The Survival (or Death) of the Newsweekly

October 18, 2007

With the major newsweeklies – TIME, BusinessWeek, U.S. News and World Report, and Newsweek – all experiencing a decline in circulation and ad pages, they are quickly beginning to develop new strategies, the foremost of which seems to be re-designs, and lots of them. On the heels of several major re-designs to both the web and print editions of these titles, PRNewser spoke to MEDIAWEEK Senior Editor, Lucia Moses to get her take on who will come out on top.

How do newsweeklies maintain relevance as readers and core advertisers embrace the Web and other media?

People have so many places to get news. They’re reading it online. They’re getting it from TV, radio, cable and the web. There is a feeling that, “what can a newsweekly deliver, what is it’s reason for being.” They would say that they’re providing “contest and analysis,” not just round up of news, but forward spinning, put some analysis and content behind it. But that is not unique, there are any number of places where that can be found. It’s a challenge. As mass reach vehicles, they are flattengin out and losing some steam.

Where do you see them in 10 years.

I see them getting smaller in pages. Trying to specialize more. One of the themes with BusinessWeek is them swinging upscale. To your point, [PRNewser mentioned the shift toward “luxury” coverage] I think these mags know that for print the stalwart categories are luxury categories. They are fishing where the fish are. The more affluent and educated are more likely to be reading some of these titles.

What does you think of the re-designs?

I don’t think any of them are going to dramatically shift readership trends of these magazines. There are perception issues these magazines have that take a long time to change, for better or for worse because of the ever fast pace in media landscape. Magazines are under pressure to change more frequently. It seems like every couple years, you expect magazine to unveil a new look. Some of them talk about a continually evolving look. Newsweek approached these, they took an anti-web approach. While you’ve seen other mags incorporate webby type approaches by putting user generated content that came from online into the print magazine and constant referrals to the site in the print edition. Newsweek is saying, “we’re going to make this the anti-web.”

What about linking to other sources? This has made The Week very popular.

You’re seeing others do this as well. TIME.com has something called “the aggregator,” it has news from elsewhere. Sports Illustrated is also not shy about linking to news that its competitors run.  On their new site, BusinessWeek also has news from elsewhere. 

Where do new publications like Portfolio fit in? Is Portfolio an impetus for the other re-designs?

It’s probably hasn’t had as much of an effect as has been made out. I think when a magazine gets a new editor, they put their stamp on mag. They would’ve done redesigns anyway. I think Portfolio is on track from ad page perspective. From what I hear from others about editorial is that it has yet to carve out a distinct identity. 

Even with the re-designs, a site like Huffington Post is way above Newsweek in terms of traffic.

Newsweek and the like compete with their names. I’m not a consumer of Huffington Post. Not sure how much original reporting they’re doing. I think perhaps they’re more associated with aggregated content. Newsweek, part of the re-design is to make their columnists even more front and center. Calling out their head-shots, anything they can do to deliver personality.  

Now, some PR related questions for you. How many pr pitches do you get each day?
5-10

How many do you respond too?
Try to respond to them all. A good half are not relevant.

What are you currently working on?
I have a big piece coming out next week that is going to look at state of magazine measurement, the numbers and what they mean. Where strengths and weakness are. What is coming out in the future.

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