Newsweek throws in the towel on print edition

Thursday, Newsweek announced 2013 will mark the end of an era for this 80-year-old print publication. The declaration was made by Tina Brown, editor-in-chief (of Newsweek Daily Beast Co.) and CEO Baba Shetty.  Yes, they’ll continue to provide a digital edition, but it won’t be the same.

did newsweek go after the wrong readers
photo courtesy of

This came as sad news for me on many fronts.

  • It’s not so much that another magazine has all but virtually folded, but more a sorrow that what used to be a solid source for relatively unbiased reporting adopted the conviction sensationalism sells (apparently not to their established audience).
  • Nor does this offers proof for the prognosticators doomsday knell sounding for decades on all things print. New print publications are cropping up daily that feature celebrity gossip, right-wing or left-wing alarmist drivel and the latest on what passes as news from fiction writers. What’s discouraging is the number of publications ditching what they do well to join the yellow journalism bandwagon.
  • The situation begs the question, do today’s readers really prefer to invest in material that propagates rumor, instills divisiveness and presents fantasy as news? I hope not.
  • Perhaps the most disappointing feature of all this is how little media attention was devoted to this news.

Is online reporting really the answer?

Yes, studies are showing a majority of people now get their news from the internet. Unfortunately, even the established biggies have been guilty of casting integrity and fact-checking aside in deference to being quick to report. News spreads fast once a story hits the wire services – or web, for that matter – with few bothering to verify accuracy before they broadcast.

The increasing tendency for citizens to seek their educational fodder in sound bites doesn’t bode well for an enlightened future population. Sometimes you need to read more than a paragraph to be informed.

‘Give the people what they want’ may be a good marketing strategy, but when it comes to being a responsible journalist, doing so without verifying the facts is just plain irresponsible. It seems those who would cringe (and know they can get sued) for stories printed without verification cast this notion aside online.

Digital is quick, but it’s not always best. If you’re focused on being first (which seems to be the aim of so much cloud reporting), it’s hard to justify the time to ensure you’re right.

Smart entrepreneurs seek out print media thriving for the right reasons

I was shocked to discover the Rochester Business Journal (New York) is celebrating their 25th anniversary this year. My surprise came because it seemed the publication had been around a lot longer.

This publication did it right from the start. Unlike the daily papers (now down to one), they had high standards for any staffer they hired. Recruiting such proficient and loyal contributors requires sufficient incentives. It shows.

They’ve been extremely effective at imbedding themselves in the community with initiatives that go beyond the printed publication. As annual sponsors of a number of business awards or employee recognition ceremonies they created more revenue streams and brilliant marketing devices.

Digital delivery is offered mostly as a subscriber benefit. This is available to print subscribers and also as a fee-for-service option to those who seek only online content.

To entice prospects, a daily e-mail brief is provided at no cost. Sadly, spelling errors, bad links, grammatical mistakes and nonsensical headlines are frequent, so apparently the quality standard isn’t being carried through here. Still, the daily digest offers free snippets and linkable content to online stories to entice prospects to buy.

This publication grows its print demand by keeping themselves visible and important in the community. They understand what their readers seek (through surveys and other engagement activities) and produce responsive content. Reporters are held to accountability standards and stay in an industry that typically has a lot of turnover. While diversification is rarely a smart business strategy, this company has done so in a way that forwards their mission, bolsters their marketing efforts and gives advertisers an array of options while adding handsomely to the bottom line. Smart stuff any small business can learn from.

Good news for small businesses

Any small business considering promotional strategies should incorporate the media. Of course, free editorial content – whether you’re authoring an article or being quotes as a trusted source in a story scribed by another – can be huge in terms of reach and credibility. The media also offers a lot of clues as to what works and what doesn’t. Note well which ones are doing it right and those missing the mark. Build rapport with players at respected and profitable publications. You might be amazed at how quickly you can put yourself in the limelight with some smart and targeted effort.

10 responses to “Newsweek throws in the towel on print edition”

  1. I still prefer print publications to online ones. Not only ’cause I want to flip the pages, but I find them easier to read, especially after being on a computer most of the day for work.
    Loved your advice to small businesses to incorporate the media. It can really help them get their word out.
    Thanks. ~Debra

  2. Hi Nanette, Yes, you’re right, it’s a very sad day for journalism when Newsweek announces the end of the print edition. People seem to be valuing immediate news over in-depth news. So much of our news now is discovered on Twitter, in 140 characters or less.

    As someone who remembers the Pentagon Papers and Watergate, I shudder at the idea of the end of journalism. The journalists who keep an eye on governments will be the ones whose absence would have the greatest impact on our society.

    • That’s so true, Carolyn. I question how much journalism is left with some of the publications. Of course, the mud slinging, finger pointing and p0rk that’s become the norm it makes it hard for anyone to get accurate reports on what’s going at at the Federal and often State levels. Sad all the way around.

  3. Nanette, I don’t know where to start with this one. As someone who owned a print magazine for 8 years and then converted that magazine to online, I understand what small publications like mine are struggling with. What I saw was a shift in how advertising dollars were being spent, if at all, and how advertisers were perceiving the media. While I am a big believer in the power of PR to promote your business, I am VERY frustrated with the FREE PR model. As a small business that relied on advertising I constantly battled the perception that I should promote everyone for free. The PR model is as broken as the advertising model. What I love about the move to internet is the flexibility it created for our client and all the new ways we were able to promote them and share their story authentically.
    I am sad to mainstream newspapers and magazines like Newsweek reduced to ad rags and gossip columns. I am not sure why they think this sells.
    For me the challenge is wading through the fluff, nonsense and personal crap online to find the real news. It’s there, you just have to search it out.
    Our magazine stayed committed to providing parents with high-quality content, we just learned to deliver it differently.
    When I started my magazine, no one had a smart phone. I personally witnessed the shift from sitting in the doctor’s office watching everyone read a print magazine to everyone reading on their phones, iPads, etc.
    For us the shift to digital was a good one and a smart business decision.
    Enough rambling. I agree with you about the state of journalism today but understand why publications are making the switch to digital content.

    • Too funny, Minette – I got frustrated with the shift in some of the trade magazine publishers and even some business newspapers, that moved toward what they perceived as a less expensive model by drawing editorial from unskilled writers offering their material for free. Readership dropped, advertisers pulled back as they realized consumers wouldn’t buy (or even pick up – many of these pubs also figured higher circulation numbers garnered from dumps would woo more advertising revenue as they switched to a free distribution strategy forsaking a former paying subscriber base – dumb move) and the quality of the publication (cheaper paper, bad writing, no way to focus on reader demographics and desires, etc.) plummeted. Begs the chicken or egg question. I still believe content is king. As the RBJ example demonstrates, being smart about insisting on high quality while responsive to your readers (I do believe niche publications will continue to gain considerable ground) and creative about implementing complimentary revenue streams will win out.

      I do hear you on the struggle – and frankly agree on the free PR model disgusts (two sides of the same coin, I suppose).

      Time will tell if consumers are willing to pony up (is that my third idiom – yikes – sorry to the UK and other non US readers of this blog) to ensure the best stays in print. Personally (I’ve been on the advertising end of the matrix too), I believe that if you stay on course offering a product that ads value in a way that people want it (to whit, I found offering a Kindle Edition of a book I authored actually increased print sales), you’ll log a win in the success column. In your case, it probably made sense to move to digital. You had a consumer base and loyal following that you were communicating with. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Hi Nanette, this is an interesting one. I’m all for free PR, it’s a great way to test the waters with a publication. Tracking offline response on an editorial is rather hit and miss and the piece isn’t there to directly ask for an action. If you do get a response you know you’re in the right area and more likely to run an ad campaign.
    The good news for small business is with the competition to fill ad space, the cost of print ads have come right down and is much more affordable.
    It’s sad to see print publications die. You make an interesting point about digital publishing enhancing print sales.
    I’m one of those people who will read online then go out and buy. Like many people, I’d much rather have a book, magazine, or newspaper physically in my hands and read properly than squint and skim on a screen.

    • I get the sense a lot of people misunderstand how to be useful as an editorial contributor, Jan. You’re focus is local, and it’s the small community publications that depend on the populace more than any other to help reporters source material for stories and/or as contributors (for Op Ed pieces and such). The PennySavers around here depend entirely on what’s provided by citizens and media releases for their non-advertising content. Pitching a product isn’t a good approach, but if you can be helpful by providing content, information or resources that reflect what the readers seek, it helps the paper as much as it does you.

  5. Hi Nanette, this is certainly news to me even though I am based in the UK. It really is a shame and I assume that the online audience will be very different from that of the offline/print world. Not only that, but the online space introduces so many distractions at the click of a button. You raised some great points, I just hope too many don’t follow in their footsteps in chase of the shiny new object.

    • Thanks for stopping in and commenting, Shola. I don’t believe print is dead as so many have been predicting for decades. Those who are responsive to the marketplace and a bit creative in how they provide solutions will continue to thrive. In the US we’re seeing a big market for ‘nostalgia’ products. I think it’s going to take some time for this all to play out, but suspect there are big numbers who will support physical presentations of print.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *