Entertainment sites on the rise

Tina Brown's 'Beast' among online newcomers

The online competition for news of the entertainment industry is about to get much more intense.

Several new sites are set to launch from the likes of Tina Brown, Bonnie Fuller and Sharon Waxman. There’s even a projected relaunch of the disastrous Inside.com.

While the new online sites have mobilized editorial strategies, it’s not clear how they plan to monetize their considerable investments. Lack of advertising support doomed several predecessors, but the new entries stem from founders with a considerably higher profile.

“Certainly, they’re looking at the Huffington Post and thinking they can replicate that, because they have their own brand name,” said PaidContent topper Rafat Ali, an Inside.com alum who is reviving the online destination as part of an overall expansion.

His site, recently bought by Guardian Media, plans to begin covering gaming and traditional media in addition to digital media, using Inside.com as the umbrella name. The Netco bought the domain name late last year with the expansion in mind.

Brown, meanwhile, has the backing of Barry Diller’s InterActiveCorp. for her upcoming site, dubbed the Daily Beast. Expected to launch this fall, it will aggregate news and culture, though the business model is still fuzzy. Fuller is still seeking funding for her femme-oriented celeb news site.

Both women are untested online, but neither can be counted out, as they both previously revived sagging print magazines.

Waxman, former Hollywood correspondent for the New York Times, already has dipped her toes into the digital world at her blog, Waxword, but has much grander ambitions for her upcoming site. The journo just landed $500,000 in seed money for the Wrap and has started hiring. She insists the site will be “starting small,” stressing that the original Inside.com had “too large a staff. We’re going to start out with a small staff.”

However, she emphasized that her Netco, unlike Brown’s, will focus on original content to fill what she considers a void online.

“There’s a big empty space and a brave new world that’s opened up due to the collapse of traditional print journalism,” she said.

But there are plenty of traditional news sites providing original reportage online, and ad support doesn’t necessarily cover those newsgathering costs. Although Waxman wasn’t willing to disclose her business model, it is believed to hinge upon content syndication.

Ali is fully aware of the pitfalls of overspending online. He started as an intern at the original Inside.com, working there for 10 months before the Netco was sold in October 2001. In retrospect, he says, “It was a bad business model,” noting that the high costs of the companion print publication and staffing sunk the operation.

Naturally, he’s got an eye on the latest high-profile entrants into the online media fray. “They’re slightly late to the party,” he said.

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