Newsweek Ending Print Edition in 2013

Newsweek is ending its iconic print edition in 2013. Finis. This story can be explained as it going all digital -(which is how the company frames it) but the real story here is: its print edition will be “put to sleep” permanently in 2013 because the day of the print weekly news magazine is over. And no matter how it is explained, it means Newsweek will pass away and the real survivor will be The Daily Beast.

Here’s part of the statement by Tina Brown, editor-in-chief and founder of The Newsweek Daily Beast Company:

We are announcing this morning an important development at Newsweek and The Daily Beast. Newsweek will transition to an all-digital format in early 2013. As part of this transition, the last print edition in the United States will be our Dec. 31 issue.

Meanwhile, Newsweek will expand its rapidly growing tablet and online presence, as well as its successful global partnerships and events business.

Newsweek Global, as the all-digital publication will be named, 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. Newsweek Global will be supported by paid subscription and will be available through e-readers for both tablet and the Web, with select content available on The Daily Beast.

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.

At the same time, our business has been increasingly affected by the challenging print advertising environment, while Newsweek’s online and e-reader content has built a rapidly growing audience through the Apple, Kindle, Zinio and Nook stores as well as on The Daily Beast. Tablet-use has grown rapidly among our readers and with it the opportunity to sustain editorial excellence through swift, easy digital distribution—a superb global platform for our award-winning journalism. By year’s end, tablet users in the United States alone are expected to exceed 70 million, up from 13 million just two years ago.

Currently, 39 percent of Americans say they get their news from an online source, according to a Pew Research Center study released last month. In our judgment, we have reached a tipping point at which we can most efficiently and effectively reach our readers in all-digital format. This was not the case just two years ago. It will increasingly be the case in the years ahead.

It is important that we underscore what this digital transition means and, as importantly, what it does not. We are transitioning Newsweek, not saying goodbye to it. We remain committed to Newsweek and to the journalism that it represents. This decision is not about the quality of the brand or the journalism—that is as powerful as ever. It is about the challenging economics of print publishing and distribution.

There’s more, but here a few thoughts:
1. This kind of shift means one part of a corporation fades. I was on the Wichita Eagle when Knight Ridder decided to merge the evening Wichita Beacon into it. The corporate explanations were that they were going to turn it into the best newspaper ever — incorporating the best of the two brands so the Beacon would live on. Once the Beacon was killed off, it really became Wichita Eagle, with some staffers of the Beacon now working for it and the paper and paper having the name “Beacon” on it from now on.

2. About a year after I left the San Diego Union newspaper in November 1990, Copley merged the Evening Tribune into it. Once again, the talk was that the merger would be two papers together. Years later, in the public’s mind it is one paper, now called the San Diego Union-Tribune. Some think it maintains more Union influence; others say it has more Tribune but it has been bought and sold twice in recent years and looks totally different. The bottom line: the evening paper is no more and will never rise again.

3. This really means no matter how the Newsweek name is maintained the death of Newsweek as people knew it. But a case CAN BE MADE for all digital. The Christian Science Monitor is now all digital and it’s a great website and still syndicates its material. The Monitor offers a great weekly edition. It’s brand and quality lives but its daily newspaper is gone and is unlikely to ever rise again. US News & World report is another news magazine that is now all digital and has a great website. But it’s print edition will never rise again.

4. I have had a somewhat indirect association with Newsweek over the years so this is a sad moment. I grew up in a house where my father Richard Gandleman printed for Time Inc. but we always got both magazines. I continued the tradition for years. In the fall of 1975, while I was freelancing in Spain for the Chicago Daily News (I later switched over to extensive freelancing as The Christian Science Monitor’s bylined “Special Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor” in Madrid), the Newsweek bureau hired me to help in their visiting staffer and stringer with reporting and writing during the last turbulent months of dictator Gen. Francisco Franco’s regime. In the 2008 Presidential election, The Moderate Voice was invited by Newsweek as one of the Media Bloggers Association blogs to contribute its campaign coverage and analyst to Newsweek’s special “The Ruckus” blog on its website.

5. If you talk to people in their 20s, you’d be hard pressed to find a lot of them that would want or care about a print newsweekly.

The bottom line? The print magazine format started by Time and copied later by Newsweek is dead.

On the other hand we still have the great newsweekly The Week that offers delightful compact and expanded summaries of news and other features. But The Week’s format is perfectly suited to the 21st century; the weekly newsmagazine offering content that people can read by surfing the Internet is gone.

Can Time Magazine be far behind?

2 Comments

  1. In a world where tablets will become paper thin and paper flexible…there simply is no need for print. Yet, we still need journalists.

  2. News gathering takes effort and expense. So does news writing. It is only fair then that we figure out a way to pay for it.
    There is more at stake here than just saving the journalism business; democracy is premised on an accurately informed electorate. Increasingly, however, we are relying on talking heads, or bloggers, who see no reason to get it right. Indeed, they sometimes prefer to get it wrong: “Creates controversy, more traffic”
    We have controversy enough already. What we need are facts — and journalists to gather and report them in a no-nonsense fashion.
    Far too many good news organizations have gone under.
    Time to wake up.

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