Having just completed the sale of Newsweek to the International Business Times, Barry Diller's IAC faces another big decision: what to do with Daily Beast editor-in-chief Tina Brown.
Brown, who oversaw the newsweekly as well as the Beast for IAC, has a contract that is up in January 2014, informed sources tell The Hollywood Reporter. It's unclear whether she'll continue in the Daily Beast job, a position she has held since founding the site in 2008, or move on to a new endeavor.
Brown earns a rich salary and is known as a perfectionist who will spend freely on content and design to achieve the result she wants. The New York Times recently reported that she once commissioned 82 possible cover designs for one print issue of Newsweek.
Spokespeople for IAC and The Daily Beast declined to comment on Brown's future or the status of any contract renewal talks.
Before the sale, Diller called his decision to buy the money-losing Newsweek "a mistake," but he has not signaled a drop in his support for Daily Beast, which was reported to be 18 months from profitability before the merger scuttled those projections.
For her part, Brown is said to be committed to Daily Beast. Traffic on the site is improving. Comscore reported a 15 percent year-over-year increase to 6.06 million unique visitors in its most recent month. (Citing figures from Omniture, Daily Beast claims its six-month running average is up 28 percent on a year-over-year basis to 16.6 million unique visitors a month).
In addition, a Daily Beast spokesman says ads are up 22.5 percent versus last year. A site refresh is also scheduled to be rolled out in mid-September.
Still, it's unclear if the rosier numbers mean either or both sides will want to continue the partnership. Diller could run out of patience or Brown might want to move on from a job that, while not a failure, hasn't lived up to her stature as one of the great magazine editors of her generation.
An insider expects one of three things to happen in early 2014: Diller could cut his losses and shutter the entire operation; he could find a new editor-in-chief in the hopes that a change of leadership moves the site to profitably faster; or he and Brown could agree on a new contract and continue their partnership.
Option one seems unlikely, given that the Beast's improved performance suggests profitability is an obtainable goal. But whether Brown stays or goes seems undecided.
Either way, expect chatter about Brown and The Daily Beast to dominate media watchers' attention in the fall.