“Those numbers are wildly inaccurate,” said the Daily Beast spokesman.
In a scathing takedown of Brown in GQ UK magazine, Wolff wrote with what some might call breathless schadenfreude:
“She oversaw the loss of $100m (£60m) on the Daily Beast… One hundred million dollars! In its five struggling years, the Daily Beast, may never have taken more than $3m in revenue a year. And yet it lost $100m.” Wolff told TheWrap that that staggering number came from “a well-sourced insider from within Daily Beast.”
But an individual with knowledge of the Beast’s finances said the revenue number was “multiples off.” Daily Beast was never profitable, said the insider, but the addition of Newsweek made the task immeasurably harder. Nonetheless, the revenue numbers were not in that ballpark.
Now newly trimmed down to 45 editorial staffers – about a third of the staff at its height losing red ink – the Daily Beast recently hit an all-time traffic high of 16 million monthly uniques, as measured by Omniture. The insider said the publication, now free of about $40 million in printing costs, is on an “accelerated path to profitability.”
Wolff wrote: “This is not just an unsuccessful business. Not even a really messed up one. It’s a kind of disproportion that may have no equivalent.”
In late 2013, Brown announced she was leaving The Daily Beast after a tumultuous tenure that left the company struggling to figure out next steps.
Last fall, TheWrap reported that under Brown’s tenure as editor, The Daily Beast and Newsweek lost at least $60 million at IAC, citing an executive with knowledge about the situation. Neither publication achieved profitability as standalones under Brown.
Nonetheless in his piece, Wolff sharpened his knife on Brown’s reputation, using the Beast as an example of her serially losing money as an editor at Talk and elsewhere. In a screed that he acknowledges may smack of sexism, Wolff writes:
She went from being mentored by men older than she was to being a courtier to men who were richer than she was. It was a key part of her talent set, the care and feeding of rich patrons. As some people always, cannily, have another job they are prepared to jump to, she always had another patron to whom she was ready to make the move
Since leaving IAC, Brown started a new media company called “Tina Brown Live Media,” which hosts live events and panels similar to the Women in the World conference she began in 2010.
The veteran editor is expected to detail her struggles in the online publishing world with a new memoir entitled “The Media Beast,” set to be published in early 2016 by Metropolitan Books, an imprint of Henry Holt & Company.
Brown recently made headlines when she commented on Newsweek’s return to print and their controversial cover story about the alleged Bitcoin founder, saying “I’m glad I’m not the editor.”
TheWrap reached out to Brown for comment and did not hear back as of press time.