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 Newsweek.com when there are thousands of other websites and sources of information?"