Earlier today, I was named the new editor in chief of The Daily Beast. Here’s the note I sent to our newsroom about where I see The Beast headed next.
Subject: Welcome to Chapter Three
I’m so humbled, so excited. It’s such an honor to become The Daily Beast’s third Editor in Chief.
The news is still fresh, but I do have some early thoughts on where I see The Beast heading next. But first, I can’t thank enough my brother and partner John Avlon; his leadership is a major reason why so many observers now see The Beast as, pound-for-pound, the best news site around. I’m looking forward to working even more closely with our amazing managing editor, Katie Baker, as well as with Heather Dietrick, Mia Libby, Lauren Bertolini, Alison Zwerling, and the rest of the senior team.
The Beast has hit its stride in recent years by doing what we do best, which is essentially… being ourselves. Street smart, not fusty. Omnivorous and idiosyncratic in our tastes. Worldly, naughty, and always hustling. The kind of outfit that celebrates heroes where we find ’em—Lord knows, we could use a few today—and goes after villains even harder. The kind of journalism that can’t wait to take a side, throw a punch, and go out for a drink when the fight’s done.
The Beast is about telling the raw truth instead of repeating the everyday niceties that obscure it. You see it when our White House team brings home another insane quote from inside Trumpworld. The Beast is about speaking up to power when everyone else is too polite to be real. You see it when Amy Zimmerman unearths an Oscar contender’s awful past. The Beast is about championing things when they’re truly great—from the runway to the bio lab to the big screen. You see it when Tim Teeman breaks the news of Glenda Jackson’s Tony Award nomination for Best Actress—to Glenda Jackson. The Beast is about fighting for the rights of everybody. The Beast is about making this new golden age of journalism the most fun moment in news-making yet.
That attitude—combined with a relentless focus on scoops—is what has fueled The Beast’s rise. It’s why our page views are up 65 percent year over year as some of our competitors struggle. And though we’ve seen other outlets trying to copy our voice and reporting style, leaning into what makes The Beast so original is what defines our opportunity for tomorrow.
When we’re really clicking, every story should aim for the heart. Every headline should make you stand up and scream, “Oh, shit!” And every competitor should wonder how we beat them to a story… again.
Here are some of the ways we’ll make that happen:
NEW FORMATS. We thankfully sidestepped the “pivot to video” trend and that surrender-your-whole-operation-to-Facebook thing. But that attention to our core offerings left us room to do more—much more. And you’ll see it in the months ahead. The Beast will build on its world-class art department to push into more audio, visual, and data-first storytelling. We’ll expand our breaking-news offerings and our newsletter products. We’re adding Will Sommer’s groundbreaking newsletter on the ultraconservative, “Right Richter,” to Lachlan Markay’s dive into D.C. sleaze, “Pay Dirt” (which, by the way, already has 10,000+ subscribers and an open rate of nearly 50 percent after just a few weeks). We’ll move into serialized, nonfiction narratives—epic adventures, real-life mysteries, and more unforgettable stories from some of the top writers around. We’ll expand onto new social platforms, with Malia Griggs and her team leading the way. And we’ll do it while staying true to who were are; scoops will continue to be the engine of this operation.
NEW TEAMS. In the last year, we’ve begun to develop a way of getting these scoops—an approach that marries old-school source-building with code-driven reporting, and breaks down departmental barriers to build investigative all-star teams. Our entertainment and politics desks cross-pollinated to take on some of the worst actors of the #MeToo era. Our tech and national reporters worked together to uncover the truth about the Parkland shooter. And then there’s the Russia investigation, which united journalists in six cities across 11 time zones to take on the biggest story of all. You can expect to see more of these unconventional teams as we move ahead.
NEW TOOLS. Beast staffers have been developing software and honing new techniques to ensure we stay one step ahead of the pack. Most of you know about our tool that drops court papers into Slack minutes after they’re published; you may not know about Kevin Poulsen’s custom code that helped unearth major pieces of the Kremlin’s online propaganda effort. Combined with the reporting of Spencer Ackerman, Betsy Woodruff, Gideon Resnick, and so many others, it enabled The Beast to reveal key components of Moscow’s campaign months before the special counsel indicted the Russian troll farm.
And we’re just getting started. Lisa Schwartz, a veteran of two Pulitzer Prize-winning teams, is busy uncovering documents that may prove rather, um, inconvenient to certain power players. Adam Rawnsley is doing stuff with geolocation and imagery analysis that makes me wonder how he hasn’t been recruited by America’s spy agencies. (Adam, you haven’t, right?)
NEW COVERAGE. Meanwhile, Lachlan Cartwright is coming on board to work stories at the nexus of celebrity, power, and scandal, joining a powerhouse of a national desk anchored by Justin Miller, Kate Briquelet, and Kelly Weill. Max Tani has become an absolute terror on the media beat. Our science vertical—launched late year under the leadership of Tanya Basu—has already made a major impact. It’ll get even more tightly integrated with other desks in the months to come to deliver scoops, as will our arts team. Our travel vertical, just underway, will open up the globe, with The Beast as its guide. Our entertainment coverage—which already includes some of the strongest voices in the game, like Kevin Fallon, Ira Madison, Melissa Leon, Matt Wilstein, and Marlow Stern—will only grow in importance. Our renewed tech team will bring the weird from the Internet’s quirkier neighborhoods. And our amazing breaking-news desk will be widening its lens to cover stories from every corner of the news landscape.
The first chapter of The Beast’s history saw an astonishing launch—followed by the Newsweek merger. In the second chapter, we parted ways with the magazine, reestablished our foundations, and then, improbably, turned this place into a scoop machine. Chapter three is poised to be the best one yet. I can’t wait.