Here's a surprising datapoint from the Newsweek-Daily Beast tie-up: Newsweek.com had roughly double The Daily Beast's traffic. The Beast seems like the big digital part of the deal, but it's actually the other way around.
That's no knock on The Beast, which is a great publication. They were fighting an uphill battle for brand recognition in an environment where it's exceptionally difficult to build loyalty. And that's one reason that I'm not as down on the deal as everyone else seems to be.
I have a theory (more like a hypothesis) that the print brands created during the 20th century are special. They reached a level of national awareness and cohesion that I don't think will be equaled. A simpler way to put this: they knew what they did and so did everyone else. Even when they go online, they are trusted and known in ways that other sites -- even well-funded, high-profile ones -- can't match.
While Newsweek.com's people certainly earned their traffic, as one disgruntled (soon-to-be former) employee noted, they were also standing on the shoulders of decades of other reporters' hard work. Maybe publications have to be grandfathered in. So, take a website (The Beast) with a ton of editorial energy and marry it to a shaky, but salvageable print brand and maybe you're on to something.