Without Newsweek, whither newsweeklies?
Time stands to gain in the near term, picking up ad dollars
October 22, 2012
Now that Newsweek is going online-only at the end of the year, the big question is what this means for the newsweekly magazine category.
In the short term, the obvious beneficiary will be Time, the only one of the Big Three newsweekly titles remaining.
That's certainly so in advertising. Advertisers who still depend on the newsweeklies will shift their dollars to the one remaining title. Some ad dollars may also shift to The Week and The Economist, which are less direct competitors
“Overall it will help the other newsweeklies a little bit short term,” says Cyndi April, senior vice president and group account director at TargetCast.
Time could also see a bump in subscriptions from longtime Newsweek subscribers for whom the newsweekly habit has become ingrained.
At some point, Time is sure to follow Newsweek and go online-only. The long-time No. 2 newsweekly announced its decision to drop its print edition earlier this week, roughly four years after U.S. News & World Report ended its.
But it probably won't be anytime soon, say analysts and media buyers.
"In print the iconic brands–Time, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal–likely will last a long time on paper,” observes John Morton, president of Morton Research Company, a newspaper consultancy.
But Time will have a much smaller ad pie to itself. Once one of the biggest magazine categories, the newsweeklies were among the earliest to lose readers and advertisers to the web.
Indeed, the Big Three never really came back from the 2001 ad recession, and the category has been in a slide ever since.
The ad page losses have been huge.
In 2000, Time, Newsweek and U.S. News combined reported 7,273 pages, according to the Publishers Information Bureau.
This year, the remaining two titles have accounted for just 1,292 pages through third quarter. In fact, Newsweek, Time, The Week and the Economist this year have totaled 2,916 pages, fewer than Time alone had in 2000.
Time had 783.56, while Newsweek carried 508.85.
But as harsh as things have become for the print newsweeklies, online is no picnic, and one has to wonder about their futures on the digital side.
The old print newsweeklies enjoyed a special place in the hearts of readers and advertisers.
For readers, the genius of the old newsweeklies was in their ability to filter the news, refine it, analyze it and place it in a larger context. Each week they delivered a fresh picture of America and where it stood in the world. They gave readers a sense of where they stood.
On the ad side, newsweeklies were the medium of choice for advertisers wanting to reach a large audience–millions of readers—on a quick-turn-around basis. The creative went in one day and just days later the ad was being seen by those millions.
Online the newsweeklies enjoy neither advantage. They must compete with thousands of other sites for readers and advertisers.
Most notably, the journalism that set them apart in the print era has no relevance in an environment when the news cycle is measured in hours and minutes, not by the day or week.
U.S. News, which like Newsweek had been losing money for years as a print publication, met the problem by scaling back to focus on its rankings of colleges, hospitals and the like and publishing special issues on a range of topics.
Newsweek under editor Tina Brown has chosen to abandon the newsweekly format for a features approach. Newsweek is a mix of this and that and whatever else Brown thinks is interesting. With the end of the print edition, Newsweek will be folded into Brown's Daily Beast.
Time online has stayed closest to its newsweekly roots, but that could well change.
Guessing how either Time or Newsweek will evolve would be a futile exercise, considering how quickly the web changes and how unpredictably those changes can come.
But they are sure to evolve.
Says TargetCast's April: “Certainly every publisher is having to look at their business models and approach and adjust it to the new realties.”
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