Daily Beast TV, the online video channel The Observer first caught wind of in July, has launched on the Beast’s website. Though none of the shows bear the name of Ms. Brown’s erstwhile CNBC show, Topic [A], Daily Beast TV makes the same promise: original news commentary from trusted personalities.
The channel’s slogan, “the smartest take on the day’s biggest stories,” is reminiscent of Cheat Sheet’s “read this, not that,” suggesting an audience overwhelmed by the volume of news and starved for a Brown-curated mix.
One existing video series already features the Daily Beast TV logo: “Ask Andrew Anything,” the rotoscoped web-camera videos in which the star blogger Andrew Sullivan answers reader questions like, “What is the meaning of life?” (A: He won’t say, but he does recommend we see Tree of Life.)
Another, “Op-Vid 2012,” introduced yesterday, invites “writers, thinkers, and doers” to read essays about the issues at the heart of the campaign, which are then animated by the Daily Beast. The first features Niall Ferguson on the economy.
“Beast Feed” appears to be more of a catch-all category, including videos related to content in Newsweek, like a video of last week’s cover girl Condoleezza Rice playing the piano and casual chats between Daily Beast entertainment writer Ramin Setoodeh and Rolling Stone critic Peter Travers, called “Flick Picks.”
The new video initiative suggests the company is still prioritizing the digital operations at the Beast, which has enjoyed a slight bump in traffic since swallowing the Newsweek website and now attracts 10.3 million unique visitors a month, according to the company’s Omniture report. (Compete.com reports 2.5 million and Quantcast reports 3.9 million.) Internally, however, some wonder if the business side is equipped to sell advertising for such an amorphous media company.
Newsweek‘s print advertising was down only 10 percent last quarter, compared to 20 percent drops the previous two quarters, but it remains a drag on the business. Much of Newsweek’s veteran print-ad sales team has departed. In August, associate publisher and Beast veteran Jeff Barish left for Condé Nast and was soon followed by five others in ad sales, who departed for positions at Time, Inc., US Weekly, Bloomberg Businessweek and Harper’s Bazaar, according to an insider, who added that the decision to publish a recent double issue had been made due to flagging ad revenue. Yesterday Adweek wrote that the company lost $30 million last year.
Newer executives may be better equipped to sell the custom digital advertising packages touted by Ms. Brown. Publisher Ray Chelstowski, formerly of the short-lived magazine for the super wealthy, Prestige, and president Robert Gregory, poached from Plum TV last month, both come straight from luxury media, suggesting the once-stodgy newsweekly may be courting advertisers befitting Ms. Brown’s Talk days. Today, the Daily Beast TV vertical displays a large Lexus campaign, although individual videos do not have commercials.
But even one year later, Beast brass still appear a little unsure as to what exactly they’re after. One of Mr. Chelstowski’s hires, a vice president of marketing, has already been let go, according to an insider.