IBT Media Buys Newsweek

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Aug. 4 2013 12:00 PM

IBT Media Buys Newsweek, Confident It Can Build Digital Brand Into a Profitable Enterprise

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“I wish I hadn’t bought Newsweek,” the 71-year-old Barry Diller told Bloomberg Television in April. “It was a mistake.”

Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Barry Diller is getting rid of a purchase he made less than two years ago and famously called a “mistake.” The once venerable weekly news magazine is changing owners for the third time in as many years as Diller said IAC/InteraActiveCorp is selling the Newsweek brand to IBT Media, reports Reuters. The sale does not include the Daily Beast. The digital-only media company that owns the International Business Times is confident there’s still power in the Newsweek brand and will once again revive the Newsweek.com URL. In early 2011, the Newsweek web presence was folded into the Daily Beast website.

“With our knowledge of building digital brands and with the power of the Newsweek brand we think we can build it and definitely be profitable,” Etienne Uzac, co-founder and chief executive officer of IBT Media, said in an interview with Bloomberg. “There are revenue models that Newsweek has that are different from what IBT is doing, so bringing the two together there’s a lot of opportunity to grow.”

Newsweek was sold by the Washington Post for a symbolic $1 in 2010 to Sidney Harman. IAC later merged it with the Daily Beast as part of an agreement with Harman and after almost 80 years turned the weekly magazine into a digital-only publication. Diller came to regret the purchase. “I wish I hadn’t bought Newsweek,” Diller told Bloomberg Television in an April interview in which he called the venture “a fool’s errand.”

The International Business Times claims a monthly audience of more than 7 million in the United States, and 13 million around the world. But it remains a largely unknown company. Buzzfeed points out that some reports suggest IBT is tied to controversial preacher David Jang, although the company’s co-founders deny that’s the case.

The Daily Beast’s Dan Gross outlines the sad decline of Newsweek in a piece that tries to put a positive spin on how much the publication has changed since it was sold in 2010. The deal is expected to close within a week, which will be followed by a 60-day transition period, according to a memo sent to staff by interim Newsweek CEO Rhona Murphy.

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the "Today's Papers" column from 2006 to 2009. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoliti.