Famed magazine editor Tina Brown has launched The Daily Beast, a new aggregator, blog, and news website. Falling into the niche popularized by The Huffington Post but less partisan, the site aims to be a one-stop source for several things: politics, media news, gossip, photography, and various hand-picked links to other sites.
Using the slogan “read this skip that”, the main draw is the caliber of the site’s contributors, and its large and well-read staff, who carefully select and distill the day’s must-read stories.
The site is divided into a few key categories: “Cheat Sheet” is a kind of RSS feed reader in miniature, pulling together the top 15-or-so stories worth clicking through to. There’s a useful, flashy “xtra insight” section on the side which adds more context to each story (often a youtube link).
Then there’s the “Big Fat Story“, which is presumably something the editors believe will dominate that day’s news cycle. The Daily Beast uses a reasonably clear system to lay out various opinions on said issue of the day, complete with a mouse-over preview that lets you read a sufficient amount without being overloaded by the text of six articles all at once.
There’s also the “Buzz Board“, which is where the connections and cash of Brown (and Barry Diller, the site’s backer) make themselves known. These are big-name, small-blog contributions from people like Arianna Huffington, Christiane Amanpour, and Bill Clinton, and besides the storied reputation of Brown herself, are what’s drawing most of the site’s hype this week.
By default, this corner of the page is the most interesting. Initially I thought it was annoying that these big-name figures had only a micro-blog format with which to contribute, but now I’m thinking it’s ideal. I definitely don’t need to read a full article by, say, Eric Idle, and Bill Clinton’s prose isn’t something I need to digest at length, either. His three economy-related book recommendations are just fine.
There’s no question Brown is a talented curator of talent, but her unashamed attention to celebrity can still be slightly jarring. When cover stories about Jennifer Lopez’s potential nervous breakdown–6 years ago–are put right next to some serious work on the financial crisis, something seems off. But this is Brown’s modus operandi, after all–she knows even the most self-serious of us can hungrily consume a piece of gossip journalism, and she embeds it within a high-brow context: read it here and move on, she suggests, instead of buying US Weekly and feeling bad about it later.
As for the style, she tells paidcontent.org’s Staci D. Kramer:
“I’ve always loved the look of the European smart tabloids—La Republica., El Pais … There ‘s a lot to be said for the sex appeal of the tabloid flavor but then incorporating into that really terrific writing and good thinking. In some ways, it’s that high-low mix that I’ve liked to do at Vanity Fair and everywhere I’ve gone really, where the visual presentation is exciting and enticing and the content is smart and well-written and upscale.”
And the eternal question: Why should I visit you when there’s already Slate/Drudge/Huffington Post/TPM/Google News and every other magazine and newspaper?” Brown’s characteristic answer: “Sensibility, darling.”
As for some thoughts from the comptetition, the Times helps us out:
“The design is lively,” said Nick Denton, founder of Gawker Media. But, he added, citing Google’s home page, among others, “it has to be simpler to work.”