Newsweek magazine stops publishing, joins electronic-only bandwagon

By Heidi Krick – hkrick@unca.edu – Staff Writer

 

In an effort to keep up with our growing electronic culture, more and more publications are ceasing print publications.  Newsweek magazine will transition to an all-digital format at the end of this year.

While these evolutionary changes in publication seem inevitable, there are certain aspects in a transition to an all-digital format that publications and their readers must consider.

Newsweek failed to announce the exact number of positions lost once the magazine ends its print publication; however, the job losses are sure to be considerable.

Factoring in how many publications are also considering the all-digital transition, there will be a great number of educated and talented people who will lose their jobs, placing an even greater strain on our struggling and economy.

Newsweek’s transition to an all-digital format could be due to the publication’s own problems, rather than a definitive statement of the publication industry as a whole.

According to research from eMarketer, magazine ad revenue increased 2.6 percent this year alone, with increases maintained over the last three years.

Magazine circulation is also steady, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations.  While newsstand sales are down 9.6 percent, paid magazine subscriptions are up nearly 2 percent this year.

Readers are still reading, though the publications may not be paying attention to the format in which their readers read.

In order to protect their publications, companies must continue to stay in touch with what is relevant and newsworthy to their readers.

Newsweek has nearly 1.5 million print subscribers and less than 30,000 digital subscribers.  Only about a quarter of Americans own tablet computers. Speculations abound that publications are losing readers simply because they are failing to connect with and supply readers with stories and information they actually want to read.

Last month, Newsweek’s “Muslim Rage” cover depicting wildly angry protesters was heavily criticized and mocked on social networks like Twitter.

Newsweek’s average reader is 48 years old.  In July 2011, Newsweek carelessly published a photo on the cover showing what Princess Diana would have looked like at age 50.

This photo was a harsh dose of reality, and one that many of Newsweek’s readers did not care to take.  Princess Diana, also known as “The People’s Princess,” was a beautiful and beloved humanitarian who died tragically and unnecessarily.

Characterizing Princess Diana so coldly was insensitive to the average Newsweek reader, who not only remembers the Princess’ tragic death, but also thinks of her fondly and lovingly.

This type of carelessly placed cover photo would be like a once-famed sports star, now haggard and decrepit looking, placed on the cover of Sport’s Illustrated.  These stories are depressing, and no one wants to see that.

Newsweek Editor-in-Chief Tina Brown explained on Thursday to “Beast TV” that the decision to end print publication is the magazine’s attempt to keep up with coming changes in both media and technology. Many believe Newsweek is actually scrambling to regain readers they have lost due to the publication’s own failures and missteps.

The publication market is tough to crack.  Readers are finicky, and their tastes constantly change.

Yet, according to the publication database MediaFinder.com, there were nearly 200 new magazines launched in 2012, and only a third of the newly founded publications failed to maintain readership.

The market for print publication is still alive as many publications are leading subscribers to believe.

State of the Media recently released a report explaining there are several publications actually thriving in the supposedly struggling publication market.

The Economist doubled its readership over the last year from 844,000 to 1.6 million.  Game Informer Magazine nearly doubled its circulation each year for the last two years to 7.5 million.

According to the announcement Thursday, Newsweek believes the magazine’s 1.5 million print readers will keep up with the magazine’s swift changes.

Newsweek estimates that tablet users will increase to more than 70 million by the end of 2013.  While certainly possible, this still leaves more than half the population without access to electronic reading.

Newsweek’s bet is also an incredibly dangerous one.  How many people do are going to buy a $400 tablet just to continue receiving a $5 magazine?

Advisers for print-to-digital publications warn publication companies to move slowly toward digital changes and to dip their toes in the water instead of diving in headfirst.

Newsweek is going another way.  The magazine is making a giant splash with their readers, but it’s a huge belly-flop.

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