Thursday, October 18, 2012

Newsweek sails into an all-digital future;
ends print edition

[This post has been updated] The announcement today of the ending of the print edition of Newsweek magazine comes with a crashing sense of inevitability. But longtime readers and magazine people can be forgiven for feeling glum. The message from Tina Brown, editor in chief and founder of The Newsweek Daily Beast Company, strove for a positive note, saying the launching of a single, worldwide edition of the magazine was aimed at highly mobile, opinion-leading readers. Tablet use among Newsweek readers has grown along with tablet use generally and editorial excellence would be sustained through swift, easy, digital distribution, she said.
"Exiting print is an extremely difficult moment for all of us who love the romance of print and the unique weekly camaraderie of those hectic hours before the close on Friday night. But as we head for the 80th anniversary of Newsweek next year we must sustain the journalism that gives the magazine its purpose—and embrace the all-digital future."
She said a tipping point had been reached.
"Four years ago we launched The Daily Beast. Two years later, we merged our business with the iconic Newsweek magazine—which The Washington Post Company had sold to Dr. Sidney Harman. Since the merger, both The Daily Beast and Newsweek have continued to post and publish distinctive journalism and have demonstrated explosive online growth in the process. The Daily Beast now attracts more than 15 million unique visitors a month, a 70 percent increase in the past year alone—a healthy portion of this traffic generated each week by Newsweek’s strong original journalism."
Richard Adams, a Guardian reporter, commented acidly on Twitter: " And in other news, the Titanic is transitioning to an all-underwater format."

A couple of points: It's worth noting that the 15 million unique visitors a month cited by Tina Brown is respectable, but middling. The challenge will be to see if this online readership can be grown and if advertisers consequently pay more attention to it. 

The quality of the content is a direct result of the quality of the reporting that goes into it, whether in print or online, so its going to be important to see what shape the staff is in once all the pink slips have been issued.

There will inevitably be "print is dead" stories all over the place, keyed to this announcement, many of them half-baked and some of them self-serving. But a very real distinction needs to be made between news weeklies and their redundancy in the 24-hour news cycle and the value that readers place on magazines generally. The magazines that are and will be prospering long-term are those who see their goal as delivering must-have, useful and entertaining content on multiple platforms at the reader's pleasure. The best and most successful magazines will create carefully curated and crafted stories, beautifully presented in a variety of formats.]

[Update 2: One of The Daily Beast's bloggers, Andrew Sullivan (The Dish) has a ferocious posting about the future of print and magazines in particular.] 

[Update 3:  Derek Thompson of The Atlantic has a chilling column  "Who's Really to Blame for the Death of Newsweek?"]

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