Magazines May Follow Newsweek's Lead in Shuttering Print Version

Newsweek's challenges just started as it competes with free digital content.

October 18, 2012, 1:15 PM

Oct. 18, 2012— -- intro: Though 80-year old Newsweek announced it will no longer offer a paper magazine, print is not dead, at least yet.

Michael Corty, analyst with investment firm Morningstar, said the news was not surprising to him as the most "obsolete" of print publications are news weekly magazines.

"It's really hard to to stay current, given everything that's online," Corty said.

Tina Brown, editor-in-chief and founder of The Newsweek Daily Beast Company, announced Thursday that Newsweek will transition into an "all-digital format in early 2013."

Newsweek and The Daily Beast, an online news site that launched in 2008, merged in 2010.

Brown said the new Newsweek Global will be supported by an unspecified paid subscription and will be available through e-readers and the Web.

Newsweek is the first national news magazine to announce it is moving to the digital space.

The company's circulation has plunged in the past decade. Newsweek's total circulation was 3,134,046 in 2000, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulatoins. In 2007, it was 3,128,391.

For the first half of 2012, its circulation was 1,527,157, compared with competitor Time Magazine, which had 3,276,822.

When asked if Time could follow Newsweek's fate, Time's managing editor Richard Stengel said the magazine was the "centerpiece of the brand" which is on "every platform."

However, Stengel continued to tell MSNBC's Morning Joe that the print magazine "is the most expensive single thing... to chop down trees, and put ink on paper and then put it on a truck and deliver it to your house."

Michael Learmonth, digital editor with Advertising Age, said publishers often hold onto their print magazines as an "anchor product" that creates a halo-effect for the rest of the brand.

"Print will no longer be the main profit driver of anybody's media empire, but it can remain a pretty prestigious calling card," he said.

Quad Graphics, Newsweek's printer since the 1970s with plants in New York, Wisconsin and California, learned Thursday that it would no longer print the magazine's issues.

"Over the years, print volumes have steadily declined as the title has struggled to remain competitive," the company said in a statement. "Newsweek is not a significant piece of our overall business, and losing this work will have a negligible financial impact on our company and will not result in any loss of jobs."

The company still prints Bloomberg BusinessWeek, Time, People, Sports Illustrated, National Geographic, Vogue, GQ, Architectural Digest, and O Magazine.

Learmonth said for Newsweek to survive with a digital, subscription-based version only, its content will have to be good enough that people will choose it over abundant readily-available free content available.

"This is a problem every publisher is facing," he said. "It is very tough to compete with 'free' if your product is not significantly better, and your audience decides on what's better."

As opposed to news publications, specialized feature magazines are able to publish stories that are not time-sensitive and can enjoy a longer shelf life.

The U.S. magazine with the largest circulation has been AARP The Magazine for decades with a circulation of 22,528,478 for the first six months of 2012, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations. That magazine is mailed to every AARP member. The magazine is included with membership in the group.

After the AARP Bulletin, following far behind are Game Informer magazine (with 8,169,524), Better Homes and Gardens (7,617,038) and Reader's Digest (5,577,717).

Corty said magazines like The Economist offer a mix of news and feature stories that may make it "more immune" than general news magazines like Newsweek.

Here are the circulation figures for six news-related magazines during the first six months of 2012, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations.

quicklist:category: 3,276,822title: Timetext: Second half of 2011: 3,298,390

quicklist:category: 1,527,157title: Newsweektext: Second half of 2011: 1,519,492

quicklist:category: 1,043,792title: New Yorkertext: Second half of 2011: 1,047,260

quicklist:category: 993,267title: Bloomberg Businessweektext: Second half of 2011: 932,568

quicklist:category: 923,848title: Forbes text: Second half of 2011: 930,897

quicklist:category: 847,313title: The Economisttext: Second half of 2011: 844,766

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