Tina Brown wants Women in the World, her live-event series returning this week, to avoid the conference-scene plague of "two guys and a glass of water."
"It is so boring," she said during a meeting at The New York Times headquarters.
Women in the World is the second -- or maybe third -- act for Ms. Brown, who famously edited Vanity Fair and The New Yorker, where she introduced a mix of hard news and salacious celebrity stories, before launching her own short-lived Talk magazine. Later, she founded digital-only site The Daily Beast under Barry Diller's IAC umbrella and left -- after the company's disastrous acquisition of Newsweek -- with the Women in the World series in 2013.
Now Ms. Brown leads a company, Tina Brown Live Media, of about 20 people that puts on Women in the World -- which Ms. Brown calls "live journalism" -- with a cast of speakers including Hillary Clinton, Meryl Streep and Barbra Streisand.
"It's all about the mix, like it was at Vanity Fair or The New Yorker," she said. "Do we have enough emotional content? Do we have enough drama? Do we have enough intellectual provocation? Do we have enough star power?"
So what is Ms. Brown doing at the Times headquarters? She has an office there now, following the Times' investment in Women in the World last December. The event this Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at Lincoln Center in Manhattan is the first since the two companies connected.
"We made the decision that we were going to get much more serious about our conference business," said Meredith Kopit-Levien, the Times' newly promoted chief revenue officer. "Half our audience is women, but we felt we were underserving that market from a live-experience standpoint."
That means the Times now sells advertising sponsorships for Women in the World -- the conference's largest source of revenue -- and shares the proceeds. A number of brands are backing the latest Women in the World, including MasterCard and Land's End. Three others -- Toyota, Merck and Dove -- will have sponsored panels.
"Those moments, which are very well thought out, are in a sense like the branded content on an editorial page," Ms. Brown said. "They are absolutely made clear that this is a branded thing, but we want to bring the same quality to it. We are very careful about it. We don't have people there spouting about their brands."