In advance of its new print edition to be released on Monday, Newsweek has released its new website. Last month, the weekly news magazine announced that it was planning to redesign in order to focus on a more select audience, while charging a higher price. Last year, it experienced its first revenue loss in recent memory.
According to Newsweek's site, the new homepage is adopting aggregation and user generated content, and offers "four high-interest story packages, embracing everything from politics to international affairs to health developments or business news." This section dominates the upper part of the page, with the stories on rotation. Newsweek editors will cast "as wide a net as possible" and "embrace the best work of other journalists around the Web" for each of the packages. The editors also include the "most thoughtful questions and comments of our readers" in order to create a forum for a continuous conversation about key events and issues.
There is 'the best of the web' with Newsweek's new 'Intelligence Aggregated' feature, which tries to find the best content and provide Newsweek's own take on the coverage. A new Newsweekopedia section arranges the magazine's archives by topic, so when reporters break and over news, editors will offer links to related topic pages. Editors also gather thoughts, comments and questions directed to Newsweek via Twitter and put them on the page. A new section called 'Serious Fun' invites readers to contribute to discussions on people, groups or concepts chosen by the editors. The 'In the Know' area offers readers four links to "informational gems" that might otherwise be "all to impossible to find" among the flood of news on the web. A News/Week archive index allows you to select a day from the past week and it shows the top three stories from each of the magazine's sections.
Minonline.com reported that Newsweek digital general manager Geoff Reiss had explained that the magazine wanted to have the first site which excels in combining branded media, aggregated content and user-generated discussion. He told Minonline that the new design reflects a serious reconsideration of what a newsweekly can bring to the table in today's 24/7 Internet landscape. Before writing an article, Newsweek wants its journalists to develop "a real differentiated perspective," and, it seems, to only tell the stories to which they can add value, rather than feeling obliged to report on everything that has happened in the past week.
The print magazine will be organized into four sections with a new focus on opinion, according to CNBC and the New York Observer. 'Scope' will focus on news, all the magazine's columnists will be in a new section called "The Take," and Newsweek is adding a new survey called "Internationalist" about world events. 'Features' is apparently tagged "the rough first rough draft of history," and a section called "The Culture" will feature one lead essay about a major idea. Like the website, the design of the magazine will be less crowded with more white space. New fonts are used, and "softer and more elegant" colours, according to the NY Observer.
The magazine is aiming to become a more niche publication: more opinionated and more high brow. The idea is that it will have fewer subscribers but they will pay more and they will be more valuable to advertisers. According to the New York Observer, editor Jon Meacham said it is for "serious-minded people, but people who don't take themselves too seriously." He added that he wants readers who are interested in "what I'm interested in." It has been suggested that Newsweek is trying to emulate the Economist - which stands out in the media industry as an example of a publication that is doing better and better - but Vanity Fair's Matt Pressman, amongst others, believes that it will have a tough time succeeding. CNBC writer Julia Boorstin pointed out that with the existence of weekly publications such as the Economist and the New Yorker aiming for a similar market, "the bar is high."
The role of a newsweekly, like that of a news daily, has changed dramatically since the advent of the Internet. People are less accustomed to sitting down to read a print publication, and they do not need print to give them the news. Learning lessons from the Economist's success does make sense, although obviously it is necessary to remember that it would hard to convince the British publications loyal readers to switch: there is a need to provide something different. The new website design is interesting enough, and seems relatively in tune with what a reader might want out of a news magazine online: slightly unusual stories, easily accessible background information and plenty of suggestions for further reading. It will be interesting to see how successful the redesign is, and whether Newsweek's new target market is appreciative.