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In a Turnabout, A Digital Publisher Plans to Put Newsweek Magazine Back in Print


On March 2, 2014 Leslie Kaufman reported in The New York Times that IBT Media planned to republish Newsweek magazine in print once again, after the print version had failed several times. This time the purpose of the print publication was, it seems, to promote more exposure for the web version:

"Steven Cohn, editor in chief of Media Industry Newsletter, said Newsweek’s decision to print the magazine made good business sense.

“ 'The print magazine is kind of a prop to give the web better exposure,' Mr. Cohn said. 'For Newsweek, having a cover can have its advantages. You can appear on ‘Meet the Press.’ Celebrities and politicians like being on actual covers on the newsstand. They have stripped the costs way down. So really, what do they have to lose?'

This decision, of course, represented a contrarian view, made by publishers who were successful and profitable in the online world.

"Newsweek’s print ambitions are modest. It plans to print 70,000 copies — at its peak two decades ago, circulation was 3.3 million — and sell them for $7.99 each, with the magazine’s content also available online for a more affordable price.

“ 'You would pay only if you don’t want to read anything on a backlit screen,' Mr. Uzac said. 'It is a luxury product.' "

During the past twenty years the misfortunes of Newsweek paralleled the decline of print media and the advance of digital:

"The Graham family, longtime newspaper publishers, gave up and sold it for a dollar. The media mogul Barry Diller spent tens of millions trying to revive it, only to throw in the towel. Even Mr. Diller’s star editor, Tina Brown, could not stop it from going out of print.

"But where giants failed, IBT Media, a small digital publishing company, sees a growth path for Newsweek, the struggling newsweekly magazine it bought for a pittance last summer.

"Etienne Uzac, 30, and Johnathan Davis, 31, founders of IBT Media, believed they could recreate Newsweek as a vibrant and profitable web-only magazine. But now, having tripled Newsweek’s online traffic, they plan to punctuate the magazine’s comeback by turning on the printing presses again. Hard copies are expected to hit newsstands on Friday."

Not all experts thought this decision was wise:

"Yet Newsweek’s reappearance in print comes at a fraught moment for the industry. Time Inc. — the parent of Newsweek’s longtime archrival, Time magazine, as well as Sports Illustrated and Fortune — recently laid off roughly 500 people to cut costs.

"Across the industry, newsstand sales of consumer magazines fell 11 percent in the second half of 2013 from the period a year earlier. Paid subscriptions dropped 1.2 percent, according to the Alliance for Audited Media’s most recent data."

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