And I prefer challenges where the upside potential is unlimited even if unlikely


Ms. Brown won acceptance to Oxford at 16. (…)

At 25, she took over the Tatler of London and quickly quadrupled its circulation. At 30, she was in New York running Vanity Fair. She supercharged the magazine with her signature high-low sensibility, which created a template for the magazine that defines it to this day. It was Ms. Brown who hired Annie Leibovitz, often at exorbitant cost, to shoot indelible images. (…)

Her success in reviving Vanity Fair impressed Condé Nast’s chairman, S. I. Newhouse Jr., so much, he asked her to take over his cherished New Yorker in 1992. (…)

Ms. Brown has a salary in the $700,000 range, according to one person briefed on her negotiations with Mr. Harman. Mr. Harman declined to comment. That amount is not wildly high for an editor with as high a profile as Ms. Brown’s.

Holding costs down is one thing. Turning a profit is another. And Ms. Brown’s magazines have generally proven better at spending money than earning it.

The New Yorker broke into the black in 2002, four years after she left but also for the first time since Condé Nast bought it in 1985. Ms. Brown points out that the magazine’s losses had slowed significantly by the time she left.

At Vanity Fair, Ms. Brown had a reputation for spending lavishly on writers and photographers, expenses that put the magazine deeply in debt. But in her final years as editor, it began to turn a profit, though not every year, according to one person with knowledge of Vanity Fair’s business. (…)

Whether The Daily Beast has been the success that Ms. Brown had hoped it would be is a matter of some debate. It initially lost about $10 million a year, but executives said that advertising had picked up in the last year and that they expected profitability “in the next few years,” according to Stephen Colvin, chief executive of the Newsweek Daily Beast Company. Unique visitors to the site have leveled off in the range of two million to three million a month over the last year, according to comScore, the Internet traffic research firm.

The task of taking two money-losing operations and combining them to try to become one profitable enterprise has struck many in the media business as fanciful.

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