SHRUM TO NEWSWEEK: Bob Shrum is Newsweek-Daily Beast’s latest political pundit hire. The Democratic strategist started a weekly online-only column on politics this week. His appointment follows the high-profile dismissal of chief digital officer Daniel Blackman.
Shrum joins as Newsweek and The Daily Beast have been growing their stable of political commentators in the run-up to the November elections. Earlier this month, it signed libertarian writer and blogger Megan McArdle from the Atlantic.
With Shrum and Republican politics analyst David Frum, who joined in January, NewsBeast now has the Statler and Waldorf of the commentariat. It already had an old hand on the team in Paul Begala.
Shrum said the Web site gives him a soapbox to write about “whatever I think needs to be said that hasn’t been said” the week before.
In his first outing, he tackles Bill Clinton’s penchant for going off message, last week’s big story in political circles. Shrum will no longer write for The Week, where he’s been a contributor since 2009.
Shrum said Monday that conversations to join Newsweek began recently, about a week earlier, and the terms of the contract or its length have not been discussed yet. A spokesman for Newsweek said Shrum may also contribute features for the print magazine.
By the time he was approached, Blackman had already been let go by senior management. His last day was a week and a half ago, a source at the magazine said. His departure was met with a mixed reaction from staffers on the digital side of the company.
Blackman came on board a little more than a year ago from the video start-up Howcast, just as the Daily Beast was merging with Newsweek.
Under his watch, Newsweek launched an iPad app and, since December, traffic to the Web site has surged, though it’s mostly compensated for several months of decline — in May, it had 12.9 million unique visitors, according to Quantcast, an eight percent increase over last May; the magazine has slightly different numbers.
He also rebuilt a digital team — “no easy task,” said a source — that includes vice president Rosanne Lufrano, formerly of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, and creative director Matt Calos, who both joined this spring.
But to some, his tenure was a missed opportunity. “Few to no accomplishments,” said a source on the digital team.
Newsweek declined to comment, saying only that Blackman wouldn’t be replaced. Blackman did not respond to several requests for comment.