RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
Hillary Clinton makes another public appearance this week, at newsstands across America. She's featured on the cover of Newsweek, or rather the new Newsweek. The remaking of this storied weekly, which reportedly lost $20 million last year, was something of a news event itself, because it was spearheaded by Tina Brown.
She's the doyenne of The Daily Beast. The gossipy online news site she runs, The Daily Beast, has now been combined with Newsweek. Tina Brown revived Vanity Fair and The New Yorker, and she aims to do the same for Newsweek. She's a regular guest on our program, and we brought her in her to talk about it.
Welcome back to the program.
Ms. TINA BROWN (The Daily Beast): Thank you.
MONTAGNE: Let's start with Hillary Clinton on the cover. How can I put this? It wouldn't be a fresh way to go.
Ms. BROWN: Well, I'll tell you what is completely fresh about our Hillary Clinton cover. No one has really looked at what Hillary has been doing for women. This entire angle of our piece about Hillary, is not about her, you know, simply as a political figure, as a woman of the moment at the State Department, but actually a woman who, all through her career, has been banging the drum about what women's empowerment can actually do for a society at large.
And what has become very timely and why the piece on Hillary is particularly timely this week, is because we see in the new democracy movement that's beginning to shape in the Middle East how women are really a leading indicator of whether that is a true democracy or not.
MONTAGNE: What do you do with the events of these last few weeks - that is fast-moving world-changing events, that one of the problems with weekly magazines, of late, has been how they capture that...
Ms. BROWN: Absolutely.
MONTAGNE: ...when you're in a 24/7 news cycle?
Ms. BROWN: Well, I think that's the key to it really. And we see very much Newsweek as a way to connect the dots between what is really going on. In fact, you know, having been editing the Daily Beast for nearly two years, it actually showed me more and more what role a magazine could play. It was ironic because, you know, I'd abandoned print, having spent a life in print and gone into the digital world. Now I understand how the two things can work together incredibly well, almost like playing in two different keys. The Website breaks news. It's a hot medium of instant gratification. The magazine then can interpret what's happening in the world, what can predict what's happening in the world, that if you really are thinking ahead and you're really being predictive the magazine is in fact going to be very timely.
MONTAGNE: Well, if the Daily Beast and Newsweek together, at this moment in time, are losing tens of millions of dollars between them, how do they combine to create one profitable entity?
Ms. BROWN: Well, the Daily Beast was actually a year and a half away from breaking even when the merger was done, so are not losing, you know, we have broken 80 new advertising campaigns in the last 14 months. I mean the advertising on the Beast is really soaring. When you put the two things together, actually, the losses, in fact, are diminished because you have a dual cell. Advertisers just love the idea of a dual platform coming out of the Beast and Newsweek. And we strongly feel and believe that we can turn the advertising around, tremendously, on Newsweek, and bring it back into a breakeven situation, you know, in perhaps, you know, a year and a half.
MONTAGNE: Is it, then, a big difference from when you came on board Vanity Fair and there was money to burn, it felt like. I mean, you could pay writers, really fine, good fees to get names that were celebrity writers names?
Ms. BROWN: It's a very era, but all the magazines I've taken on for some reason have been magazines which needed to be saved. I don't know why that is. I'd quite like to take over something, maybe one day in my life, that didn't need saving. But Vanity Fair was in very bad shape when I took it on, of course, in 1984. You know, it had 12 pages of advertising and 250,000 readers and it was in a very bad state. So actually, we didn't really feel we had money to burn it all. We felt that the magazine was going to close and, of course, it took a while to dig it out and then it became a great success.
The New Yorker, the same thing, it was actually in quite a bad state. Obviously writer fees then could be bigger because the whole climate was less threatened. And we've had to, you know, to approach Newsweek very much as a red ink venture and are going very careful about budget.
MONTAGNE: Is the rival to Newsweek still Time?
Ms. BROWN: Well, I think, actually, the rival to Newsweek now it's just everybody's time everywhere. We have to get through into that window where people want to read something and force our way through by giving people content they want that is relevant, that is exciting, that is prescient, that is thoughtful, and make us a must-read.
MONTAGNE: Tina, thanks very much for joining us again.
Ms. BROWN: Thank you.
MONTAGNE: And that's Tina Brown, a regular guest on our program, of the Daily Beast and Newsweek.