Jon Meacham, the editor of Newsweek, made a stop on Charlie Rose last night to discuss the time he’s spent with President Obama, the financial crisis and the new redesign of Newsweek on book stands this week (with President Obama on the Cover).
Here is an interesting part of their conversation on how Meacham is trying to create a sustainable revenue model for Newsweek by cutting its circulation numbers in half and following in the footsteps of the Economist with an intellectual and deeply analytical approach to reporting:
CHARLIE ROSE: Chapter one of the new “Newsweek.”
JON MEACHAM: Chapter one. What we have to do is go to our base. As you will feel there, this is better paper. It’s a more handsome magazine. We have been doing this for 76 years, and I want to say quickly, we stand on the shoulders and in the shadow of all the folks who have put this out, put this out week in and week out. And this is not a reflection on what we have been. It’s about what we have to become. We’ve been at 2.6 million subscribers for a long time. Mass audience. Costs a lot of money to print that many magazines, put them on trucks and deliver them. We’re going to bring that down. We’re going to charge a little bit more for it. Still less than $1 dollar a week, I think, for most folks, which is much less than a cup of coffee in most urban places. And ask people who care the most to pay a little more, and then be able to take that demographic, that audience, and tell advertisers this is who you’re reaching. You want to reach these people, because they’re people who watch you. They’re people who watch “Meet the Press.” They are people who hopefully buy hardback books about history.
And our calculation — our research shows that there are about 28 million people. I sometimes think of it as the virtual Beltway. You may not live in Washington, but you are part of that sensibility. And you read a lot, and you check into the electronic kinds of conversations.
CHARLIE ROSE: Let me read your page about this. “A new magazine for a changing world. As we see it, ‘Newsweek’s’ role is to bring you as intellectually satisfying and as visually rich an experience as the great monthlies of old did, whether it was Harold Hayes’s ‘Esquire’ of Willie Morris’s ‘Harper’s,’ but on a weekly basis.
“In our interview last Wednesday afternoon on Air Force One, President Obama noted one of the key lessons he had learned. Americans not only have a toleration but also a hunger for explanation and complexity and a willingness to acknowledge hard problems. ‘I think one of the biggest mistakes that is made in Washington is this notion you have to dumb things down for the public.’ That was the president. You say we could not agree more.”
And I say I totally believe that. You know, in terms of the response that you get when people find interesting things done in an interesting and intelligent way. You know, there is — it lights up the human experience.
JON MEACHAM: Yes. And it’s about character, and it’s about people, and it’s one of the reasons we wanted to start with Obama, who is the, agree or disagree, the most fascinating figure of the age.