Newsweek has recently announced a reformatted version of its website. Stating in its introduction, Newsweek hopes that the site will be defined by two words: simple and clear. Rather than subscribing to a trend of news reporting that is "cluttered with headlines and knee-jerk reactions," Newsweek hopes to establish a site that cuts directly to the heart of the matter by focusing on one story that will lead the site and providing a stream of other, more minor, stories below. Overall, this redesign appears to be Newsweek's attempt to differentiate itself from other news sources by focusing on quality news and sacrificing some element of quantity.
The creation of this redesign, however, is clearly motivated by Newsweek's desire to revive its falling status. Like the last Newsweek redesign, this website reconstruction comes on the heels of serious turmoil for the news source. Not only has the site recently experienced a failed Twitter experiment, earlier this month the Washington Post Company, the magazine's owner, announced that they were ending their relationship with the magazine that had begun in 1961. Clearly, Newsweek must be feeling pressure to vamp up its relevance in the current atmosphere of digital media to avoid being obliterated altogether. Whether or not Newsweek's minimalist interpretation of its website will be enough to save them remains to be seen.
Furthermore, like many other news sources, Newsweek plans to release a new application for Apple's iPad in response to increasing pressure to gain a stronger online presence. Yet, despite Newsweek's obvious effort to revive itself, it still may not be enough. In an interview, Don Graham, the Washington Post chairman and CEO, praised Newsweek's site, but added "there are a lot of good news sites." Graham's point is well taken. With the rise of digital media, news sources have for years been struggling to find a successful way to digitalize their news reports and attract an audience of online news seekers. Therefore, while Newsweek's efforts to improve its digital presence are a step in the right direction, it might be too late in the game. The followers of online news have likely already developed loyalties to particular sites and will not easily be persuaded to change their habits.
However, Newsweek is no stranger to being a bit behind the times. As a consequence of being a weekly, rather than a daily news source, Newsweek often misses the chance to report news as it breaks. The website, therefore, offers a valuable opportunity for Newsweek to engage breaking stories in a way they could not in their magazine. Considering its failing status, perhaps Newsweek is having difficulty fulfilling this new role. Or perhaps consumers, who are now accustomed to receiving instant information on the web, believe Newsweek is a news source that is incapable of reporting information instantly and therefore have begun getting their news from other sources. At any rate, Newsweek must find a way to somehow balance its newfound responsibility as a reporter of breaking news with its role as a weekly magazine.
Considering the diversity of online consumer interests, the minimalist approach seems like a strange decision to make. Newsweek may inadvertently be throwing itself to the wolves by limiting its variety of topics and therefore also its audience. On the other hand, the simple approach might be just what online consumers are looking for. For the sake of its own future, however, Newsweek must hope that its minimalist approach will be just crazy enough to work.