It’s not exactly surprising news, but that doesn’t mean it’s not significant. After more than 80 years, Newsweek is shutting down its print magazine and will go online-only. The publication is owned by Barry Diller’s IAC/InterActiveCorp, and in July of this year, Diller had hinted that the change was on the horizon. Today Newsweek announced that its last US print publication will be its December 31 issue.
The new online version will be called Newsweek Global. In an effort to streamline operations, it will be a single, worldwide edition, and the move will result in job cuts (though no details on the amount of cuts has emerged). A paid subscription will be required to access the title, which will be available on computers, tablets, and smartphones.
An examination of Newsweek’s recent history reveals a good case study of the challenges facing an industry in transition. The title had been floundering, and stereo equipment magnate Sidney Harman purchased it from The Washington Post in 2010 for just $1, and assumed about $47 million in financial liabilities. (Harman died in 2011 at the age of 92.)
Meanwhile, the then-unrelated digital publication The Daily Beast was launched in 2008 by Tina Brown, who formerly served as editor of Vanity Fair and the New Yorker. Shortly after he purchased Newsweek, Harman merged the operations of Newsweek with those of the Daily Beast, which had been operating as part of IAC/InterActive, to form The Newsweek/Daily Beast Company LLC.
Under new ownership, a redesigned Newsweek debuted in 2011 with more photojournalism and informational graphics, as well as shorter articles and a focus on younger audiences. The changes were designed to help the title adapt to the digital era’s rapid-paced news cycle, but they could not save the traditional magazine.
Newsweek’s decision to abandon print is the latest in an avalanche of deals reflecting a major trend for the publishing world: digital content is king. Successful titles like The Huffington Post and Slate Magazine are doing their part to prove that demand for digital content exists.
It’s not just new publications that are turning to the Web; in order to stay alive, venerable print content is going the digital-route as well. Last week the 107-year-old Variety was bought by a blog publisher, and earlier this year Encylopedia Britannica, the oldest English-language encyclopedia publisher, ceased publication of its print edition.
Today Tina Brown writes that Newsweek Global will reach “a highly mobile, opinion-leading audience who want to learn about world events in a sophisticated context.” For the sake of the publishing industry, let’s hope the new venture succeeds.