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This article was published on October 27, 2010

Should The Daily Beast launch a print edition?

Should The Daily Beast launch a print edition?
Alex Wilhelm
Story by

Alex Wilhelm

Alex Wilhelm is a San Francisco-based writer. You can find Alex on Twitter, and on Facebook. You can reach Alex via email at [email protected] Alex Wilhelm is a San Francisco-based writer. You can find Alex on Twitter, and on Facebook. You can reach Alex via email at [email protected]

IAC, the parent company to the upstart internet news destination ‘The Daily Beast‘ has expressed interest in taking the website to the streets with a print edition. The idea is not as crazy as it sounds, Politico has had a successful print version for years.

The important questions that surround the concept are what will make it into the print edition, where it will be distributed, and who will pay for it. Politico, to use the only other useful example of a website launching a newspaper, distributes its paper around the DC area for free while charging hundreds of dollars per year if you want it but don’t live near a free distribution point.

The strategy has been successful, with the readership so targeted that the paper commands very high advertising rates. This put the paper on near revenue parity two years ago with the normal Politico website. One year ago the newspaper had a circulation of around 32,000.

The Daily Beast does have a problem in moving from the digital world to the print real however in that it is something of an aggregator. The Daily Beast actually started out as nearly a full aggregator, but has moved into more and more original content. In a recent interview, Beast’s editor Tina Brown (pictured below) fielded the following question:

The Daily Beast started as an aggregator with some original reporting as a side dish. But the site seems to be cranking out its own articles and now the aggregation is complementary.
Correct. The natural creativity of the staff morphed The Daily Beast very fast into what has become a newsroom. Aggregation lives on the Cheat Sheet, the video player, and in the breaking news slot in the first big box. The rest is all original, generated by Beast writers and editors.

And so you have to ask the question, if the aggregation is still ‘complementary,’ and that the Beast most likely does not have reprint rights on that content, can it fill a full newspaper (say distributed three times a week) with its original content, or is it still too dependent on linking out to other sources?

This is not an idle question. Given that the temporal constraints of publishing a newspaper that has to last several (two to three depending on the decided cycle) days on a newsstand and still attract readers, The Daily Beast will have to depend heavily on longer form, less ‘breaking’ centric coverage that does not lose value by the minute as is the case with much online content. That said, the website does have that sort of content, this is just a question of quantity.

What would be most interesting in all of this was if The Daily Beast did not distribute its paper for free in the same areas where Politico’s is offered free of charge. The question of what content is worth is about to enter a new chapter it seems, with the upstarts treading historically backwards into print.

Can they make it work over the next ten years? Perhaps. The overhead of a website is so low that the architecture required for print may just be financially feasible. Whether they make the jump or not, a final thought that may impact the website is this: Politico is a more focused publication than The Daily Beast, a fact that may impact the Beast’s ability to garner a dedicated print readership.