Monday, May 10, 2010

The Incredible Shrinkage of Newsweek

The media is always an industry in transition, as technology, interests, and advertisers change over time. Magazines are no exception.

Colliers and McCalls are essentially forgotten names of decades past. Such classics as Life, Look, and Saturday Evening Post are historic, as are Coronet and Pageant. T.V. Guide was sold for $1.00. Bloomberg’s acquired Business Week. Even the Wall Street Journal was sold to Rupert Murdock. Playboy and Readers Digest have been struggling for years, and Penthouse survived bankruptcy.

Most magazines and newspaper are suffering in this economic crisis and the rise of Google, Yahoo, and other electronic advertisers. Cable news and the internet are changing how we obtain out news.

And now it’s the turn of the weekly news magazines.

The hallowed, but entrepreneurial, also ran of U. S. News & World Report saw the writing on the wall last year. It dropped from weekly hard copy to weekly electronic copies with a monthly hard copy. The monthly issue would often be the classics, America’s Best Colleges, America’s Best Graduate Schools, America’s Best Hospitals, etc.

Newsweek tried a different approach.

It shrunk, both in size and intellectual quality.

It changed its focus from news gathering to commentary for an upscale, thoughtful audience willing to pay premium prices for the magazine.

It laid off about 150 employees.

It also became a shrill for Senator and then President Obama. Seemingly every other issue featured the President or Michelle on the cover. Others touted the rebirth of Keynes and the demise of the GOP. Typical issues were "We Are All Socialists Now," Feb. 16, 2009, and "The Decline and Fall of Christian America," April 13, 2009.

Why would an atheistic socialist want to read Newsweek?

The thought pieces are often puff pieces.

Most of the commentators are writing to the left in the milieu of the Washington Press Corps, the shrinking Washington Press Corps. Instead of listening to the people outside the Beltway, the Newsweek editors are listening to the sound of one hand clapping inside the D.C. cocoon. Instead of broadening the audience, it decided to shrink the focus to a small, and shrinking, segment of the population.

Conservatives are not going to read Newsweek simply because the great George Will writes for it.

As for the remaining commentators, I recognize some of them, but many are unknown to me. I know that Fareed Zakaria is usually wrong.

We are as thoughtful a nation as ever, but do not rely on weekly magazines for the information.

A younger generation, which often does not read newspapers, will not look to a
news magazine for its thoughts. They don't turn to hard copy for their sources.

The result- The washington Post, its parent company just announced that Newsweek is for sale. Newsweek apparently lost $28.1 million last year. Newsweek’s circulation was 3.14 million in 2000. It now guarantees circulation of 1.5 million. Playboy is also down to 1.5 million circulation. Neither brags about their informative articles anymore. Time is making money off its guaranteed circulation of 3.5 million.

Advertising revenues dropped 38% in 2009, and is down another 37% this year.

Newsweek is slipping into irrelevancy.

A fair summary of the new Newsweek would be to paraphrase Gertrude Stein’s famous reminiscence about Oakland; “There is no there, there” now.

We have a year and a half remaining on our subscription with no intent of renewing.

Jon Meacham has been the editor of Newsweek since 2006, and hence presided over its decline. His desire is to lead a buyout of the magazine.

Newsweek’s time has passed.

No comments: