A few days ago, Newsweek announced that it will be ending its print edition, effective December 31, 2012. The newsmagazine will go to an on-line format in early 2013.
I’m not surprised by Newsweek‘s demise, and I suspect I’m not alone. When was the last time you subscribed to Newsweek or bought one at a newsstand? We subscribed to Newsweek, as well as Time, Sports Illustrated, Sport, Life, Look, and other magazines when I was a kid, but Kish and I haven’t subscribed to any newsmagazine in years. (The only periodicals we get these days are the New Yorker and the New York Review of Books, and by Kish’s edict we’ll get them until the 12th of Never.) I can’t remember the last time I bought, or even read, Newsweek.
When I pass newsstands in airports and give a quick glance to the magazine rack, Newsweek always seems to feature some bold, intentionally controversial headline about some social or political issue. It’s as if the magazine is consciously designed to try to entice passersby into plunking down their money to see whether the article is really as provocative as the cover indicates. It’s somewhat pathetic, and it is a far cry from the sober, objective, we-cover-the-important-issues-of-the-world-in-depth approach that newsmagazines took during the ’60s and ’70s.
The print media is dying; the internet is killing it. Weekly magazines can’t compete with on-line content that is delivered immediately and without the costs of paper, delivery postage, and so forth. Even if you subscribe to on-line content providers — and I typically don’t — you are paying less and getting more, more quickly, than magazines or newspapers can provide. There’s no way print can compete unless it moves into a niche that the web doesn’t provide. General reporting on national and world affairs, such as Newsweek used to provide, isn’t such a niche.