The new Newsweek
October 20: The Newsweek rumor mill was in full swing last week as speculation regarding mergers spread like wildfire. Meanwhile, staff continues to leave in droves heading to other publications or pursuing new professional opportunities.
Former Newsweek international editor Fareed Zakaria joined rival publication Time, while managing editor Jon Meacham and digital editor Mark Miller left for other adventures. Gabriel Snyder, former executive editor at Newsweek Digital also exited the building, and Dan Gross went to search engine giant Yahoo! Finance.
While staff changes are common following buyouts, they are rarely concurrent with separate additional mergers. As of Monday, Newsweek halted a partnership with online news powerhouse The Daily Beast. Talks were in the works about the two merging, and even though editor and founder Tina Brown denied the news weeks ago, a chance to combine a print past and an online future was dismissed. According to the Beast’s ‘About Us’ section, there were “interesting discussions” occurring. Jan Angilella at Newsweek’s PR office offered “no comment” via e-mail.
Why the fail? Josh Gordon, president of Smarter Media Sales, has some insight: “The deal fell apart because it should have.” He noted that the magazine lacks a “sustainable business model” and a “viable content strategy.” Even if the merge was successful, Brown would not be able to sustain Newsweek. “Forget the weekly news concept,” said Gordon in an e-mail interview. “The Internet offers a wide variety of services that aggregate or customize news feed[s] for readers, which [is] one reason Newsweek is failing.” He noted that a news tool or app offered weekly might be the answer to the magazine’s woes.
While some view print as an antiquated medium, somehow Time has succeeded where Newsweek has failed. Both magazines have cut their circulation numbers, and yet Time still profits, according to an article at EditorsWeblog. New owner and audio entertainment mogul Sidney Harman bought Newsweek for a buck from The Washington Post Company and now sits on $10 million in liabilities. With profits falling and employees leaving, Newsweek must stay focused on keeping their remaining staff and producing quality writing. “Good reporting, writing, editing, and distribution will trump distribution alone,” said Robert Deigh, head of RDC Communications as an expert in strategic communication, marketing and PR, in an e-mail interview. “The big news sites know that and they will, in large part, absorb the talent they need. Sad to see, but Newsweek and others may be operating as their farm clubs.”
Publications like the National Journal have snapped up several reporters and editors including former Newsweek’s Michael Hirsh. Lally Weymouth, a special diplomatic correspondent for the magazine, headed to the Washington Post where she has a daughter and brother on staff. Mark Block, Newsweek’s former director of external relations, left on Sept. 30 seeking a new “professional opportunity.” Although others have left, two returned, including the now general editor David Jefferson and Ramin Setoodeh, who ended his stint at People magazine to resurrect his role as cultural reporter at Newsweek.
Now that the Daily Beast and Newsweek will no longer merge, does the print publication withstand a chance if it continues to bleed itself dry? “The fantasy is that the marriage of a successful online news business and a fading traditional one can combine for success,” Gordon said. “What Newsweek needs is to hire some people who understand how news content can make money interactively, and listen to what they say even if it hurts their ears.”
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