Recently Newsweek magazine announced it will no longer have a print version at the end of this year. I find that striking yet not surprising. There are a lot of magazines that have come and gone over the years. It is a tough business. Obviously the proliferation of the Internet spelled trouble for magazines like Newsweek. A couple of years back Rose and I dropped our Newsweek subscription because they were “re-inventing” themselves away from the weekly news magazine to a weekly magazine devoted to issues. We decided we wanted the news weekly. Now only Time magazine is left as a weekly news magazine in the USA.
Newsweek will be celebrating its 80th Anniversary around the time it drops its print version. It will only be available on-line and in a Tablet form. According to this article – http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/erik-wemple/post/can-newsweek-make-it-as-a-premium-tablet-thing/2012/10/19/bba79e92-1a0e-11e2-aa6f-3b636fecb829_blog.html – Newsweek’s chance of making money on digital subscriptions is nil. Others have tried it and failed. The article quotes a representative of US News and World Report (a former paper magazine) that their revenue from digital subscriptions is “1 percent or something like that”. I know that ESPN the Magazine essentially gave up. You now get the magazine “free” if you sign up to be an ESPN insider.
We were taught in business school that companies need to “adapt or die”. I really wonder if adaptation is at all possible in the magazine business. Perhaps the disruptive technology is so vast that it creates a new industry, effectively rendering the old one obsolete or marginal. I guess that must have been what it was like for steam-powered boats and passenger railroads. Sometimes a disruptive form comes along and wipes out a type of business. I think that might be the case here.
But I think something else goes on here. Somehow the “rag” magazines like The National Enquirer or Us Weekly have stayed around. They are faced with the same Internet forces and new businesses – TMZ for instance. But those rags have stayed in business without changing much. Is it the demographic that reads those magazines? That is about the most plausible story I can come up with.