Since I was back in high school (yes, that long ago), I’ve subscribed to Newsweek. I’ve found it a good summary of the week’s news, with some good insightful analysis pieces. Thus, I read with interest today an article in the NY Times about how Newsweek plans to remake itself. According to the article, Newsweek has been losing money for years. Most readers don’t pay anything near the newsstand price, and news weekly’s are losing their relevance. So they are going to remake the magazine for a more affluent readership. Newsweek executives say that the magainze’s ingrained role of obligatory coverage of the week’s big events will be abandoned once and for all (I noticed this by the short shrift they gave to the coverage of the USAir landing). They want to rebuild their business around the core of 1.2 million subscribers who are its best-educated, most avid consumers of news, and who have higher incomes than the average reader.
So what are they going to do? Editorially, Newsweek’s plan calls for moving in the direction it was already headed — toward not just analysis and commentary, but an opinionated, prescriptive or offbeat take on events. Starting in May, articles will be reorganized under four broad, new sections — one each for short takes, columnists and commentary, long reporting pieces like the cover articles, and culture — each with less compulsion to touch on the week’s biggest events. A new graphic feature on the last page, “The Bluffer’s Guide,” will tell readers how to sound as if they are knowledgeable on a current topic, whether they are or not. The magazine will replace its thin paper with heavier stock that is more appealing to advertisers and readers. It will also put more emphasis on photography. They plan to charge advertisers more for this, although it is unsure whether they will pay.
As for me? I’m skeptical. I’m not going to cancel my subscription immediately, but this makes it increasingly likely I’ll not renew it. I think I’ll stick with Time, which seems to be staying true editorially. That’s how to succeed.
I’ll also note that staying true to yourself is something the NY Times is trying to do. Instead of doing as many newspapers are doing and abandoning staff and reporters, they are working to make themselves the best news source. Take that, Los Angeles Times! As the NY Times CEO said, “As other newspapers cut back on international and national coverage, or cease operations, we believe there will be opportunities for The Times to fill that void”. They have the ability, as they don’t have the debt that many other papers (such as the Singleton empire out here, or the Tribune empire that controls the LA Times and ChiTrib does). But can the NY Times cover the local stories? Probably not, and the other papers haven’t yet realized that’s where they can exceed: in the local angle, on the local story, with the local color and facts. But the NY Times is trying. After all, they did send someone out to LA to review Minsky’s.