Baseball Economics, as Applied to Newsweek

Two days ago I argued that Newsweek's plight was fundamentally a "scale" problem. Apart from the long-term erosion of the news weeklies' original journalistic and economic raisons d'etre,  Newsweek's latest re-conception made it more "interesting" but drastically narrowed its potential audience. A reader writes:

A further thought about the different business models involved (e.g., NYRB vs Newsweek).

I sometimes make a comparable point to my students by comparing the business models and criteria for business success of a major league vs. a minor league professional baseball team.

    --Big local TV contract, sky boxes for the key corporate market segment, exorbitant concession prices, star players and some success on the field for the former, plus location (Cincinnati is just a better baseball town than the much larger Houston).
    --For the latter, reasonable prices, easy parking, good hours, very family friendly atmosphere (no drunks), lots of promos & tie-ins with local groups. By definition there aren't any stars or media or significant media money, and just about any team can be the Cubs (lousy but fun).

The game on the field is the same for both but the business - in terms of cost structure and revenue streams -- is very different.

After the jump, another reader's explanation of the changing economics of news "consumption" in her own household.

From a reader in Juneau:

I discontinued my subscription to Newsweek in the early 1990s because of the over-coverage of celebrities, around the time when one skater was bashing another's knees. At the time, I also subscribed to the Washington Post Weekly - which was a great news, informartion, and opinion publication, and I bought the New York Times and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer daily, including Sundays. I miss the physical turning of the pages, bending, folding, and creasing the sections as I read the first tier of interesting stories, then cruised back through for stories of some interest, and then hauling them out with a late-night cup of coffee to try to glean any other tidbits of interest.

I'm still a news junkie, in my mid-50s, and I read many domestic and international publications and blogs daily. I'd still rather peruse a stack of papers in a cafe, bedroom, front porch or bath, but the web access to such a variety of information and perspectives pins me to a screen for several hours a day. Thanks goodness for The Atlantic, TPM, Washington Monthly and others (HuffPo has the same problem with a focus on celebrities - actually, worse than Newsweek because of all the fluff). And I can read foreign publications in English, French, and Spanish. It's heaven!  With news, blogs, and the satisfyingly wordy Economist and the  Atlantic in print, life's pretty good.

Newsweek's been passe for 20 years. Andrew Sullivan's blog should be called The Daily Fix.
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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.


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