The failure of Newsweek to survive in print has been received as another sign that weekly news magazines are doomed. So, are they really? It is true that U.S. News and World Report went online only in 2010 and now is mainly a business for ranking colleges, universities, and hospitals among other institutions. U.S. News editor Brian Kelly told Erik Wemple of the Washington Post that "when a high ranking entity wants to place an advertisement using the U.S. News logo to tout its standings . . . its pays a price in the 'tens of thousands of dollars' for the privilege. There are dozens of such clients, says Kelly." U.S. News in its new guise is profitable, its executives report.
But as for Time, this year it received the American Society of Magazine Editor's top award as "Magazine of the Year" for its print and digital excellence, and by all accounts it is still profitable, with particularly strong revenue from its special event issues such as the "Person of the Year" and the "Time 100"annual list of the most influential people from diverse fields. Moreover, the Economist is thriving on strong circulation revenue, as is The Week, both of which in their distinctive ways are explicitly news weeklies. The point is that the weekly magazines are far from extinct as they extend their identities in a variety of ways to stay relevant. Newsweek's new format -- Newsweek Global -- as Tina Brown described it in her front piece for the magazine and elsewhere, "will be a single, worldwide edition of Newsweek, produced for a restless, news hungry, opinion-forming audience that pays keen attention to world events." The plan is for a subscription model available on tablets, the Web, and mobile devices. Does it have a chance of working? So much of the attention to the end of Newsweek has been the downfall of the print brand that the possibility of creating a successful new enterprise has received virtually no notice.
Brown created The Daily Beast from scratch in 2008 before it was merged with Newsweek in 2010. While the Beast is running well behind the comparable Huffington Post in audience and lacks the stature of Slate, it has established itself as a significant and savvy player among the digital news sites. When Brown took over Newsweek, it was already in dire straits financially and had lost its remaining editorial cachet when The Washington Post Company unloaded it and its debts to Sidney Harman for a dollar. Newsweek had already dropped or lost half its subscribers and was caught in an advertising depression that was devastating to vulnerable print enterprises.
Among selected other weeklies, there is much to find encouraging. New York, under the editorship of Adam Moss, is as good as it has ever been, and the family of its owner, the late Bruce Wasserstein, shows no sign of ambivalence in its support. The New Republic has been saved by Chris Hughes, who is mega-rich (reportedly $850 million) because of his early role in Facebook. Currently on a hiring spree and with strong editorial leadership, the New Republic may find its way back to the limelight of national attention. Bloomberg Businessweek is another case of a grand franchise that was on the verge of collapse when it was acquired by Bloomberg and reinvigorated. It was another winner of an award for General Excellence from the ASME this year. While apparently not yet profitable, the trajectory is good. Given the Bloomberg organization's growing importance and the company's vast resources, Businessweek again seems secure.