Sayonara, Newsweek: Moving Beyond an Outmoded Brand

As we’ve all heard by now, Newsweek will cease to exist as a print product at the end of 2012, a move which I don’t believe goes far enough. It’s time for Tina Brown’s publishing concern to retire the Newsweek brand altogether, folding everything into the Daily Beast. Newsweek, like Oldsmobile, is a brand that has lost all cache and need not be retained for any reasons nostalgic or otherwise.

That still leaves the question of what The Daily Beast should do to distinguish itself and grow as a business. I think all the talk over the past year about whether Newsweek could remain viable in print has been a distraction for strategists at the company. The Daily Beast needs to figure out its unique brand proposition, rather than worry about which side of an imagined Great Divide it ought to reside on. It could decide to reenter the print space—why not? What matters is it has a clear idea of what it wants to accomplish.

Take a look at what its closest analogue in the publishing world has managed to do. U.S. News & World Report, the other major weekly news magazine that wasn’t Time, has reinvented itself as a multichannel purveyor of rankings, guides and how-tos for the popular market. The publisher has successfully capitalized on its perceived areas of core expertise in education, health care and business, which also adds weight to its news coverage, special editions, book releases and other content.

“Based on our experience, a digital publishing business focused only on news is not sustainable,” William Holiber, U.S. News’ President and Chief Executive Officer, tells Publishing Executive. “You have to diversify your content in a way that’s consistent with your brand and build new products that diversify your revenue sources. That’s how we became profitable.”

George Janson, managing partner and director at media investment firm Group M, told Ad Age that Newsweek’s future success hinges on whether there is an “all-digital business model that will make the brand healthy.” I agree, except I would drop the limiting “all-digital” (as well as, of course, “Newsweek”). Come up with a coherent vision and build it out in whatever way makes sense.

Janson asks, “Are consumers going to pay for when there are thousands of other websites and sources of information?”

We’ll see.

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  • completelydark

    What USNews is also doing smartly is the service angle. No longer will just "providing content" work alone.

  • loyaltothecore

    You’re thinking like a publisher and completely ignoring the readers who love their Newsweek. I, for one, an online publisher myself but also a loyal Newsweek reader, will miss the print version. For the subject matter covered by the great authors who contribute in-depth and well written articles and the week of news presented within those page–dwindling though they were–I will gladly pay the subscription fee to receive it on my Kindle or to have access to it on the Web. There is a place for news written by respected and experienced reporters who know both their craft and subject matter. I understand the challenges of print, the difficulties of finding enough committed advertisers to support a print model merely for the sake of image without the accountability online publications offer, but I want my Newsweek, and I will be among its early online subscribers.

  • @MarkWWhite

    Very insightful analysis. You scooped the Washington Post ( on comparing Newsweek to U.S. News & World Report’s new business model. Those interested in what U.S. News is still doing with print can check out free previews of "Best Colleges 2013" ( and "Best Hospitals 2013" (

  • RElliott

    Newsweek’s decline has been visually obvious for some time. Two leading clues were how much thinner a publication it has become and the loss of many of its marquee columnists over the last several years. As a Newsweek reader for over 40 years, I was disappointed, but not surprised, that it would discontinue its print tradition. At the same time, I realize that all good things come to an end and so it is with Newsweek.

  • EllieAsksWhy

    There are two issues here. One is content, the other is delivery. (Sorry, I sound patronizing, this is your domain, not mine, I am merely a customer). I liked the quality content of Newsweek. I value the high quality news reporting and columnists in other mainstream media publications. Bloggers and HuffPo are not particularly credible. Newsweek, Reuters, NY Times aren’t perfect, but they’re SO far superior to free content providers! I worry a lot about this, that we are shuttering our trusted news sources, thinking we don’t need them when we do, more than ever!

    Now for delivery: I love reading print media. It is mobile, durable, foldable, can get wet or torn, lasts for years, and most important of all to me, is easy on my eyes. Online content is not.