Barry Diller Says Print Adds Value to Digital Media

By | November 17, 2010

Barry Diller, the well known TV and multimedia mogul, announced a joint venture last week between his news and commentary site The Daily Beast, and Newsweek. The motivation, according to statements made by Diller at a news conference, is the synergy of digital media and print.

Diller is the Chairman of Expedia and the Chairman and CEO of IAC/InterActiveCorp, the parent company of the Home Shopping Network, Ticketmaster, Match.com, and Citysearch, and is the media executive responsible for the creation of Fox Broadcasting Company and USA Broadcasting. Last week Diller agreed to enter into a 50-50 venture with his news and commentary site The Daily Beast and Newsweek.

At a conference in New Orleans a few weeks ago, Diller talked about the importance of offering a print version in addition to an electronic version to add value to internet advertising. “Advertisers like to have a print representation of what they’re trying to say, if it’s tied well, and into this very fast-moving Internet publication,” he said. He saw benefits for Daily Beast journalists, too. “They’ve been deep in the mess of the Internet for the last two years,” he said. “Taking that experience and that sensibility and going left toward print is actually a good industrial combination.”

“It’s hard to make enough money on digital-only platforms,” said Jim VandeHei, executive editor of Politico, a nonpartisan media company covering national politics and Washington. Interestingly Politico despite being a thriving Web site still generates about half its revenue from a print publication distributed free on weekdays around Washington. “Digital is clearly the future, but print — in the right circumstances — can still thrive and help provide a bridge to an all-digital future,” Mr. VandeHei said.

People involved in the negotiations say that it has had its ups and downs.  Over time Diller has become increasingly enamored with the idea of coupling his two-year-old online start-up with one of the most established brands in print journalism.

But experts are saying it is an ill conceived idea. According to the NY Times, “Putting together The Daily Beast and Newsweek makes little financial sense.” Later in the article Mark Edmiston, a former media investment banker who was the president of Newsweek in the 1980s is quoted as saying, “When you step back, this is not a marriage made in heaven. You have two very different owners with very different motivations. I don’t see how you can take two money-losing businesses and put them together and come up with a single entity that makes money.”

The responsibility for getting this to work will fall on the shoulders of highly respected editor Tina Brown. Tina Brown rose to prominence in the American media industry as the editor of the magazines Vanity Fair from 1984 to 1992 and of The New Yorker from 1992 to 1998. In 2000 she was awarded the CBE (Commander of the British Empire) for her services to overseas journalism and in 2007 was inducted into the Magazine Editors’ Hall of Fame.

But achieving success will take more than just a world class editor. There needs to be a strategy resulting in synergies of the two properties, which has not emerged yet. What do you think? Does a printed version add more value to a digital only version?

Howard Fenton is a Senior Consultant at NAPL. Howie advises commercial printers, in-plants, and manufacturers on workflow management, operations, digital services, and customer research.

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One thought on “Barry Diller Says Print Adds Value to Digital Media

  1. Elizabeth Gooding

    Regarding the quote from Mark Edmiston “I don’t see how you can take two money-losing businesses and put them together and come up with a single entity that makes money.” Often this is exactly what mergers do – they turn unprofitable businesses into profitable ones by eliminating duplicate functions and syndicating assets across multiple delivery vehicles. Makes you wonder about investment bankers hmmmm?

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