Tina Brown’s ONA Keynote: Loses Page of Speech, Not Impulse to Keep Splashy Launch Under Wraps

New York media maven Tina Brown gave this morning’s keynote address at the Online News Association’s annual conference in Washington, D.C., weighing in on some of the big-picture issues that have been braining traditional print news agencies. However, she remained quiet about her own much-speculated-upon online project, The Daily Beast, launching October 1. When a slightly frustrated audience began asking questions about her latest endeavor, the editor-in-chief was unwilling to explicate: “I’m not going to tell you our business model,” she said. To another question on exactly what The Daily Beast would be, and to whom it would speak, she responded testily, “I would actually like to not give a press conference on The Daily Beast’s strategy at this point,” at which point you could almost hear the splosh as her audience of online journalists, videographers and Web geeks rolled their collective eyes.

Previously the editor of The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, and the ill-fated Talk magazine, Brown did say her new project is unfolding “fast and furiously” in New York’s meatpacking district. Apparently, she and co-conspirator Barry Diller are nearing completion of their global aggregation site with a “strong video presence” that Brown said would foster a good deal of community input — “a quick speed-read of everything on the Web that you didn’t know about,” as she put it. “At The Daily Beast, we’re working at a feverish pace that would never have been possible in the magazine world,” Brown asserted.

But the former queen of New York magazines reserved most of her speech to praise the virtues of online media (its “intoxicating” warp-speed pace, the amazing new voices emerging out of nowhere, the immediacy of public feedback), and to pan its vices (“the cacophony of voices,” the lack of credible information, the toll she said it’s taken on writers and artists). At one point, Brown stumbled in speaking, apologized that she seemed to have lost a page of her speech, then launched into an impassioned ad-lib on the need for editors to “reassert curatorial control” of online content.

–Eric Zassenhaus