NewsBeast has brought back longtime Newsweek vet Mark Miller to oversee editorial operations, signaling continued upheaval as the magazine-news site combo struggles to win over readers and advertisers.
Miller will take over the operational duties that were being handled by Edward Felsenthal, editor Tina Brown's No. 2 and one of her longest-serving deputies, who announced Monday he was leaving. In addition to running the day-to-day operation, Felsenthal was seen as a buffer between the staff and Brown, who's known for frequently changing her mind about stories and ripping up the magazine layout. In a 2009, premerger profile, he described the pace of the job as "exhausting."
Along with Felsenthal, Tom Weber quit, becoming the second managing editor to leave the high-pressure position in six months. His predecessor, Brekke Fletcher, left after five months.
Reached by phone, Weber said, “I’ve had a fantastic and fascinating year here at Newsweek.” He said he plans to resume working on a book he had started before joining NewsBeast. “I was pretty happy working on this project, and it’s something I want to get back to.”
NewsBeast sources say Weber and Brown had some public blowups, though, suggesting that nine months into the merger, all is not running smoothly. There continues to be confusion about her high-low editorial approach (recent cover choices ranged from Brazil’s female president to Regis Philbin). Brown has brought in Lisa Benenson to consult on the magazine, but Benenson has struck some as an odd choice, given she's spent most of her career at women’s magazines including Hallmark and Harper’s Bazaar.
Miller joined Newsweek in 1985 and worked there since, more or less, rising to editorial director. He quit last year as part of an exodus of editorial staffers who left after The Washington Post Co. sold Newsweek to the now-late stereo magnate Sidney Harman. Most recently, he was editor of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit media organization. He briefly oversaw Newsweek's online editorial operation, but is seen as lighter on digital experience. Importantly, he's known for his ability to handle tricky personalities, which could serve him well as Brown's No. 2.
It was a tumultuous day for NewsBeast for other reasons. On the business side, Ray Chelstowski, who saw the company through the merger, exited as publisher, a few months after Rob Gregory came in above him as president. And Newsweek made news for ending its long-running political series.
The shake-ups add to the challenges facing the Newsweek and Daily Beast, which lost an estimated $30 million last year. There's been some progress. Newsweek’s ad pages were up 10 percent for the month of October, which the pub said was the first monthly year-over-year increase in a year. Subscription renewals, after declining year-on-year since 2006, are up 2.6 percent.
On the business side, Gregory said he was reorganizing the marketing team to set it up the way advertisers are buying media. He created three marketing groups: creative services; digital/social/video; and events and sponsorships.
Taking on some of Chelstowski’s duties is Eric Danetz, a sales vp at CBS Interactive who was hired as svp of sales and marketing.
“Ray did a great job of managing the merger,” Gregory said. “Our message has changed now. It was the story of a merger, and now it’s the story of a global news ecosystem. We still have a lot of work to do, but we feel great about where we are after eight months.”