Tina Brown's much-anticipated new Newsweek hit stands earlier this week to less-than-rave reviews.
The New York Post said it landed with a whimper, New York's Adam Moss says it is "way, way better than the magazine that was published previously."
When we spoke to Brown on the phone yesterday from the Hudson Theater where she is hosting this year's Women in the World Summit, she seemed entirely unphased.
"I'm very proud and excited about the issue," said Brown, stressing "We didn't go for the big hyped launch, we went for an iterative evolution."
In fact, Brown revealed she and her staff had been making small changes to the magazine since taking over in January and intended to make many more, which readers will see role out over the next year.
"We completely changed the typefaces and showed a much more dramatic use of photography" said Brown of this week's big issue. "We showed a new structure to the books. But at the same time, we're going to be doing a great many other changes to the magazine. And you'll see it's rolling over over the next year."
"When you've worked online for the last two years as I have, the whole concept of a set piece is kind of old-fashioned."
The Beast's executive editor Edward Felsenthal revealed the two had been launched in much the same way: "The minute the templates came in and the new paper we just rolled it out."
Brown advises readers "Watch this space. You're going to see the whole magazine growing and enriching as the next year unfolds. We see it very much as something that can evolve and change."
As for all the media types (us included) who noted Newsweek's similarity to The Daily Beast (which was received with a similarly cool chorus when it arrived two-and-a-half years ago and has since become a mainstay) Brown says that the "energy of the Beast is integral to the energy of Newsweek."
But will it be different enough content-wise to draw readers? And how does Brown feel about Kathleen Parker's unceremonious dismissal? (Hint: Think the Good Wife)
On Morning Joe the other day one of the hosts asked why, if the two were so similar, would a person choose to read Newsweek when they can get the Daily Beast online for free?
Good question! Also, likely the biggest challenge for the Newsweek team going forward.
It also sounds like a problem that hasn't quite been sorted out (by anyone in magazines, it should probably be noted). Brown says that while she will use many of the same writers "on Newsweek you develop different kinds of stories that actually work better in a magazine."
Brown pointed to Kathleen Parker's story of women in the Middle East as an example. But really the answer seems to still boil down to the fact that people still like to read longer pieces in print. A reality which is likely to change as more people get acquainted with the iPad and Kindle.
Speaking of Parker. Brown caused some waves the other day on Morning Joe when she said that Parker had been wearing an "abaya" during her time as co-host of CNN's Parker-Spitzer. When I asked her about she reiterated the abaya remark.
"I said she was wearing her abaya. And she was. She was reduced to playing the role of the nodding wife to the great man. Kathleen is a brilliant woman who's won an Pulitzer Prize.
Brown blames the perception on "the dynamics of Eliot's personality" and says she finds the lack of women voices in prime time cable, says Brown, is "frustrating."
Don't expect the same dynamic in Brown's Newsweek. The first issue coincides with the Summit, which Brown says "has gathered so much energy it's bursting out of our venue now" and "brings focus to the women we ought to know about but don't."
Brown also highlighted the fact that unlike the NYT and New Yorker, which were recently called out for their lack of female bylines, the Beast has been heralded as the site that has the most female commentators.
It's something you can expect to see continued on the magazine side. Starting with this issue, which Brown described as "the reverse of a magazine power list. It's women who are actually moving and shaking in their countries and have had very little press attention. Women we should be taking notice of."
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