Tina Brown, Media Darling | Adweek Tina Brown, Media Darling | Adweek
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Tina Brown, Media Darling

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Speculation abounds, but yields little. Applying somewhat circular logic, Peters attributed the celebration of her career to “a celebrated career,” answering the question with more or less the same question: “Is there a more famous editor out there?”

Carr said it might be attributed to nostalgia. For media’s old guard, coverage of Brown “brings to mind a time when we were not kings, but we lived as kings, we felt really important,” he said, referring to the late ’90s, when Brown could pay writers $5 a word and launch the short-lived Talk magazine with an extravagant party underneath the Statue of Liberty. “Tina’s a bridge to that.”

The absence of any clear explanation is further testament to the influence of Brown’s PR operation, which seems to be successfully pitching a more fiscally responsible version of her to critics and ad agencies in the run up to Newsweek’s relaunch.

“[Brown] is doing her redemption PR tour at this point,” said Scott Daly, the executive media director of Dentsu America, the advertising agency. “A lot of media people certainly remember the Talk debacle. That’s why she’s doing a very orchestrated PR effort to say, ‘We’re not going to be like Talk, we’re not going to do this grandiose launch,’ sort of lowering expectations a bit.”

Things like the Times article are “part of the marketing plan for the new Newsweek,” Daly said, “and we’re all falling for it hook, line and sinker.”

The article—“At Newsweek, a Humble and Frugal Tina Brown”—may have been Brown’s best press so far. Back when she was bouncing around the business and arts sections, Times’ writers actually questioned the viability of the Newsweek-Daily Beast venture. But just as comparisons to Huffington have put Brown on higher footing than she might deserve, sources say the recent Times piece painted the combined Newsweek-Daily Beast operation as more fiscally responsible than it actually is.

“I don’t believe there have been any significant cuts in editorial spending,” someone who has worked at The Daily Beast said. “It just doesn’t tally. It’s very inconsistent with what I’ve heard has been happening.”

Newsweek did offer voluntary buyouts after the merger, and it has cut staff. But Brown, whose salary is reportedly somewhere around $700,000, has brought on some high-profile—and surely highly paid—writers from The New Yorker, The New Republic, The Washington Post and elsewhere as she staffs up the combined operation. “Tina is out there trying to hire people at what I cannot believe are small salaries,” the source said. “I don’t know where this ‘new, frugal Tina Brown’ comes from.”

“I am famously frugal,” Brown assured Adweek. “I put the ‘brown’ in ‘brown-bagging.’”

The marketing effort rolls ever onward. Newsweek may relaunch as early as March 7, according to the Times, and as The New York Observer pointed out, it’s quickly surpassing Rupert Murdoch’s The Daily “in anticipatory hype.”