So veteran Washington Post reporter and CNN political commentator Howard Kurtz has ended his 30-year tenure at the legendary newspaper and decamped to become Washington bureau chief for Tina Brown's blogging site The Daily Beast.
At the same time, rumors abound that Brown is on the verge of sealing a deal to join up with beleaguered–and formerly Washington Post-owned–Newsweek magazine, which could give the Beast's billionaire owner Barry Diller an exit route if he is frustrated with the lack of progress towards profit in the Beast's two-year existence.
That deal is a long way from being done, and may never happen. But are these yet more indicators of the inexorable decline of old media, or is something more complicated at play?
No doubt Kurtz has been lured with a substantial pay check and, essentially, his job isn't going to change much. The only difference is that his main journalism output will feature solely on a website rather than ink and paper (unless the Newsweek deal does happen). He's still going to work his DC beat and dig in the same ditches for stories, comment, and analysis. And he's still going to do his Reliable Sources CNN show.
Newsweek has suffered the slings and arrows of the long-term structural changes that have destroyed print media's bread and butter and is desperately looking for a savior to keep it from going under. Advertising revenue fell 37% in 2009 and it lost $29.3 million. The Post sold the magazine to entrepreneur Sidney Harman for just $1 in September after owning it since 1961.
Tough times for traditional media then... But developments this week at Twitter demonstrate all isn't necessarily rosy in the social media garden either. The micro-blogging phenomenon replaced its chief executive officer and co-founder Evan Williams, with chief operating officer Dick Costolo moving up to the top slot. Williams wants to get back to being “creative,” rather than dealing with the hassle of running a business that is growing exponentially. And Twitter has realized it needs to focus on getting some revenue in.
Don't get me wrong, I fully expect Twitter to be one of those online businesses that does prosper in the long run, a la Facebook. But it's a reminder that social media is facing as many business challenges as the “traditional” media once inhabited by the likes of Kurtz.