Internet publishers Arianna Huffington and Tina Brown may both be foreign transplants to the U.S., but there's little question which of the two fifty-somethings has more fully assimilated her site to the democratic rough-and-tumble of American Web culture. It was Huffington who offered blogs to five virtual strangers over the course of two days, as documented in the New Yorker earlier this month, including "the Asperger’s-afflicted teen-age son of a radio d.j." and "a woman, dressed exclusively in green, who was trying to stop insecticide spraying." Brown, in contrast, has lent her Daily Beast a distinctly royalist feel, as one might expect from a Commander of the British Empire. And the former New Yorker editor played the snob angle for all it was worth in a lengthy interview with Portfolio's Lloyd Grove:
L.G.: Arianna Huffington doesn't pay her writers, as you know—her bloggers particularly.
T.B.: Don't forget, Lloyd, it's a completely different model, because that's a come-one-come-all, multi sort of present site. We are commissioning and not just trying to publish every blog that comes in as a post. It's going through editors. It's not people posting without an editor, it's people writing for either a commission or a particular editor. We accept and we reject.
...We do feel that our service is to be discerning... we're not just looking to simply post everything in the world that's close to the door right now.
As if to cement the notion that she's a media A-lister (as opposed to, say, a bored divorcée looking to stay at the top of the cocktail circuit), Brown eagerly mentioned that she's also got a book on the Clintons due soon (actually 2010, she later realized) and a "production development deal" with HBO (she's adapting Tom Wolfe's "I Am Charlotte Simmons" for the small screen).
The former Vanity Fair chief also let it be known that it was financial backer Barry Diller who approached her and not the other way around — and that she made him wait while she finished her book.
This top-shelf positioning seems to be working fabulously, by the way. In its first two weeks the Beast has earned wide notice for Christopher Buckley's endorsement of Barack Obama, news of Buckley's subsequent firing from National Review, Mike Kinsley on John McCain having a meltdown at a craps table and Kevin Sessums' spiked profile of a fragile, breakdown-prone Jennifer Lopez.
Now Brown just needs to figure out how to make money on this highbrow stew. Diller won't finance her highbrow airs forever, after all.