Spender: I’ve been hearing great reports about high turnout. I’ve been burned too many times before to have high expections but I hope, I hope, I hope.

  21. 21
    Brian S says:

    Now if only The Atlantic will give Dahlia Lithwick a blog to replace McArdle…

  22. 22
    rlrr says:

    @Jeff Spender:

    Pundit Reaction Prediction:

    Walker Wins – a huge game changer, Obama in deep trouble

    Walker Loses – a meaningless aberration

  23. 23
    redshirt says:

    @Dave: I just got my sun watching glasses yesterday, and I’m ready. Unfortunately, weather in the Boston area may not co-operate.

  24. 24
    trollhattan says:

    @rlrr:

    You got it. I’ll only add “and several dozen crowing posts here by Taco” to outcome #1.

  25. 25
    dedc79 says:

    Simply astonishing that she’s picked off Sullivan and McCardle, while presumably ignoring Fallows and Coates. Well, not all that surprising, I guess.

  26. 26

    I saw a tweet where the Clerk in Madison is saying that turnout is 119% which will immediately send the wingers off the deep end and screaming “voter fraud” “dead voters” or what have you but it simply means that in addition to all the previously registered voters voting people are registering and voting at the same time. Won’t stop the wingers though.

  27. 27
    David Koch says:

    Pundit Reaction Prediction:

    Walker Wins – a huge game changer, Obama in deep trouble

    Walker Loses – a meaningless aberration ACORN and New Black Panthers engage in massive vote fraud.

    /fixed

  28. 28
    Jeff Spender says:

    @rlrr:

    Fuck the pundits. Seriously. I honestly don’t give a shit about them, and I don’t know why anyone else does.

    I continually chastise my grandpa for watching that blowhard asshole Ed Schultz, but honestly–I don’t know anyone I respect who gives a crap about them.

    Moving on.

  29. 29
    Jeff Spender says:

    @TooManyJens:

    I don’t have high expectations anymore for anything, but hope springs eternal.

    A good way to live if you’re involved in politics.

  30. 30
    rlrr says:

    @Litlebritdifrnt:

    I saw a tweet where the Clerk in Madison is saying that turnout is 119% which will immediately send the wingers off the deep end and screaming “voter fraud” “dead voters” or what have you

    Only if Walker loses…

  31. 31
    David Koch says:

    Who even reads daily beast?

    I know some people read Sully, but I’ve clicked on his site meter, he gets about 60K in traffic on a good day. And he has to be the most popular guy there. 60K is a far cry from 12 million.

  32. 32
    Forum Transmitted Disease says:

    Pundit Reaction Prediction:
    __
    Walker Wins – a huge game changer, Obama in deep trouble
    __
    Walker Loses – a meaningless aberration

    @rlrr: You nailed it.

  33. 33
    Mark S. says:

    If you told me that Newsweek went bankrupt a couple years ago and no longer exists I would have believed you. It is the very definition of irrelevant.

    Hell, the only reason I know Time still exists is because of that breastfeeding cover.

  34. 34
    MikeJ says:

    @redshirt: Starting to clear in Seattle (or to the south anyway.) I’m heading down to Tacoma for less cloud cover.

  35. 35
    Bruce S says:

    Ms. Galt only mattered a bit to anyone who isn’t brain-dead because she was nested at Atlantic – a magazine with significant history and reputation – and in the online world one had to see her name set off to the right column every time you went over to read Fallows, or Coates or some feature that was reasonably coherent and interesting. Now she’s nothing. Because the Daily Beast is Nowhere. There’s no inherent prestige attached to that thing – anymore than Howard Fineman’s “importance” is enhanced because he’s at Huffington Post.

  36. 36
    Bruce S says:

    @dedc79:

    My guess is Fallows and Coates would be ignoring her.

  37. 37
    JGabriel says:

    Tom Levenson @ Top:

    Worse—while McArdle does collect the hits and the sputtering indignation of people like me, it strikes me that you get her out of the Atlantic hothouse and she becomes both less consequential and more potentially damaging to the enterprise at large.

    And with McArdle gone, The Atlantic gains credibility! Given its current neo-con ownership, I’m not entirely sure if that’s a good thing or not.

    .

  38. 38
    PZ says:

    To think I once respected Michael Tomasky. He did some excellent work at the Guardian. Now, the crazy train he joined has a new passenger…

  39. 39
    Bruce S says:

    What will they do at Aspen without her?

  40. 40
    Scott S. says:

    I’ll say this about Wisconsin — the only way it’s bad news for Democrats is if it’s a **runaway** Walker win. Walker’s cronies flooded the state with millions and millions and millions of dollars, and they’re still unable to convincingly close the deal. That shows me that the GOP is not just weak, but weakass.

  41. 41
    Steeplejack says:

    @Tom Levenson:

    Page views at the Daily Beast are up too—up to 12.7 monthly uniques from ten-ish when the site merged with Newsweek.

    What does “monthly uniques” mean? Is is 12.7 million unique page views a month? Or is it some inside-baseball-y term I’m not hip enough to figure out?

    ETA: Dave has clarified this, I think.

  42. 42
    gogol's wife says:

    @rlrr:

    This is so true.

  43. 43
    Anne Laurie says:

    @dedc79:

    Simply astonishing that she’s picked off Sullivan and McCardle, while presumably ignoring Fallows and Coates. Well, not all that surprising, I guess.

    Tina Brown goes with the writers her paymasters support, not the writers who are busy with all that ‘fact’ and ‘history’ stuff.

    Are we sure that McArdle is actually moving from the Atlantic to Newsweek, and not just shitting up twice as many sites? Sullivan did a wholesale switch, but Our Andrew is the head of a whole mostly-unacknowledged crew of ‘researchers’ and ‘interns’ who produce The Sullivan Experience, while McArdle is just one solitary always-wrong-about-everything blogger with a pixel rolodex of fellow NuMedeeya Sammie Glicks. Unless Brown is insistent about ‘exclusivity’, I don’t see McArdle giving up any possible micro-payments towards her next overhyped Big Shiny Tech Purchase.

  44. 44
    JGabriel says:

    Tom Levenson @ Top:

    The divine Ms. M is packing up her toys and heading off to Tina Brown’s playpen for the formerly hip.

    This reminds me of a critique I wrote last year on Brown’s Newsweek:

    … once you’re bragging about an essay on Charlie Sheen by Brett Easton Ellis, it’s not a far jump to treating other 80’s stand-bys like Ringwald, Hughes, and McInerney as if they were still new superstars — which seems to be part of Brown’s problem: a belief that the big names of her publishing heyday in the 1980’s-90’s are still the names with relevant power to draw eyeballs in 2011.

    .

  45. 45
    Amir Khalid says:

    Newsweek was in its day, the 1970s and 1980s, a pretty tough competitor to TIME as a news magazine. But them days is long gone, and the whole outfit has lost its way. There’s no real reason to read Newsweek for the news anymore; there hasn’t been one for years. Tina Brown seems to be trying to make it over with “edgy” covers (remember the Diana-at-fifty Photoshop from last year?) and commentators. That might have worked for Vanity Fair, which isn’t really a news magazine, but what the hell does edginess do for covering the news? A copy of Newsweek looks anemic on the newsstand next to one of TIME or The Economist. Newsweek is thin on editorial content, and looks like poor value to the reader. Same goes for the website which, when last I looked, was not updated every day like TIME’s website.

    Newsweek is just not justifying its existence to the print or online reader. It’s still doomed. if Tina Brown has bet her career on saving it, she’s doomed too.

  46. 46
    different-church-lady says:

    @redshirt:

    Unfortunately, weather in the Boston area may not co-operate.

    May not? I’ve given up, gone to “will not.” Gonna try to pick it up on a webcast — http://sunearthday.nasa.gov/webcasts/nasaedge/

  47. 47
    Tom Levenson says:

    @JGabriel: yup. an A in 2011, and still an A

  48. 48
    comrade scott's agenda of rage says:

    This just means BJ will link to her craptastic comments at a site I’ll never give a web hit to.

    Same day. Different Site. Same Result.

  49. 49
    SamR says:

    I’m very glad about this move, for the following reason: My parents, who are very nice people but the type of nice people who view David Brooks as a Reasonable Conservative, recently purchased a subscription for me to a magazine that I would routinely read as a kid (it was more interesting than dusting the table it was on as I was supposed to be doing).

    That magazine is The Atlantic.

    I was confused by what to do about this. Three bad options:
    1. Let the magazine come rather than cancel, thereby allowing money I could stop from going to the Atlantic to go to the Atlantic (and by, extension to Ms. “not my fault, I didn’t have a calculator” herself).
    2. Cancel and tell my parents, needlessly upsetting them
    3. Cancel and not mention the cancellation, needlessly concealing something.

    So I’d like to thank Megan McArdle. For all the times her misinformation caused me to be agitated, she has now at least one time removed a thorn in my side (namely, her presence at the Atlantic).

  50. 50
    David Koch says:

    Wisconsin Exit Poll: Barrett is headed towards either a 5 pt win or 5 pt loss.

  51. 51
    rikyrah says:

    Don’t wanna hear shyt about affirmative action for ‘minorities’, when the likes of McArdle keeps on getting jobs.

  52. 52
    kindness says:

    Makes me wonder what TNC is thinking. I mean, he’s the only one there who actually wrote properly and was consistent. Sully & Blenderella? Not so much.

    Here is my chance to be able to comment on Megan’s posts again though. The Atlantic in their wisdom felt my calling Megan a lying hack at regular intervals wasn’t a good fit for them and stopped allowing me to tell Megan what I thought of her.

  53. 53
    Valdivia says:

    @PZ:

    so agree. I used to read him a lot. Ever since he made the move his columns are pablum.

  54. 54
    burnspbesq says:

    @rlrr:

    Oddly enough, those party boys at TNR had a couple of posts this a.m. taking exactly the opposite view, i.e., a Walker win is good for Obama and a Walker loss is not. Go figure.

  55. 55
    Zandar says:

    My work here is done. :)

  56. 56
    Another Halocene Human says:

    @Jeff Spender: I watch Ed from time to time for the lulz. He’s amusing to have on while vacuuming (so I can’t hear him). He is in a deep karmic depression of his own bad deeds and is not even halfway up the slope of redeeming himself.

  57. 57
    redshirt says:

    @different-church-lady: There’s breaks in the clouds, in the region. I’m praying to FSM and the Holy Sagan to send forth a small break – I only ask for a few minutes. We deserve it!

  58. 58
    Cheryl from Maryland says:

    I believe Miss M and Tina will end up like this.

  59. 59
    TBogg says:

    As I twatted earlier today:

    The concept of “serious” bloggers who generate a lot of traffic mainly because other bloggers are mocking them is seldom acknowledged

  60. 60
    kindness says:

    @TBogg: Tina Brown doesn’t do depth. She does superficial. Look at her stables.

  61. 61
    trollhattan says:

    @Zandar:

    Evil scheme noted and, if not exactly applauded, bowed down to in your general direction.

  62. 62
    mclaren says:

    So a no-talent know-nothing shit-for-brains (Megan McArdle) is going to work for a no-talent know-nothing shit-for-brains (Tina Brown).

    Birds of a feather, baby.

    Brown has been flaming out ever since she left The New Yorker. She tried her hand at Hollywood…crash and burn. She tried her hand at an intertubes site…crash and burn. Stick a fork in her. She’s done.

  63. 63
    Ethan says:

    People convinced that TNC is going to ‘turn’ on her need longer memories. They also need to stop assuming that people that they respect only refuse to show the level of vitriol they would prefer because they’re held back by their employers. Do a bloggingheads search for McArdle and Ta-Nehisi. The Atlantic didn’t pay him one red cent to think well of her.

  64. 64
    Epicurus says:

    Tina Brown is a high-class fraud with a posh accent. I have disliked her ever since she and her idiot husband landed on our shores during the great ’90s British (Journalist) Invasion. I trust that her hiring of Lady Gastritis is as successful as every other venture to which she has turned her hand.

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