Death of a newsmagazine

Newsweek covers on the iPad, via The Daily Beast.

Now we have the news that Newsweek will cease publication as of Dec. 31. (Yeah, I know technically, they’re going to continue to publish on the Web, but yet another light content provider on the Web is ho-hum news compared to the end of a print institution. Get back to me when a major, serious newspaper goes all-digital. That will seem like a bold step forward.) From The Daily Beast:

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…

I’m not going to be mourning over this one. As you may recall, I referred to the folks in charge of that publication as “the superficial, pandering twits editing Newsweek,” after they had run Nikki Haley on their cover for the second time during her campaign against what’s-his-name, which is the way Newsweek and all national media treated Vincent Sheheen. (Actually, they didn’t even treat him that well; it was like he didn’t exist.) As I said further at the time:

And do they have any serious, substantive reason to do this? Of course not. The putative reason for putting Nikki’s smiling mug on the cover again is to discuss the burning issue of “mama grizzlies.” I am not making this up.

I hope Dave Barry will excuse me using his line there. It just fit so perfectly.

The sad truth is, the American “newsmagazine” is an animal that long ago ceased to be anything of substance. Of course, the genre always had its dismissive critics, but I took TIME from when I was in high school in to my 20s, and there was a lot of serious stuff to read back then, to my young eye.

But in recent years, I’ve only seen these publications in doctor’s offices in recent years, and am unimpressed, generally deciding to put them down and pick up a copy of Smithsonian or something. They look like manic collages, with scarcely a full, sustained thought to be found anywhere in their few pages.

Why can’t this country produce anything like The Economist? Of course, The Economist calls itself a “newspaper” for some quirky Brit reason or other. Maybe that’s the trick to it …

8 thoughts on “Death of a newsmagazine

  1. Kathryn Fenner

    Yes, Time has been very lightweight for a good teeny years now, and Newsweek was even weaker. I grew up reading my dad’s copies— ever frugal, he’d exchange Time for Newsweek, or vice versa, with some one who subscribed to the other. I was on our high school’s radio news quiz team in large part because of this….

  2. Steven Davis II

    “I was on our high school’s radio news quiz team in large part because of this….”

    Huh… was that on NPR by chance? Never heard of such a thing… the chess club members must have been jealous.

  3. Kathryn Fenner

    It was on SC ETV radio. We’d load into someone’s big 70’s sedan and head to Sodatown. Big deal for kids from Aiken.

    @Stan — in another retronym sort of maneuver, there is now HGTV Magazine…..recursive….

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