Monday, May 18, 2009

Newsweek's desperation business model: "If we can't sell it cheap, let's make it more expensive!"

(Welcome Le·gal In·sur·rec·tion readers)

And you thought DirecTV was just joking in this commercial poking fun at cable.

Newsweek magazine has been losing circulation and advertising revenue and bleeding money for years. As recently as 2003, it had a worldwide circulation of 4 million. That dropped to 2.6 million in 2008 and had been expected to fall below 2 million in 2009. The Washington Post Co. which owns Newsweek, admits that the former mass circulation news magazine lost $20 million in the first quarter of 2009 alone.

But Newsweek now has a plan to fight back. It's going to raise its price!

Yep, subscribers will be asked to pay about double what they pay now, and the newstand price will be jacked up another $1.00. Newsweek editor Jon Meacham says the revamped mag will build a smaller but more loyal and elite base of readers who will attract advertising aimed at an upscale demographic. Newsweek will no longer rely on reporting news but fashion itself as a journal of opinion and ideas -- liberal opinion and ideas -- along the lines of its increasingly successful (and far better written) British-based rival, The Economist.

Conservative blogger The Other McCain beat me to it in making the obvious point:

Notice that Meacham's idea is to publish a magazine resembling a magazine that he likes to read. Call it the Narcissus Reflecting Pool Theory of journalism: If the top editor admires a certain publication, then trying to imitate that publication must be a good business strategy. What you are doing, therefore, is producing a publication for your own editors, rather than for the readers.

Exactly. If you're looking for a magazine like The Economist, why wouldn't you just buy The Economist? That's what I've been doing for years. I can't remember the last time I looked at a hard copy of Newsweek except in a doctor's office. Or if you want liberal commentary, why not The New Republic, The Nation or a slew of strictly online outfits like Slate or Salon?

With this as Newsweek's survival plan, McCain adds:

My advice to Newsweek staffers: Update your resumes.

What do you think? Would you subscribe to the new Newsweek? Post a comment.


  1. Shouldn't they change the name to Opinionweek?

  2. Since no news will be reported I feel a name change is appropriate. Let's say, "The Liberal Elitist".