OLD Media Moves

What the end of Newsweek’s print edition means

October 19, 2012

Posted by Liz Hester

It’s another sad day for lovers of print publications with Newsweek announcing it would cease printing its weekly magazine at the end of the year and move to online only content.

It’s yet another sign of the times for journalism as one of the media’s best-known brands ceases to land in subscribers’ mailboxes each week. It’s hard to compete in a world where breaking news and analysis is measured in seconds and the cost to print and mail magazines keeps going up.

From the Wall Street Journal story:

Ms. Brown and Baba Shetty, who is Newsweek Daily Beast Co.’s chief executive, said the company will call the new online publication Newsweek Global and will continue to support it through subscription fees, with some content available on the Daily Beast.

The new publication will be “a single, worldwide edition targeted for a highly mobile, opinion-leading audience who want to learn about world events in a sophisticated context,” the statement said.

The move comes three months after the family of the late Sidney Harman, the billionaire who two years ago bought the ailing newsweekly and later merged it with IAC’s the Beast, pulled its financial support. The result left IAC with majority ownership.

And from the New York Times piece:

Founded in 1933, Newsweek established a venerable place in the American media landscape, competing ferociously with Time magazine week in and week out to bring news to several million readers. In the pre-Internet era, before a constant stream of real-time information was available, the two magazines were viewed as among the best sources of news and analysis — an attractive product on the newsstand and a highly anticipated arrival in the mailboxes of subscribers.

But as the weekly publication cycle became outdated, both magazines struggled to adapt to the Internet age and establish a digital presence, while facing a decline in advertising and circulation.

In 2001, Newsweek had a total paid circulation of 3,158,480, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulation. But as of June of this year, circulation had fallen by more than half, to 1,527,157.

According to the Times story, Newsweek was losing about $40 million a year, and IAC Chairman Barry Diller, who owns it, said he wouldn’t keep supporting that forever. As a business decision, it’s the only one to be made, but it is hard to think about more veteran journalists hitting the street looking for work.

Obviously the production costs were just too much to make it feasible to continue printing, but what will be interesting is to see if those more than 1.5 million people will pay for Newsweek content online. They’re planning to have a subscription model, which we’ve seen to be effective for sites such as The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. But the Daily Beast is free now.

So presumably Newsweek’s 1.5 million print subscribers got the magazine not just for the content, but the presentation and package. Obviously, online is a much different way to interact with content. That’s why I still receive National Geographic in print. I love the photos.

Since that same content is now available online or elsewhere, likely for free, it will be interesting to see how Newsweek can differentiate itself. They may have the best table reader application out there – that’s one way to do it.

Mostly, I think Newsweek needs to focus on the analysis piece. Most people reading a weekly magazine these days are probably looking for the smart, concise, wrap-up piece that tells them everything they need to know in a short amount of time, sort of like one stop shopping.

But they have a lot of competition for this in the general news space. There are the print papers – the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune, LA Times – and then the other magazines – US News & World Report (online only), Businessweek, and of course, Time.

I hope that the move will help save a few journalism jobs. Shutting down the print magazine is the only move. I just hope that Newsweek can keep some of those 1.5 million readers when they go online only. But it’s going to take superior and fast content to capture the eyes they need to succeed.

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