MSNBC.com's top editor resigns

Editor in Chief Merrill Brown says he is "off to try new challenges," becoming the latest tech-publishing pioneer to call it quits.

Stefanie Olsen Staff writer, CNET News
Stefanie Olsen covers technology and science.
Stefanie Olsen
2 min read
MSNBC.com Editor in Chief Merrill Brown resigned Tuesday, making him the latest tech-publishing pioneer to call it quits.

Brown, who served as the chief of the online publication since it was founded in August 1996, will leave his post June 21, according to company spokesman Peter Dorogoff. Brown, who was also senior vice president of the 200-person online operation, will leave to "pursue personal opportunities," Dorogoff said. The company has plans to search for a successor, but no appointments have been made, Dorogoff added.

In a regular newsletter sent to readers Tuesday, Brown bade a fond farewell and thanked subscribers after his six years on the job.

"With this e-mail I will no longer be writing Insider since I'll be leaving the position of Editor in Chief in a short while," he wrote in the Insider newsletter. "In case you're wondering, after six years of work here, trying to stay on top of the seven-day-a-week news cycle, I'm off to try new challenges."

Brown's departure is the most recent in a shakeout among top brass at Internet publications. In April, George Shirk, editor in chief of Terra Lycos' Wired News site, resigned after nearly four years at the helm of the technology news site. In February, Michael Kinsley, founder of Microsoft-owned Slate, stepped down after five-and-a-half years as editorial chief at the political opinion magazine.

Since these editorial directors started in tech publishing, the Internet landscape has changed vastly. In the late '90s, online news sites were seen as a great threat to traditional media, hyped as outlets that would replace newspapers or magazines. But with the fallout of the financial markets, many ad-supported sites became also-rans, struggling for marketing dollars and striving to create services that consumers would pay for.

MSNBC.com, a free news site created through a partnership between Microsoft's MSN and General Electric's NBC, is considering creating subscription services for video streams like many of its online counterparts, including AOL Time Warner's CNN, according to Dorogoff. But so far, Brown's departure is not a signal of big changes to come at the publication.

"We're continuing to build a strong news brand online and working closely with MSN as its news and information channel," Dorogoff said. Brown's departure is "a loss for us, obviously. We'll all be impacted by his leaving, but he leaves us with a strong brand online and having creating an entirely new news media."

Before Brown joined MSNBC.com in May 1996, he was a media and communications consultant for such news outlets as Time and NBC, helping to develop Internet operations for various publications. He also helped create Courtroom Television Network (Court TV) with Steven Brill. He has also been a reporter for The Washington Post and the Washington Star.