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Newsweek bites the print dust

For those who missed it yesterday, Tina Brown, editor-in-chief and founder of the Newsweek Daily Beast Company, and Baba Shetty, chief executive, announced that Newsweek would end its print edition at the end of the year. Citing a recent Pew study, Brown and Shetty wrote, “In our judgment, we have reached a tipping point at which we can most efficiently and effectively reach our readers in all-digital format. This was not the case just two years ago. It will increasingly be the case in the years ahead”.

This will not come as a surprise to many in the media industry as rumors of such a move by Newsweek had been circulating throughout the year. The new all-digital publication, renamed as Newsweek Global, will be a single, worldwide edition based on a paid subscription model and will be available via e-readers, mobile devices and online.

When I first read the Newsweek statement, my mind immediately jumped to the “In Memory of Advertising” session at Advertising Week earlier this month, which was essentially a mock funeral service for advertising. Though I thought the session was perhaps a bit over the top and crude—particularly the choral element and casket—it did give us a visual reminder that the overwhelming changes in advertising will also involve the “death” of many content providers.

“All magazines are facing the same issue; readers are migrating to digital and the ad dollars are following”, Paul Rossi, The Economist Group’s managing director and executive vice-president for the Americas, told me. “I think this shows the importance of having a product that readers value and pay for so publishers can be agnostic about platforms. If you are dependent on print advertising this migration is doubly difficult”.

Newsweek was keen to assert that “it is important that we underscore what this digital transition means and, as importantly, what it does not. We are transitioning Newsweek, not saying goodbye to it”. However, even as more and more readers are flocking to mobile and online news, digital news has yet to be as profitable as print. This is because, as we wrote earlier, brands aren’t willing to pay as much for digital advertising as they would for print and news readers are not as willing to pay for digital content.

My personal lament here is that while I understand the need for print publishers to have more efficient business models and while I do love the mobility and functionality of smart devices, I am a sentimentalist. In my ideal world, I’d love to still keep the print copy while having a digital edition on the go. But even I can recognize that sentiments aren’t going to help fund struggling print publishers.

Let’s hope that the digital covers of Newsweek are as entertaining and poignant as the print covers have been. For those who read Newsweek, will you miss the print edition? What is your favorite cover?