Newsweek.com to Shut Down; Staffers Launch Blog in Protest (updated)

Tina Brown and co. to kill magazine's website; CEO Tom Ascheim to leave

It appears we have our first casualty of the Daily Beast-Newsweek merger: Newsweek.com.

Stephen Colvin, the combined company’s new CEO, confirmed the move over the weekend. (Also confirmed over the weekend, casualty #2: Tom Ascheim, Newsweek’s chief executive, is leaving the company.)

So Newsweek.com, which attracts about 6.2 million unique visitors in the U.S. each month, according to Quantcast estimates, is being shuttered in favor of the Daily Beast and its 3.3 million.

So why shut down a website that attracts nearly double the traffic of its new stepsibling?

“Because the Daily Beast is a very credible and successful news and opinion Web site,” Colvin told Mediaweek. “And with great vitality and distinct voice.”

This, of course, did not please Newsweek’s online staff — so they launched a protest Tumblr, SaveNewsweek.com, with a sharp message for their superiors, both old and new:

It’s always nice to wake up and find out in the Times that your job is doomed. As they put it on Saturday morning, quoting the new CEO of the so-called Newsweek Daily Beast Company, Stephen Colvin: “Newsweek.com will cease to exist after the merger, and anyone who types the URL into their browser will be redirected to TheDailyBeast.com.”

This, of course, was news to Newsweek.com. So rather than going out and celebrating our merger after six months of uncertainty — and hopefully some stability after a year that saw four Newsweek.com editors-in-chief come and go — we’re spending our weekend bombarded by a flurry of emails, wondering how this could have happened. And writing this.

The thing you have to understand about Newsweek is that it would only be fitting that its Website would be the first to go. Like most print publications, Newsweek magazine has been led by people who deep down don’t understand the Web, and because they don’t understand it, they fear it and don’t value it.

While high-level print editors were taking sleek black towncars to and from the office (and everywhere in between, including, on at least one instance, from DC to New York), this was a staff who slept on grimy couches while reporting on the road; forking out their own funds, at times, just to produce good work. The disparity in work hours, in pay, in resources — it was comical. […]
Newsweek.com may have always remained an ugly stepchild to its print grandparents, who were too busy burning money to notice.

UPDATE: In a post on Twitter, Tina Brown wrote that Newsweek's "superb content will live on under its own banner & in URLs on the new site. Not shutting down, combining."

On Sunday’s episode of CNN’s “Reliable Sources,” Howard Kurtz asked Brown and Sidney Harman, his employers, about the decision to “swallow” Newsweek.com: “Are you worried that in swallowing these 250 or so employees from "Newsweek," that this will change the character of the Web site?”

Harman quickly fired back: “Don't speak of swallowing anybody.”

Kurtz: “Wrong verb. All right.”

Brown: "We're not swallowing at all. … I mean, the fact is that "The Daily Beast" has its own great momentum, and it will continue to have that momentum, and nothing will change that.  All that will happen, actually, is that the two merged staffs will have a chance to work for both.  And that, I think, is exciting to everybody. There will be new writers and old writers at "Newsweek" who now have a very thriving digital outfit for their material, and there will be editors who come from print at "The Daily Beast" who will be able to develop ideas at greater length that can see their way into "Newsweek." So, as I see it, it will be a very much more — it will be as nimble as ever, bringing some of that nimbleness to the print side.  And the print side, of course, is going to bring a great deal to the Web site. In fact, what's great about it is it kind of fixes one issue right from the beginning, where so many print magazines are struggling to think, well, what is their Web site piece of it going to be?  That part of it is fine."