Next year there will be one less publication on the racks by the checkout lanes at the grocery store. Today, the magazine announced that it will cease to publish a print edition on December 31.
For the past decade, Newsweek’s circulation has steadily slipped: In 2001, its total paid circulation was 3,158,480 but this has now shrunk by more than half, to 1,527,157 as of June this year.
My household is one of those 1,631,323 who decided, years ago, not to renew our subscription. Why, when there is now enough information on the Internet to have satiated the news cravings of even my late mother-in-law, Grace?
Grace subscribed to four newspapers and, until illness and age took their sad toll, read every page every day. She steadfastly paid for a subscription to Time magazine for us; my husband and I added one for Newsweek (“that’s the liberal one,” Grace scoffed) so we could each claim a news magazine. For us, the Internet has changed these behaviors. While I still read the news standing in the checkout line, it’s via my phone.
Tina Brown: No More Print Newsweek Is Just a Transition
Tina Brown, founder of the Daily Beast website who was highly instrumental in merging it with Newsweek, puts what could be called a brave face on the final act of the eight-decade-old publication’s print edition. In A Turn of the Page for Newsweek (an ironically titled article), Brown seeks to convey the end of the magazine in print form as a transition and a stepping stone to an all-digital format. This new version, Newsweek Global, will be available via paid subscription with some context accessible on The Daily Beast site.
Citing a recent Pew Research Center study which found that 39 percent of Americans get their news from the Internet, Brown insists that the change is by no means the end of Newsweek as we have known it:
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.
But as the New York Times’ Media Decoder blog points out, “readers and media analysts have been puzzled by some of the covers” and some of the coverage that Brown, eager “to distinguish Newsweek from other magazines and make it a talked-about publication again,” has chosen. There was last November’s cover story about sex addiction; May’s depicting President Obama with a rainbow-hued halo and the headline ”The First Gay President”; the recent MuslimRage story that generated attention for reasons other than what Brown may have bargained for.
The New York Times also details Newsweek’s recent past financial woes. Bought for $1 from the Washington Post in 2010 by a nonagenarian audio magnate, Sidney Harman, Newsweek’s “future grew grimmer still after Mr. Harman died in the spring of 2011.” After initially saying they would still back “the ailing weekly,” Hammer’s heirs announced last summer that their investment would cease. The Daily Beast is itself owned by IAC/InterActiveCorp whose chairman, Barry Diller, has “made it clear he would not underwrite the losses forever.”
This report of Newsweek’s actual demise, or of the print version at any rate, has not been unanticipated. The Guardian’s Michael Wolff writes that, four years ago, he had opined that Newsweek would not last more than five years.
By the time she passed away in 2010, my mother-in-law Grace had lost most of her eyesight and paid no heed to the news on the TV set in her nursing home room. But there was a time in the 1960s when she hid copies of Time magazine (like the one whose black-and-red cover asked “Is God Dead?”) from her eager-reader son (my husband) and when she’d go straight for the copies of Newsweek on our kitchen table when she visited and remind us that she was planning to renew our subscription to Time.
Those days of Grace turning the pages of magazines are long gone. Will print publications all fade away too someday?
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