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Newsweek move to digital only is reality recognition
Several months ago I received a subscription offer from Newsweek magazine that was too good to resist.
Magazines are known to deeply discount their subscriptions — I have an even better deal from Time magazine — but in the back of my mind I was thinking this was an indication the magazine was struggling.
This week Newsweek announced it will cease publication of its printed product at the end of the year, after 80 years, and switch to digital only publication.
The magazine's leaders said it was simply a recognition of the future of publishing and that is was the direction both advertisers and readers wanted them to go.
There is probably some truth to that, but the reality is that Newsweek has struggled for some time as a printed edition, as have all news magazines in this era of instant 24-hour news coverage.
Fewer and fewer people want to wait for a magazine to arrive in the mail with news coverage and analysis that may be as much as a week old and may have been made inconsequential by breaking news the day after they were printed.
Even those of us who appreciate and enjoy a glossy printed product are reluctant to pay what it truly costs to print and distribute them — thus the super deal that probably barely covers the cost of soliciting subscribers via the mail.
Nevertheless, some printed magazines are prospering and are fat with ads to cover the costs. The issue isn't with magazines per se, I don't think, but rather with whether there is enough perceived value to offset the necessary costs. News magazines no longer have that perceived value and in reality haven't had for years.
That does not mean they don't have a future, but it will be under a different guise. By going to digital publication Newsweek greatly reduces its costs while providing an opportunity for timely reporting and analysis of events.
It used to be that readers liked the idea of a weekly summary of what had happened during the week, but that no longer seems to be the case for most people. The evolution of these publications is inevitable.
Fortunately, the change is coming at an important nexus for the publishing business — the growing popularity of so-called tablet computers. They include devices like the iPad and certain e-readers. More are arriving each month.
A study this week from the comScore TabLens research service reveals that nearly 10 percent of tablet owners say they read magazines daily on their devices and nearly 14 percent do so weekly. The number climbs to nearly 40 percent for monthly magazines.
The continued growth of this trend is what Newsweek and others are betting on in going digital only. They will have the readers without having to pay enormous printing and distributions costs to get to them. That will give them the opportunity to sink money into content rather than the manufacturing process.
By the way, a similar trend to more readership on tablets is taking place for newspapers also. Nearly 12 percent read newspapers “almost every day” or “at least once a week.”
Newspapers for years have seen the potential of online products. They devote great effort to their web and mobile news sites. Here at the Yuma Sun we have been doing this for more than a decade and our online audience continues to grow even as our print audience remains loyal to the our printed newspaper. Some enjoy both experiences.
Many people still enjoy reading a printed product — I know I do — and we plan to continue to serve their needs. At the same time we will continue to expand our efforts to meet the needs of those who enjoy digital products. We know the value of both worlds.
Terry Ross is director of the Yuma Sun's News and Information Center. Email: email@example.com. Telephone: 539-6870.