Why didn't they just put Newsweek out of its misery?

newsweek.jpgInstead of putting the venerable weekly to rest, Tina Brown and Barry Diller have chosen to recast Newsweek as an online, subscription-based website - an idea that according to Felix Salmon, has "exactly zero" chance of succeeding. What's more, everybody knows it. "There's no demand for a digital Newsweek," Salmon writes. From his Reuters blog:

Today's announcement (the "all-digital" bit, that is, not the killing-off-print bit, which was simply inevitable) is basically an exercise in face-saving. When it comes to the optics, it's always more respectable, more techno-visionary, to do something new and digital than it is to simply close down and write off a failed acquisition. Newsweek's journalists have already been incorporated into the Daily Beast newsroom: shutting down the printing presses and moving on would simply be recognizing the reality of a world where neither Sidney Harmon nor his family wants to subsidize the magazine any more.

Instead, Newsweek is going to have to suffer a painful and lingering death. There's no way that first-rate journalists are going to have any particular desire to write for this doomed and little-read publication, especially if their work is stuck behind a paywall. At the margin, it will certainly be better to work for the Beast than for Newsweek: the supposedly "premium" arm will in reality be the bit which smells like old age and irrelevance. It's not going to work. So, really. Why even bother?

Here's more bad news for print. From Poynter:

It looks like this is the year that Internet advertising revenue finally surpasses ad revenue in print media. In the first half of the year, U.S. Internet sites collected $17 billion in ad revenue, a 14 percent increase over the same period of 2011, according to a new report from the Interactive Advertising Bureau. In the second half of last year, websites had $16.8 billion in ad revenue. So even if growth were to slow in the second half, digital media this year could exceed the $35.8 billion that U.S. print magazines and newspapers garnered in ad revenue in 2011. In fact, the digital marketing research firm eMarketer projects 2012 Internet ad spending in excess of $37 billion, while print advertising spending is projected to fall to $34.3 billion.

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Mark Lacter
Mark Lacter created the LA Biz Observed blog in 2006. He posted until the day before his death on Nov. 13, 2013.
Mark Lacter, business writer and editor was 59
The multi-talented Mark Lacter
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