Thursday, October 18, 2012

It's the end of the line for Newsweek's print edition

She finally killed it off. Tina Brown, who in recent weeks has published diatribes from Niall Ferguson to 'Muslim Rage' in an effort to boost newsstand sales, said this morning that she is killing off the print edition of Newsweek come the end of the year. Why Brown thinks readers would want her version of a news magazine in any form is a bit hard to understand, but rumors of the demise of the print edition have been circulating for a while.

The way this is all going down, one might think that Brown intentionally soiled the Newsweek brand so that shutting down the print edition would go down easier. But Brown promises (threatens?) to expand the news weekly's tablet and online editions.

"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," Brown wrote this morning. "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."

Brown explains the decision to shutter the print edition by blaming the ad environment, and the desire to get on the tablet bandwagon. The problem with this line of thinking, however, is that if the editors of Newsweek are turning off readers in print, the same content shouldn't, in theory, be any more popular in digital form.

"We are transitioning Newsweek, not saying goodbye to it," Brown writes. "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."

Great, more Niall Ferguson, I can't wait.

The Washington Post Company, which for years published Newsweek, sold off the title to Sidney Harmon in mid-2010. The WaPo had previously sold off its other magazine titles, as well - the PostNewsweek Tech Media group - and as any magazine publishing executive will tell you, it is easier to maintain profits with a group of publications than with one stand-alone title.

The reality is probably that Newsweek really is dead now. What will exist will most likely be simply the digital edition of The Daily Beast, but under the Newsweek name.