The first week of October the NY Times announced the launch of a new website. It was called The Daily Beast, a web aggregator branded and launched by Tina Brown, former editor of Vanity Fair, The New Yorker and Talk. An impressive resume, we were told. Ms. Brown includes media magnates and international personalities like Arianna Huffington and Bill Clinton among her friends. But the web is crowded with new websites, what makes the launch of one so out of the ordinary? Capital, darling, as Ms. Brown would probably say in the British accent I imagine her to have. Social capital and that of the financial persuasion.
In a little more than two months The Daily Beast has percolated through the surprisingly small network of mainstream media distribution and become a destination site. Other blogs cite it as a matter of due diligence, “according to The Daily Beast; as the Daily Beast wrote; as seen on the DB Buzz Board.” That’s right, The Daily Beast just might be getting big enough to appropriate the initials DB from those who really deserve it, big dudes who had jobs in finance (too soon?) who refer to gel as product, paste, cream or matte.
Most significantly, though, is the DB’s recent foray into the most coveted online real estate: the Chatus message. The Chatus is the message you leave as your “status” on G-chat. In that tiny space people create an identity based on song lyrics, tiny URLs, and recent quotes from the New Yorker. It is the most succinct and poignant crystallization of “word of mouth.” The Chatus is an implicit endorsement and the DB’s been getting it’s fair share as of late.
But how personal is this decision to hawk the Daily Beast? After all, from the start, the DB began as the blogspot of buzz. Can Tina Brown be faulted for knowing exactly what internet savvy, cubicle dwellers want in their online entertainment? We want Details Magazine meets 24-hour-news and the Huffington Post on the web. Something not just NY specific (sorry NY Mag). Something not so stale (sorry Slate). Something not so gay (sorry Gawker).
The death of newspapers, is on our opinion, a concept that’s dead itself. Newspapers are the shit and people will start turning back toward them very soon just as every trend eventually comes full circle. It’s only a matter of time before some annoying chick at a trendy bar is lecturing you on her Doc Martens, her love of the Smashing Pumpkins and why newspapers are backer than those waffle knits from Eddie Bauer. But as the eulogy for the printed word continues for the seventh year, a death slower only than that of the record industry, people turn to the web for their daily news. They click every link on HuffPo, check every update on Boing Boing and watch every vid on TPM. Naturally then, they’re well-informed. Or at least as well-informed as anyone who reads information distilled for them by outlets that share the same infolitical agenda can be.
But can such a jaded crowd accustomed to pouncing on and then renouncing the next big thing really be oblivious to the irony of their ways? Have we Natalie Imbruglia’d newspapers as extensions of corporate imperialists only to replace the Tribune Company, the Hearst Company, and the Darth arm of Rupert Murdoch with the likes of Barry Diller’s Interactivcorp, which runs The Daily Beast, Collegehumor, Citysearch and other heavily trafficked websites?
Though the web is infinite, it’s a lot like our brain. Most of us only use a very small percentage of it. We rely on aggregator sites like Slate, Drudge, and Google News to filter information for us, a function once fulfilled by the editorial board of a newspaper. How free, liberating and truly post-modern can the web be if sites like the Daily Beast can launch, leverage corporate connections and within two months establish itself as an independent voice?
The next time you throw a DB link on your chatus, consider how that decision came to pass. It’s like that scene in the Devil Wears Prada, when Meryl Streep lectures Anne Hathaway on the hundreds of decisions that were made by high-power tastemakers high up in Manhattan sky-scrapers that influenced her choice of which sweater to wear today. The internet may seem like the future of information, but the same handful of New York media moguls are determining what you read on the web today as they determined what you read in the paper ten years ago. It’s all about capital, who you know and how much money you have to back you. Go ahead, throw up that Chatus link to an article on chest hair in the DB, and keep on feeding the beast.