Along with newspapers, we also have dead tree magazines going away — the latest being Newsweek announcing Thursday that its print edition is finite at the end of 2012. MarketWatch went out on a limb and said that Newsweek “won’t be the last venerable media organization to take this drastic action.”
The NYT notes that the 80-year-old magazine recently took an odd turn with its forced marriage with The Daily Beast, an online-only opinion site. This came after audio magnate Sidney Harman bought this once lucrative weekly magazine franchise for $1 from the Washington Post Company in 2010. Harman’s heirs indicated earlier this year that they were no longer throwing good money after bad.
From the 1960s through the 1990s, Newsweek was one of the country’s most influential national media outlets, the Avis to Luce’s Time magazine. (The #3 magazine, US News, ended its print subscription in December 2010.) Today, information is no longer scarce, and killing trees is an inefficient way to deliver such information.
It’s certainly true that a weekly magazine delivered two days late to supermarket checkstands is a difficult sale in this era of instant Google-fed gratification. However, some commentators wonder whether the death of Newsweek is as much a function of its final (print) editor, Tina Brown. As the AP reported:
They say it speaks to the magazine's trouble connecting with and keeping its readers.
That brings to mind some questionable covers, like the July 2011 what-if image depicting what Princess Diana would have looked like at age 50, or last month's "Muslim Rage" cover depicting angry protesters, which was roundly mocked on social networks like Twitter.
Newsweek is using a difficult print ad environment as an "excuse" for its decision to end print runs, said Samir Husni, director of the Magazine Innovation Center at the University of Mississippi School of Journalism. He lays the blame at the feet of Tina Brown, the editor who took control of Newsweek when it merged with the news website she ran, The Daily Beast, two years ago.
"Tina Brown took Newsweek in the wrong direction," Husni said. "Newsweek did not die, Newsweek committed suicide."