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Newsweek is back on the shelves after taking a year-long hiatus from print. After shutting down the presses to much fanfare in December 2012, the magazine is back with an article unmasking (or claiming to unmask) Bitcoin’s founder. They’re hoping to make a splash on stands that will pull media news coverage and position Newsweek as a source for breaking news. In a world of Twitter and 24-hour news coverage, it’s going to be hard for a weekly print magazine to seem cutting edge.
Interesting side note: Newsweek has returned to the failing print industry with a story about digital currency, which is arguably our future as cash payments fall by the wayside. Newsweek has returned to paper to address a topic related to our evolution from paper to digital.
While all news channels have to fight to get readers, ratings, and engagement, print magazines in particular have to become the news if they want to make sales. Look at Time magazine’s Person of the Year Award. Last year, the contest came down to Pope Francis and NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden, and in 2012 it was Mark Zuckerberg versus WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Choosing the Pope and Zuckerberg over political activists caused a ton of controversy that translated into sales.
Media outlets are already covering the Newsweek story about Bitcoin founder Satoshi Nakamoto, which is getting the magazine as many mentions as the news that it’s back in print.
CNN used the same tactic with Blackfish. Its name and logo are attached to any mention of the movie and subsequent discussion of orcas in captivity. Several articles have been written about CNN supporting the film or just sponsoring it, which is a major win for the network. The more controversy that Blackfish generates, the happier the CNN execs are.
According to the BBC, Newsweek’s new owners, IBT Media, have created a new business model that positions the magazine as a high-brow commodity, and people will pay more for a better product. In fact, subscriptions will account for almost 90% of the revenue and magazines will be sold for $8 a pop.
“We are not going after the multimillion reader base numbers that our competitors are going after. We are going for a more premium and profitable user base.” – Etienne Uzac
This model is counter to what most magazines are doing right now, which is operating on an advertising model for revenue. Readers have to flip through pages on pages of ads before they can get to columns and articles. If anything, this is making us favor advertorials again because they’re slightly closer to actual content than the other blatant ads.
If Newsweek starts to turn around and generate revenue from its model, consumers could start to see other publications follow suit. Eight dollars a week is a high price point, but is it worth it to consumers to not have to see so many ads?
It’s entirely possible that this new revenue strategy takes off and Newsweek becomes the new standard for magazine sales success. It’s possible that fifty years from now we could be looking back on 2013 as a dark year in Newsweek’s history, the year the magazine didn’t print once.
It’s also possible that this resurrection is temporary, and will Newsweek crash again in a year or two. The dignified, reverent last memory of Newsweek in 2012 will be replaced by articles wondering if the magazine is finally dead.
Newsweek could very well turn into the aging star athlete who, instead of retiring after reaching the playoffs, returns for one more season of glory, only to break his leg and fade into retirement. What could have been a beautiful sendoff turns into an unceremonious ending.