Media

Barry Diller, Motivated Seller, Seeks Greater Fool to Buy Newsweek


Barry Diller, chairman of InterActiveCorp., at the 2013 White House Correspondents' Association dinner in Washington, D.C.

Photograph by Scott Eells/Bloomberg

Barry Diller, chairman of InterActiveCorp., at the 2013 White House Correspondents' Association dinner in Washington, D.C.

Barry Diller is in the market for a new fool.

On Tuesday, Variety reported that Barry Diller’s IAC is actively looking to sell Newsweek, its struggling digital-only publication, and is currently “sending out inquiries to prospective buyers.” Not long ago, Diller described operating Newsweek as a “fool’s errand.” According to Variety, IAC’s media group, which includes Newsweek and its sibling digital publication, the Daily Beast, lost $8.8 million in the quarter that ended March 31.

So what would a buyer get in the deal?

Newsweek no longer publishes a print edition in the U.S. But it still has other selling points and assets, including a tablet app, a few international editions, a capable (if much diminished) staff of writers and editors, a strong track record in the conference business, a sleekly redesigned website (which according to Variety had 1.9 million unique viewers in April, down from 2.9 million in January), a chief executive who believes that there is “a tremendous white space in the market for an iconic media property that devotes itself to user-first publishing,” a Twitter feed with 2 million followers, a reputation for effective page-view trolling, a storied history (that includes an unrivaled legacy of sending Nikki Finke to Cuba on a chartered plane with $25,000 in cash when the situation demanded it), an active presence on Tumblr, a resilient table of contents, and 100 percent no Howard Kurtz.

On Wednesday, Newsweek/Daily Beast CEO Baba Shetty and Editor-in-Chief Tina Brown sent out a memo to staff, which was obtained by Politico, confirming the news. “So why explore a sale now?” they wrote. “The simple reason is focus. Newsweek is a powerful brand, but its demands have taken attention and focus away from The Daily Beast.”

Gillette_190
Gillette is a staff writer for Bloomberg Businessweek in New York.

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