James McPherson's Media & Politics Blog

Observations of a patriotic progressive historian, media critic & former journalist


  • By the author of The Conservative Resurgence and the Press: The Media’s Role in the Rise of the Right and of Journalism at the End of the American Century, 1965-Present. A former journalist with a Ph.D. in journalism, history and political science, McPherson is a past president of the American Journalism Historians Association, a board member for the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media, and a professor of communication studies at Whitworth University.

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‘Newsweak’: Plug pulled on comatose print magazine

Posted by James McPherson on October 19, 2012

Tina Brown has something else to swear about. Finally, mercifully, the once-proud print version of Newsweek will be allowed to die just short of its 80th birthday.

The magazine’s demise is no surprise. After all, the entire hemorrhaging operation sold two years ago for less than the cost of a single issue (one dollar), and then folks began refusing even free subscriptions because of an odd combination of controversialoutdated, lazy and juvenile editorial choices made by Brown and other editors in an apparent attempt to avoid the collapse.

So Brown will have another failure; sadder, more journalists will be out of work. Not that Brown didn’t try, apparently–like almost everyone else, she just happens to be clueless about how to make old-line media survive in a new media world. As noted by the New York Times, “Despite her best efforts to take a flagging product and rejuvenate it, much of what she tried fell flat, and her attempts to create buzz with cover articles that discussed sex addiction and called President Obama ‘the first gay president’ resulted mostly in puzzlement and, sometimes, ridicule.”

I remember having the same puzzled reaction to the first issue of another short-lived Brown project, Talk magazine. Launched with huge fanfare, the magazine was a disappointment from the start. That first issue (shown above, and I have a copy in my office) carried interviews of First Lady Hillary Clinton and presidential candidate George W. Bush, but highlighted glossy photos of Gwyneth Paltrow crawling across the floor in what appears to be black underwear.

Print magazines are not dead, as any visit to a bookstore or supermarket will show. But old “news” doesn’t sell in an internet age, and people interested in longer more literate analysis have a host of better magazines from which to choose.

Though I’m not sure it matters, perhaps the online version of Newsweek will hang around for a while, as U.S. News & World Report has since going entirely online (except for occasional special editions) at the end of last year. And with less competition, perhaps Time will have less reason to run stupid covers.

8 Responses to “‘Newsweak’: Plug pulled on comatose print magazine”

  1. [...] http://jmcpherson.wordpress.com/2012/10/19/newsweak-plug-pulled-on-comatose-print-magazine/ [...]

  2. jm said

    >McPherson

    Great post.

    Your comment is the most salient on the issue: “Print magazines are not dead, as any visit to a bookstore or supermarket will show. But old “news” doesn’t sell in an internet age, and people interested in longer more literate analysis have a host of better magazines from which to choose.”

    Indeed, there are even publications on digital platforms which are considering expanding their offerings to include print publications.

    To compete in the 24/7 news cycle, as you have suggested, in which it’s tough to break the news, media organizations must bolster their capabilities in quality commentary, analysis and opinion pieces which carry the conversations beyond the breaking news cycles. Of course, the writings must be framed to meet the demands of the Internet.

    I think it will be the case that the most successful media organizations will be those which publish, broadcast and distibute content on multiple media platforms.

    That’s where the developments in the technolgies of digital media and the expansion of social media is drving the media business

  3. Strawman said

    May I add some another reasons to the reduction of “Print News”. The large percentage of what I call the “Reality TV veggies”. They follow unrealistic reality TV five minutes of fame creatures such as Honey Boo Boo and Snooky. Then the new generation follow the current news in abridged versions in prime time on Comedy Central. Don’t get me wrong I watch Stewart and Corbert from time to time, but for some this is it. Generation of not taking the time to focus long enough on the real world in all it reality but can name a reality star over who is Vice President.

    It is going to weird waiting in the Dentist office without any news mags laying around. I guess I will be getting it though my smart phone. Hope the Generation (what ever letter we are up to now) starts coming back to real reality soon.

    Signed Grumpy old man.

  4. Strawman said

    Two weeks out and I am still at 273 for Romney 265 Obama. Ohio will go to Obama, or at least he better win that state, he has pretty much lived there the last 3 years. After the debate last night I have come to the conclusion that neither of these two guy deserve it. Still not throwing a vote away on any 3rd, 4th or 5th party person. None of them deserve it either. The amount of things bumped by the current administration until after November 6th is quite massive. Leak-gate, Fast and Furious, What the taxes will be for us next year, Libya Self investigation on themselves on why a rescue mission was not attempted, I really don’t care what they called it. Terrorist attack/Terrorist tactics and on and on. I want to know why they seem to only send a drone to film it. It also took them 17 days to get approval for our FBI guys to get in to the country to investigate? What is up with that? No matter who wins in two weeks. Lam-duck is not how I would view the last two months of this year. October Surprise is going to be a December Surprise and if Obama wins, some just MAY say can I have my vote back. Before January 2013 we will know which party is stalling and lying to us. To be clear, I think it could be either and the ramifications will be huge.

    Oh and to stay on subject: Do you think “Time” will have to do the same as Newsweak? My guess is this will trend to most Mags. It is inevitable.

  5. jm said

    >Strawman

    >>”Do you think “Time” will have to do the same as Newsweek?

    NO. TIME has a strong digital platform. Sales of its print edition are strong.

    >>”After the debate last night I have come to the conclusion that neither of these two guys deserve it.”

    If a significant percentage of the undecided voters reach the same conclusion, then Romney will lose.

  6. jm said

    BTW, the NEWSWEEK magazine section of the daily beast.com has an interesting
    feature entitled: “President Obama’s Executive Power Grab-the Obama power play that could forever change the way Washington works.”

    LINK: http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2012/10/21/president-obama-s-executive-power-grab.html

  7. James McPherson said

    “I think it will be the case that the most successful media organizations will be those which publish, broadcast and distibute content on multiple media platforms.”

    That sounds right to me, too I think commuter papers will last for a while, and local papers will as long as people want to know about local sales. But USA Today’s recent redesign was done with the iPad in mind, and in some countries (South Africa, for example) more people read newspapers and magazines on their phones than in print. We may be headed there, though I hate the thought. So, Reuel, the print version of Time may also be doomed, but I agree with you, Jm, that the digital platform will keep it around..

    Also, Reuel, you may be closer than I was on the election prediction, even if (as I still predict) Obama wins by a narrow margin. I once thought he’d win handily, and disagreed with the dozens (or hundreds) of people who said it would be close.

    “Before January 2013 we will know which party is stalling and lying to us.”

    I’m betting on both.

    Interesting article on Obama in Newsweek. I think we’re quite a ways from reaching a point when the two parties can work together on important stuff, meaning every president will be tempted or forced (depending on your perspective) to do the “my way or the highway” thing. After all, if a bill can’t get through Congress, the president can’t sign it.

  8. Strawman said

    One thing I better do is stock up on Coffee and take November 7th off from work. It the junkie in me. I can’t help myself. I heard Hillary said she may just stay on for another term, Yeah right if Obama wins, she is going under the bus. One thing for sure is the Clinton machine that her and Bill put together is gone. Bill has all the power now and is using it to drop one liners on the trail in code to demean Obama. Read some of what he is saying while stumping for Obama. Classic Slick Willy and getting even for throwing the race card on him in 2008 is my guess. If Obama loses the Dems may even have to do a complete make over and may even bring some moderates back. May even bring both parties back to a little closer to the center, now that would something I have always thought should be. Watch Pennsylvania closely, Ohio will be irrelevant if PA goes Purple. Even Michigan is back in play.

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