Unobtrusive ads in the land of pop-ups

November 18, 2010 § Leave a comment

While The Daily Beast is a fairly large Web site, it is not dominated by ads like other sites are. The ads are not dominating the front page of the site, instead they are dispersed with the content. In the slideshow of the top stories of the day, there is ad for Credit Suisse between headlines about Kate Middleton and the White House press secretary.

When the ad is clicked on, it is links to an advertorial about the female executives at the company. It is listed that it is written by The Daily Beast Promotions and is an example of a publication using advertiser-supported content to make money. While the ad is in the middle of the slideshow, it is clearly listed as “sponsered” content and can’t be construed as an independently reported story.

After getting into some of the other features on the site, the ads are more prevalent. On the “Cheat Sheet,” there is an ad for MasterCard. The same ad appears above the politics section. Another MasterCard ad appears amid the slideshow of the content in this section too. There are also a few ads for GE. For the most part, the ads are unobtrusive and are at the top of the section or separated from the content enough that they don’t detract from it.

When you click “Advertise” at the bottom of the page, a link to the wide variety of ads the site offers is launched, but prices aren’t listed, just a contact for advertisers.

While you can register on the site to comment and receive daily news e-mails, The Daily Beast doesn’t require paid subscriptions or offer content exclusive to those who register.

There is also a free downloadable iPhone app, which features all of the site’s content and a special version of the “Cheat Sheet.”

All in all, the site appears to make money from ads, which are actually quite discreet.



Poly-partisan political analysis

October 19, 2010 § Leave a comment

One of the most prominent stories on The Daily Beast this week was “The Tea Party’s New Queen” by Shushannah Walshe. This story is a profile of Minnesota state senator Michele Bachmann, who is poised to become one of the key leaders of the Tea Party.  It takes prominence on the site because it is capitalizing on the timeliness of the election and the gigantic buzz around the Tea Party movement.  I think this story is effective because it focuses on a fresher face in the movement, however, the story shows that Bachmann isn’t new bandwagon addition, but someone part of the movement before it “even had a name.”

The story begins by describing Bachmann’s life outside of politics, including the fact that she and her husband had 23 different foster children. The primary source for this information was a “close friend” of Bachmann’s named Beverly LeHaye.  Things would be a little more genuine in the section focusing on Bachmann’s personal life if it actually had quotes from the senator or a family member.  LeHaye is probably the next best thing, but I can’t help but be skeptical about how “close” she really is.

For the sections of the story discussing Bachmann’s political career, the sources seem more reliable.  They include a district office staffer, a former Republican State Senate president, a state representative that worked on legislation with Bachmann and a political science professor at the University of Minnesota.  Also, all of these sources were named, thus making them just that more reliable.

Mostly, this piece is a straight-forward news story. It remains objective and sticks with the “poly-partisan” mission.  Whether or not the writer supports Tea Party politics is unclear, and that is how it should remain.

Reviving the general audience

October 17, 2010 § 1 Comment

As I wrote before, The Daily Beast serves as an online-version of a general magazine.  Though these magazines failed in the print version, an online general magazine reaches a well-rounded audience and serves a one-stop-shop for information on widely varying topics.

According to the overview sheet of information provided for advertisers, The Daily Beast considers itself as “The Omnivorous Guide to Smart Conversation.”  This goes along with editor Tina Brown’s mission of providing “sexy brain food.”  The site, which boasts 4.6 Million visitors, has about 74 percent of readers that use the site as a first or second source of news.

The site also focuses on providing a “poly-partisan opinion,” so therefore it doesn’t seek out people of one particular political persuasion.  This “poly-partisan” opinion is actually evident on the politics section of the site. There are criticisms of both Democrats and Republicans and also a column from a libertarian writer, which is entitled, “Why I’m Rooting for Sharron Angle.”

As far as reported demographics, the overview sheet showed that readers are 55 percent male and 45 percent female, with about 85 percent between the ages of 18 and 64. Also, 48 percent of site visitors have at net worth of over $500,ooo, and half of that 48 percent have a net worth of over $1 million. This means that about half of the audience is made up of upper class elites, which would also make them highly educated

Evidence of this lies in the intellect of the stories, many of which focus on political issues.  However, as a college student with a net worth of probably $5,000 and a minor in political science, I can read and appreciate many of the articles on the site without a problem. So, while The Daily Beast caters to an audience of well-educated, well-informed and elite people, the articles are still what Brown calls “sexy brain food.”  While they are written intellectually, they are also written in a fun way, that people with just a general interest in politics, or any of the other topics they cover, would enjoy reading.

Passion before niche reporting

October 13, 2010 § Leave a comment

In an interview for its second anniversary, editor Tina Brown said she loves that The Daily Beast has a staff of writers that report on a variety of issues and topics that they are passionate about.  To her, it is more important to have writers passionate about certain topics, than those that will only report issues topically. This is evident just by visiting the web site’s list of blogs and stories.

From John Avlon’s “The Ultimate Wingnuts,” which reviews the craziest people campaigning for November election, to Gina Piccalo’s “Hollywood’s Kept Women” about Hollywood relationships mirroring the horror of Mel Gibson, The Daily Beast has articles that cater to any interest, but all still have a voice that is unique for the site.  Also these two stories are in-depth and well-researched, so it is likely the writers were both passionate about what they are writing.

Brown also said The Daily Beast’s main focus is “sexy brain food,” or articles that are informative, yet fun and not difficult to read.  This is particularly evident in the political stories on the site. “The Ultimate Wingnuts” provides information about candidates in the November election in a comedic manner. With the slideshow “The 15 Highest-Ranking Wingnuts,” The Daily Beast is presenting factual information about candidates and introducing some of the key players in the upcoming election.

Granted, they are putting a little bit of their own spin on it with the “wingnut index” giving each candidate a score out of 100 on the crazy scale, yet, it is presenting what Brown calls “sexy brain food.” Thus, The Daily Beast is fulfilling its mission of presenting information with a fun spin.

As Brown said in the interview, The Daily Beast has come a long way since it first launched as an aggregator, or a site that collects a multitude of information from different sources and puts it one place. The site still has a “Cheat Sheet” which presents the “must reads from all over,” which is a constantly updated list of breaking stories from many different sources. This is one of the few remnants from the “aggregate” age. The rest of the site has original and independent reporting.

The Daily Beast, the online solution to the lack of general magazines

September 26, 2010 § 1 Comment

With topics as diverse as politics and business to entertainment and food, The Daily Beast could be called an online general magazine.  The Daily Beast has a good mix of topics, as well as a good mix of writing. There are columns, blogs and stories that feature independent reporting from contributing writers.

Under politics, “Obama’s Empathy Deficit” by Kirsten Powers, is an example of a column that would run in a print magazine. Powers expresses her opinions in an articulate way, which is backed up by examples. It is not simply an unedited rant that would often end up on the internet.

“The Week Ahead in Culture” under entertainment is a great example of a magazine department that would run in the front or back of a print magazine. Online, it is a photo and video gallery that has upcoming events in television, music, books, movies, art, theater and fashion. Written explanations accompany the videos and photos. In a print magazine, this could very easily be a list with visuals and words.

The story “A Political Love Affair” by Shushannah Walshe is a feature story about the friendship between California gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman and Mitt Romney. Walshe’s story has several sources, but most of them are advisers, aides or campaign managers to either Whitman or Romney. Walshe cites Whitman’s book, but never quotes Romney or Whitman. Given that talking to either may have been difficult, I think the sources could be considered authorities on Romney and Whitman.

In addition to the stories and columns, The Daily Beast also links to other news sites for breaking stories. This is done through the use of the “Cheat Sheet” that runs down the middle of the home page. Like print magazines, The Daily Beast is not focusing on breaking the news, but providing a commentary on it.

Just as in a print magazine, The Daily Beast is curated by co-founder and editor-in-chief Tina Brown and executive editor Edward Felsenthal. Editing is important to any magazine, but it is specifically important online. With so many Web sites out there lacking in credibility, a good editing team helps keep The Daily Beast providing accurate information and commentary on a daily basis.

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