After 80 years in print, the venerable US magazine Newsweek will adopt an entirely digital format from the beginning of 2013, publishing its final print edition on December 31. In an announcement this morning, posted on the website of partner site The Daily Beast, Editor-in-Chief Tina Brown explained:
‘In our judgment, we have reached a tipping point at which we can most efficiently and effectively reach our readers in all-digital format. This was not the case just two years ago. It will increasingly be the case in years ahead.’
According to Newsweek’s most recent publishers statement filed with the Audit Bureau of Circulations, print circulation of the magazine has dropped 51 percent since 2007. Such a decline contrasts with the relative success of its online component, again highlighted in Brown’s statement:
‘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’.
The new digital publication will be called Newsweek Global and will be supported by a paid subscription model. The Daily Beast will remain a separate site.
Such a move is perhaps paradoxical in being simultaneously innovative and predictable, a great fanfare heralding what is an oddly conventional decision. The declining trends in print have been evident for some years, and several other daily news publications have already made a similar move. There is no question that in the Internet age newspapers and weeklies must adapt or die; although whether this means that abandoning print is the best option is far from clear.
Brown’s announcement this morning followed a report yesterday from the UK’s Daily Telegraph, speculating on a similar fate for the Guardian and Observer newspapers. The robustness with which this story was swiftly and comprehensively refuted by Guardian sources (notably by Roy Greenslade on his blog for the paper and by its editor Alan Rusbridger on Twitter) suggests that, with three-quarters of GNM revenue coming from its newspapers, the latter ‘will remain the foundations of our organization for many years to come’.
Newsweek's decision gives it the opportunity to become a true digital pioneer, despite it mourning with rose-tinted nostalgia ‘the unique weekly camaraderie of those hectic hours before the close on Friday night’. What is clear, however, is that – for now, at least – newspapers are just as preoccupied by the raw economics of their industry as they ever were, and those printed publications which innovate and adapt will be those who succeed in this unpredictable transitional period.