Author and former Vanity Fair and New Yorker editor Tina Brown opened the ONA conference today and said the time had come for editors to reassert themselves in an algorithmic age.
Brown's The Daily Beast will launch some time this fall (Oct. 1, Reuters noted last night) and will aggregate content and provide what she hopes will be material no one else has.
She told the ONA conference that she's delighted to be in a medium not worried about its demise. She is working with a smallish budget at a feverish pace, but she had very little to say about her business model except that it's evolving and will be underwritten by advertising. It's part of IAC, Barry Diller's diversified media company.
She said that at some point the nut will be cracked and that advertising's bifurcated period will shake out to permit integration of new media. We're in the middle right now of a transitional moment, she said.
She cut off questions about The Daily Beast, saying she didn't want the event to be a press conference on the site. It was a bit of a hard moment in an otherwise soft session.
Having done that, she later answered a question about how long-form journalism can be created online. She noted that online media is not terribly "hospitable" to long-form narrative writing, but that she wants to explore how to provide extensive information without necessarily doing all of it in text. The 5,000-7,000-word pieces online are too hard to read.
Earlier in the speech and q-and-a session, she had her strongest criticism for media organizations asking journalists to commit to multi-platform production in addition to their normal duties with no addtional pay.
The great con of the 20th and 21st century is the way in which talent has been exploited. There needs to be pushback from the creative community. "It's a pretty savage state of affairs."
She said it's a "great mistake" to assume that anyone can write for a reputable brand.
A "tremendous fall" awaits companies thinking they can replace experienced staff with younger journalists in order to get much more quantity from them.
Advice to young journalists: Avoid the big companies, go into something small and about to close, because that's where you can get into the thick of it.