On The Death Of Newsweek

[ Posted Thursday, October 18th, 2012 – 16:40 UTC ]

Newsweek magazine just announced that in the near future it will no longer be a magazine. The print edition, which began in 1933, will end at the close of 2012, and will henceforth only be available in online (tablet) format, by paid subscription only. One is tempted to respond "good luck with that," but they're having a tough enough time at Newsweek headquarters these days, so one will refrain from rubbing such salt in the wound.

The end of the physical, ink-on-paper Newsweek is not so much due to their own journalistic or business failings, but due to the disappearance of the market niche they once proudly occupied with two other magazines -- Time and U.S. News and World Report. Beginning in 2013, Time will be the only weekly news magazine (or, as some style it, "newsmagazine") remaining. This is perhaps appropriate, since Time created the niche in the first place.

But even the time for Time may be drawing to a close. Because there niche itself is shrinking faster than even the daily newspaper market. However, the reason for this is, on balance, a good thing. Technology marches on, to put this another way.

While inconceivable to the whippersnappers of today, the weekly news magazine once held a powerful position in the American media world. When I was young and freshly into the adult world, I subscribed to Time for a while. It fit a need -- to read about a panoply of subjects and keep up not only on the "hard" news but also on the pop culture "zeitgeist" ("zeitgeist" was a favorite snappy term, back then, I should mention). I read one magazine a week, and could comfortably talk to coworkers and friends about an enormous range of subjects -- most of which I would never hear about from any other source. I was too young and unstable (housing-wise) to take a daily newspaper at that age, and didn't have the time or money to subscribe to a whole bunch of specialty magazines on various subjects. So Time fit my life (the way that Life fit its time... for those of you old enough to recognize the inherent irony in that statement), and I was happy to buy and read it.

For those young enough to be scratching their heads at this point, let old Grampa lay out the life we led back then. Everyone sitting down? There was no internet. None. No world wide web, no universal email, no websites, no blogs, no news aggregators online. Fox News didn't even exist, had I had enough money to subscribe to cable. There were very few other ways to get a whole range of news in one place. Newspapers, broadcast television, and news magazines were pretty much it, for someone only mildly interested in keeping up with what was going on in the country and the world. Buying Time was perfect, because it was one-stop shopping, in a way. This is back when people cheerfully paid for the written word, I should also mention, as a normal part of life.

But in the last ten or fifteen years, the only time I've ever purchased or even browsed through a copy of Time or Newsweek is in an airport bookstore, desperate for something to read on an upcoming flight. And the few times I have actually purchased a news magazine, it's been in a fit of nostalgia for when millions of Americans depended on these sources for a whopping majority of the news they read.

Because, these days, there is a flood of the information news magazines used to provide out there, just a click away. There's simply no need for me to consult a news magazine on any subject. Technology, as I said, keeps right on marching.

In many ways, the newsmagazine can be compared to today's news aggregators such as the Huffington Post and the Drudge Report. Such media sources comb through a lot of different stories bouncing around, and feature the ones they think are important, funny, or will prove to be popular. The news magazines did a similar thing, picking and choosing among the stories of the week to highlight the ones they thought would sell magazines and keep their readers happy. The news magazines did morph eventually into doing their own reporting, but the niche they carved out in the media world was originally one of mere aggregation.

That, and brevity. One-page stories with large graphics were the norm. News magazines condensed stories in the same fashion Reader's Digest condensed books. This saved the reader lots of time on stories only mildly interesting. You didn't have to go search out the original story, you could just read an amusing rewrite that had been condensed to a few pithy witticisms.

Far be it for me to mock, since as a blogger much of my job is to strive for being amusing while writing up stories written by other sources, and then condensing the whole thing into the key points I feel need highlighting.

But that's entirely the point. There are thousands upon thousands (if not millions) of people out there doing the same thing. That's some pretty stiff competition for the "old way" of achieving the same goal. Especially when whatever you see in Newsweek or Time is guaranteed to be at least a half a week old -- an eternity in today's eye-blink media cycles. So while it is a bit saddening to see the death of such a piece of American media history as Newsweek, it's also entirely understandable. And you'll just have to forgive me for closing on the newsmagaziniest witticism I could come up with, in homage to the genre, as it were. Because I can't think of a better way to close than to quip:

Time marches on.

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


14 Comments on “On The Death Of Newsweek

  1. [1] 
    Chris1962 wrote:

    Especially when whatever you see in Newsweek or Time is guaranteed to be at least a half a week old

    It's also guaranteed to skew Left in a country that leans Right. The mags have never been smart about audience targeting. Newspapers have the same problem.

    But, of course, the biggest problem for print these days is the internet.

  2. [2] 
    LeaningBlue wrote:

    "It's also guaranteed to skew Left in a country that leans Right."

    Oh, Chris, you seem to see everything through a partisan lens. In point of fact, U.S. News and World Report was the most conservative of the three. I looked forward to reading essays by the likes of W.F. Buckley and Irving Kristol (Bill's dad).

    It was also the first to die, holding on long after the Republican party expelled or disgusted the movement conservatives, myself included.

  3. [3] 
    Michale wrote:

    (after seeing a newspaper in an old newspaper rack)
    "Why, this headline must be hours old!!!"
    -Admiral James T. Kirk, STAR TREK IV, The Voyage Home



    The Obama/Democrat/Left bias of the vast majority of the MSM is well-documented..

    Again, for those who really are interested in the facts...


  4. [4] 
    Chris1962 wrote:

    Oh, Chris, you seem to see everything through a partisan lens.

    No, I see it through a marketing lens.

  5. [5] 
    michty6 wrote:

    I can't remember the last time I bought a news magazine (or even a newspaper, other than the free Metro!). But I read probably 7 news sites and probably 100 blog posts a day. The death of printed media has been predicted for a long time now. I don't think it will happen in full but the sheer quantity of magazines out there (which amazes me) will drastically decline imo.

  6. [6] 
    akadjian wrote:

    It's also guaranteed to skew Left in a country that leans Right.

    Ah, the same old tired sob story from the right (nobody likes us, everybody hates us!)

    The news in this country skews only one way: corporate.


  7. [7] 
    akadjian wrote:

    p.s. Thank god Reader's Digest is still around though!

  8. [8] 
    Michale wrote:

    Ah, the same old tired sob story from the right (nobody likes us, everybody hates us!)

    Considering the hysterical vitriol from the Left, is it that far off the mark???

    I'm just sayin'.... :D


  9. [9] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    Ah, the same old tired sob story from the right (nobody likes us, everybody hates us!)

    Considering the hysterical vitriol from the Left, is it that far off the mark???

    that all depends on which "right" we're talking about.

    the religious right are generally scorned and looked down upon by anyone who isn't one of them. the left scorns them publicly for their views on marriage and abortion, which it sees as backward, misogynistic and homophobic. the economic and ideological right tolerate them publicly and throw them enough legislative red meat to keep them interested, but privately roll their eyes and look down their noses at them.

    the ideological right are generally reasonable people with serious points to make, about things like military preparedness, personal responsibility and freedom from undue government interference. they are cautious, thoughtful and (even though i disagree with them on most issues) convincing in their arguments. for the most part, ideological righties are only hated by people who mistake them for one of the other two groups.

    the economic right is a group that genuinely deserves the contempt of the rest of us. they are the ones who effectively manipulate the resources of the entire country for their own benefit, and privately laugh at the rest of us for helping them do it. this group contains nearly as many democrats as republicans. those who hysterically dislike "the right" are generally the same as the tea party in that a legitimate target exists for their anger. however, the lines that define who ought to be disliked tend to be horrendously misplaced.

    so, is it true that "the right" are universally hated and reviled for illegitimate reasons? it's complicated.


  10. [10] 
    LeaningBlue wrote:

    It's a weekend, and nothing is likely to happen other than surrogates keeping up their artillery barrages over Libya. So, two things:

    First, what a lot of people miss in politics is that, at some level, it is (not as much as it used to be, it's true) just business.

    Here's an example, from the SCOTUS: Supreme Court Justices Elena Kagan and Antonin Scalia are ideological opposites, yet they share a pastime. They like to hunt together.

    Kagan amused an audience Friday ... with stories of how the conservative Scalia taught her to shoot fowl.

    She said Scalia told her in the spring, "It's time to move on to the big game."

    In other equally big news, "binders" is pretty much over; Google hit count is down from a peak of 345M to 280M. And the Hitler parody is blocked for a copyright takedown for a Pakistani internet news organization.

    And Wisconsin will likely go Romney. In the only poll that really matters (the seven-11, which has never been wrong) WI is now tied. I happen to know a good bit about that state from the nuclear testing that went on there in last year, and that makes sense to me.

    Have a good weekend.

  11. [11] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    ...but back on topic - from my perspective, newsweek and its teacher bashing cover pages will not be missed.

  12. [12] 
    Michale wrote:

    Well said, as always, Joshua... :D

    However, I would disagree. From the available evidence, it's the ideological Right that is hated and reviled by the Hysterical Left..

    The religious Right has no friends on the Left, this is true.. But I think it's the ideological Right that the Left truly hates...


  13. [13] 
    Michale wrote:

    Re #12

    Son of State Senator Neal Kedzie Attacked

    A perfect case in point...


  14. [14] 
    Michale wrote:

    But I think it's the ideological Right that the Left truly hates...

    The reason I think this is is that, ideologically speaking, the Right is everything that the Left WISHES it could be, as far as political clout and influence goes..

    It's the same thing with Right-Wing Talk Radio... The Left pray to whatever gods they hold that they could be as successful in Talk Radio as the Right is...

    Basically, the it's the Tea Party Syndrome.....


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