BEAUTY OF THE BEAST: When Web sites undergo a redesign, editors will inevitably look toward any number of models. Time.com, it seems, is looking at The Daily Beast.
Edward Felsenthal, Tina Brown’s former deputy at the Beast, came to time.com as the managing editor in March and has been preparing for a relaunch of the site. Felsenthal is said to be looking for around 15 staffers to fill junior and senior positions, and in conversations with possible hires has said he’d like the new iteration of the site to look more like The Daily Beast, several sources said.
This story first appeared in the May 22, 2013 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The high number of new hires would suggest Time is again spending money — at least on the Web site. They follow 11 buyouts that senior editors on the print magazine took in March. The infusion of new blood at time.com is the beginning of a major shift in how the magazine runs its Web arm, handing more responsibility to print editors over the direction of the site, and may signal the possibility of more significant changes at the site, perhaps even a more porous paywall.
Felsenthal, the founding executive editor of the Beast in 2008, left on a day in November 2011 when a managing editor, Tom Weber, and the publisher, Ray Chelstowski, were also pushed out.
He was brought into Time Inc. two months after the company laid off some 500 employees across the board and, with the spin off from Time Warner imminent, departures at the corporate level have become a common occurrence. Paul Caine, chief revenue officer, left in March, and Connie Anne Phillips, a Caine recruit and the publisher of InStyle, one of the three most profitable titles at the company, left in early May.
When Felsenthal was hired, Time managing editor Rick Stengel and Time Inc. editor in chief Martha Nelson made sure to highlight, among his other skills, that he is “an expert in growing traffic.” His mandate has been to grow the audience of the newsweekly’s Web site, where almost all print magazine stories are available only to subscribers.
At time.com, there are a handful of blogs, including NewsFeed, a breaking news blog created in 2010, as well as online-only content for free.
Time.com had 12.5 million uniques in April, nearly 40 percent above the same period last year, according to ComScore. But that still lags in comparison to younger sites, like the Huffington Post (46.4 million) or the Gawker Media Web sites (a combined 22.4 million in April). The Daily Beast reported 8.6 million uniques in March, according to the company.
In an effort to Beastify Time’s Web site, Felsenthal has approached colleagues at his old stomping grounds, though it’s not clear how successful his efforts at a raid have been. A spokesman for the Beast declined to comment on personnel matters, but described efforts to emulate its Web site as “flattering.” Newsweek.com underwent its own redesign in early May with a renewed focus on long-form features.
Anyway, time.com already looks a lot like the shop Tina Brown built. In addition to Felsenthal, Weber joined as an assistant managing editor in February 2012, just a few months after bolting the Beast. Sean Noyce, the Beast’s former iPad art director, joined the same month as Felsenthal.
Another high-profile digital hire, Zeke Miller, who is a political blogger, came from another digital-only outlet, LOL factory BuzzFeed.
Felsenthal and a spokesman for Time did not return requests for comment.
On Tuesday, Time staff was putting together a special issue of the magazine on the Oklahoma tornado that will hit newsstands and tablets Friday. Coverage of the tragedy on time.com included an updated story by a correspondent in Moore, Okla., as well as videos, posts on the science of tornadoes, and a photo gallery, “10 Deadliest Tornadoes in U.S. History.”