If you've been following the blow-by-blow, you no doubt thought, until last night, that the deal was dead. In mid-October, Brown posted the following on her Daily Beast blog: "The talks were indeed intriguing, but in the end we have decided not to pursue them further." Sounds pretty definitive, doesn't it?
So, what happened? What happened is that Newsweek owner Sidney Harman (who bought the publication in August for $1 and took on its liabilities) had a rude awakening -- and it's that most of the world, even among editor types, doesn't really care much about Newsweek. Per New York magazine, the weeks between the alleged ending of talks and the announcement of the merger this morning were filled not only with continuing discussion with Barry Diller (who owns Daily Beast owner IAC), but also with entreaties to other top editors to edit Newsweek, including Sports Illustrated's Terry McDonell.
And the fact is, no one wanted the job. In the new arrangement, it looks like Brown is getting the editorial control she wanted-- and was apparently missing during the duo's first engagement -- though Harman will have a day-to-day role. The challenge from here, of course, is not only to merge print and online operations, but, in particular to find a way for the term "newsweekly" not to be an oxymoron. As I said when it first became known that The Daily Beast and Newsweek were talking, if anyone can pull that off, it's Tina Brown.