Brown’s ‘Beast’ Starts to Reach Out to Ad Community

Tina Brown’s four-month old Web venture The Daily Beast has yet to establish its business model, but the clock is ticking.

That’s according to a group of Beast staffers who gathered on Thursday (Feb. 12) for a panel discussion held in New York as part of the inaugural Social Media Week, which is being hosted by The Nielsen Media & Entertainment Group.

During the session “Lunch with the Beast”–which did not feature Brown–Beast executives said that while the site has gathered steam in terms of building its traffic base since it’s launch back in October, but it’s only just begun reaching out the ad community.

“We’ve been pretty cautious so far,” said Beast general manager Caroline Marks. “We’re just in the stage of evolving…There are a spectrum of ways you can execute (an ad model) and we’re looking at all of them. It is a dialogue that will evolve over the course of this year.”

Marks added that while many digital publishers, particularly blogs, have grayed the distinction between advertising and editorial, The Daily Beast was likely to employ a more strict boundary between church and state—particularly given Brown’s magazine background (the celebrated Brown founded the short-lived Talk magazine and previously edited The New Yorker). That should mean less clutter and more traditional sponsorship elements.

Currently, advertising is hard to find on the fledgling site. For example, on Thursday the site’s home page, along with the popular sections Cheat Sheet and Big Fat Story appeared to carry no ads whatsoever. That’s a situation that is unlikely to last much longer, said Marks, as the Beast will need to demonstrate some return on investment.

“Our VC is IAC,” she explained, referring to Beast-backer Barry Diller, the chairman and CEO of IAC. ”This isn’t an open-ended blank check.” At the moment, Marks offered that few advertisers are making long term commitments to the site, but rather executing buys on a month to month basis.

The good news is that each month the Beast user-base is growing, according to Debbie Fink, the site’s senior director of marketing, as the site’s editorial team has embraced blogger outreach and social media platforms as sources of traffic. “We’ve tried not to be passive publishers,” she said.

That means even encouraging Beast-originated dialogue to continue on other platforms like Facebook. “We’re speaking to our user base wherever they are…and we’re not threatened by conversations happening in other places,” said Marks.