After search led by Tunku Varadarajan, upstart media company IBT decides on veteran Jim Impoco for the next Newsweek
The saga of Newsweek, which had withered away to a thinly-staffed digital title under Barry Diller's IAC before being scooped up for an undisclosed amount last month by the owners of The International Business Times, just got a bit more interesting.
On Thursday morning, IBT Media announced that Jim Impoco has been named Newsweek's new editor-in-chief, following in the footsteps of heavyweights like Mark Whitaker, Jon Meacham and Tina Brown.
The news added a bit of fire to a venerable journalism brand that seemed to have all but burned out. Impoco is a veteran editor whose ports of call have been The New York Times, Conde Nast Portfolio and Reuters, where he served as executive digital editor until January and was the brainchild of a glossy magazine that exported the newswire's big-thinker brand to the Davos set. He's well liked in New York media circles, and his appointment may just serve to ease some of the skepticism Newsweek faces as it rebrands yet again under new ownership, let alone that of a little-known online media company whose founders were born in the 1980s and have ties to a controversial religious figure.
What tricks might Impoco have up his sleeve to turn this thing around following IAC's disastrous stewardship of the 80-year-old newsweekly?
Impoco isn't quite ready to reveal that.
"I'm super excited, but it's way to early to discuss anything," Impoco said when we rang him up. He's been consulting for the digital news startup Vocativ these past eight months, he said, and he was not yet authorized to speak publicly about his new job.
Sources familiar with the editor search said that Impoco was approached earlier this month by Tunku Varadarajan, the former international editor of Newsweek, who briefly helmed its digital-only incarnation before joining a march of defectors after the magazine's print edition was shuttered at the beginning of the year. (Since 2011, Newsweek had been staffed as a joint entity with Diller and Brown's Daily Beast, and the future of that publication is now also uncertain following the revelation that Brown is leaving the five-year-old website to put on media conferences.)
"IBT contracted me as a very short-term consultant to help them identify suitable candidates for the job of editor of Newsweek," confirmed Varadarajan, who declined to discus the editor search in detail. "The new owners considered numerous terrific candidates and the decision was entirely theirs. I played no role in the final selection."
Presumably one of those candidates was Richard Just, who was named editor of Newsweek less than a month before the sale to IBT. Just, who was previously the editor of The New Republic, did not respond to an email Friday afternoon.
Etienne Uzac, IBT's C.E.O. and co-founder, referred an email from Capital to a company spokesperson, who did not immediately have answers to questions about hiring plans (there are still a handful of existing Newsweek employees who may or may not be absorbed by the new company) or the size of Newsweek's digital subscriber base, which a previous spokesperson has characterized as being in the "hundreds of thousands."
In a statement yesterday, Uzac said of Impoco: "Jim has a remarkable track record of leadership in journalism and a deep understanding of the digital industry, which is the exactly what will take Newsweek to the next level. We look forward to his many contributions as editor-in-chief."
Newsweek's transition from IAC to IBT is expected to be complete by Oct. 1.
UPDATE: Richard Just confirmed to Capital that he is leaving Newsweek. He said he spoke to IBT about the editorship but withdrew from consideration before the process was finalized. He has two more issues left and has yet to decide what his next move will be come Oct. 1.