Tạp chí Newsweek danh tiếng bậc nhất tại Mỹ sẽ ra ấn bản báo in cuối cùng vào ngày 31/12 tới, sau đó sẽ tập trung toàn lực cho báo mạng từ năm 2013.
“We are transitioning Newsweek, not saying goodbye to it.” So read the announcement that the 80-year-old magazine will cease print publication at the end of this year and move to an all-digital format, from Tina Brown and Baba Shetty, respectively founder/editor-in-chief and CEO of the Newsweek Daily Beast Co.
The new publication, to be called Newsweek Global, will operate on a paid subscription basis and be distributed via tablets and the internet. Reactions ran from “it’s about time” to hand-wringing over the death of print as a medium.
Some history first: Newsweek was founded in 1933, and by the 1960s, when it was purchased by the Washington Post Company, it had become what former Newsweek staffer (and current Huffington Post editorial director) Howard Fineman calls “innovative, eminent and influential as any news organization in America or the world.”
Newsweek‘s circulation hovered around 3.1 million between 2001 and 2007, but beginning in 2008, it declined steeply, the magazine’s debt mounted, and complaints rose that the magazine had lost its focus. By 2010, circulation had fallen to below 1.8 million.
Enter Sidney Harman, a nonagenarian, multimillionaire stereo and car navigation equipment mogul described by the New York Times as having “virtually no media experience.” In 2010, Harman purchased the magazine from the Post for $1 plus an assumption of Newsweek‘s $47 million debt. Shortly thereafter, it affiliated with Brown’s Daily Beast, at that time a two-year-old upstart news site. Harman died the following year, and Shetty became CEO just weeks ago. Meanwhile, circulation has continued to slip; as of June 2012, it was around 1.57 million (statistics courtesy of the Audit Bureau of Circulations).
Clearly the status quo was not sustainable, but was the shift to digital-only the right solution? That depends on who you ask. “We have reached a tipping point at which we can most efficiently and effectively reach our readers in all-digital format,” wrote Brown and Shetty in their announcement. “This was not the case just two years ago. It will increasingly be the case in the years ahead.”
Andrew Sullivan, whose influential Dish blog appears on the Daily Beast, wrote that he had advised management to make this change years ago. “Part of me has come to see physical magazines and newspapers as, at this point, absurd,” he wrote, noting that nobody under 30 reads magazines in print anymore. Newspapers and magazines, he wrote, “are like Wile E Coyote suspended three feet over a cliff for a few seconds. They’re still there; but there’s nothing underneath; and the plunge is vast and steep.”
Felix Salmon of Reuters is nowhere near as sanguine about Newsweek Global. “The chances that Newsweek will succeed as a digital-only subscription-based publication are exactly zero,” he wrote. “There’s no demand for a digitalNewsweek, and there’s no reason, either, to carve off some chunk of the NewsBeast newsroom, call it ‘Newsweek’, and put its journalism onto a platform where almost nobody is going to read it.”
Meanwhile, running alongside Brown’s and Shetty’s announcement on the Daily Beast, a “Stories We Like” sidebar touted titles including “What Your Favorite Food Says About Your Sex Life” and “ How to Use the Toilet When Your Girl’s Around.” Although this last one was admittedly enlightening, something tells me these wouldn’t have run in Newsweek.
Andrew Bender, Forbes