Is Newsweek Starved for Resources? (UPDATED)

By Jeffrey Goldberg

Ira Stoll makes an astute observation about Newsweek's not-quite-yet demise:

An Associated Press dispatch on the Washington Post Company putting Newsweek up for sale paraphrases the chairman of the Washington Post Co., Donald Graham, as saying, that he "hopes a buyer with more resources will be able to get the magazine back to profitability."

More resources? The Washington Post Company has a market capitalization of about $4.6 billion, cash on hand of $862 million, and pays a $9 a share annual dividend, according to Yahoo! Finance. The company's directors include, in Warren Buffett and Melinda French Gates, representatives of two of the two richest families in America. How much "more" resources would be required to get Newsweek to profitability, and don't you kind of think that if it were possible to do at a reasonable return on investment, Donald Graham would have already done it?

This is a fairly miserable day in journalism, and I think everyone, except possibly the editor of Time, hopes for the best, in particular for the (shrunken) corps of Newsweek writers. But I don't think there's particular reason to be optimistic. The future is in a combination of extremely long-form and extremely short-form -- the middle of the road is not where it's at.

UPDATE: Someone from Newsweek -- a person who asked to remain anonymous -- just called to issue a plausible-sounding clarification: The question is not whether the Post Company has enough money to support Newsweek, this person said, the issue is that the money required to build out an infrastructure that would keep Newsweek going is disproportionate to the potential yield. In other words, if the Washington Post Company published fifteen magazines, it could float Newsweek. But it doesn't publish 15 magazines. 

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2010/05/is-newsweek-starved-for-resources-updated/56268/