In today’s media world print editions are turning into websites, and websites are turning into apps. But not for Newsweek. Following its acquisition by The Daily Beast, it has been announced that Newsweek.com will be shut down.
Newsweek, Newsweek.com and Daily Beast staffs are expected to be combined following the merger, and while TheDailyBeast.com will remain live, Newsweek.com will be closed and users will be redirected to the Daily Beast page.
While there are a lot of details still being worked out around this acquisition, its clear that shutting down Newsweek.com is a suspect and strange move.
First let’s look at readership. Newsweek’s circulation is just under 2 million, while Newsweek.com has 3.8 million monthly unique visitors. Meanwhile, TheDailyBeast.com has 1.5 million monthly unique visitors (these numbers are from Compete.com).
So basically, following the acquisition, the property with the most traffic (Newsweek.com) is the one getting the boot. It’s a sign that the people making these decisions are out of tune or in denial about the future of media and which platform news will be delivered on.
Instead of shutting down Newsweek.com (which, by the way, is home to millions and millions of stories, images and multimedia) The Daily Beast should be working on developing a better site that’s more interactive, creative and interesting. Develop a better app for the iPhone, Android and Blackberry, and design an amazing tablet app that will appeal to readers.
Luckily, staff at Newsweek.com don’t seem content on letting their site die. A Tumblr page has already been created in defense of Newsweek.com.
The warrant and the ensuing confiscation of Chen’s computers hinges around the investigation into if Chen, Gizmodo and its parent company Gawker Media committed a felony by paying $5,000 for a lost, iPhone prototype. Was picking up the lost iPhone in a bar, asking around a bit and then selling the iPhone to Gizmodo a felony? Was the subsequent purchase of lost goods a felony? John Gruber thinks so.
Meanwhile, Nick Denton and Gawker seem happy to see this saga continue (free marketing and publicity). In fact, they’ve taken the issued warrant and seizure to propose that the Shield Law protects Brian Chen from the search and seizure as a journalist (full Gawker memo below). Denton proposed via Twitter that this case may finally give us the answer to the age old question – Are Bloggers Really Journalists? He may be watching too many old newspaper movies.
The Shield Law was established to protect journalists from having to give up sources that may have committed a crime, which would likely not apply in this case. Especially, if prosecutors are basing the search and seizure on the premise that Chen has committed a crime himself in this case. Therefore, while the reality is that California has been clear in defining bloggers as journalists (especially those working at a media company such as Gawker), the statue may simply not apply.
To make matters even more interesting (for conspiracy theorists) — many bloggers are pointing out that Apple serves on the steering committee of REACT.
Jon Meacham Appearing on Charlie Rose, upon the launch of the “new” Newsweek (Last May)
Newsweek’s “intellectually satisfying” new layout may not be working out as planned. Keith Kelley of the New York Post reports today that the Washington Post Company (owners of Newsweek) somewhat hid within their Q4 earnings that Newsweek lost $28.1 million in 2009. Newsweek CEO Tom Ascheim tells Kelly that they expected losses in 2009 and even in 2010 with their lower circulation, but expect to break even by 2011.
We reported last May on the transformation of Newsweek; from a venerable weekly into an Economist-like read for the intellectual elite. As part of the transformation, Ascheim and Meacham laid the groundwork for trimming down its circulation from 3.1 million to 1.2 million. As of January, Newsweek had cut its circulation down to 1.5 million. The circulation cut, which was done to focus on its “core readership,” also laid groundwork for trimming its staffing costs. Newsweek has offered severance to 44 staffers over the last year.
Despite trimming and cover stories such as “The Case for Killing Granny,” “Is Your Baby Racist?” and “Obama is Wrong,” Newsweek struggled with its transition throughout the media meltdown of 2009 (no different than most magazines). According to information from the Magazine Publishers of America the magazine witnessed a 25.9% drop in 2009 ad pages and a $105 million loss in revenue with its print business. Yes, you can blame the gradual circulation change and redesign, but what business could stay in the green with a 30 percent loss in money coming in – no matter how many people you lay off.
Things may turnaround for Newsweek as we continue to come out of the economic tumult (Ascheim notes Q4 was their best), but does the Washington Post Company have the stomach to wait until 2011 to break even? And perhaps more importantly what is their online strategy to offset these losses? Is there a paywall in the future?
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.