Newsweek to turn new page with relaunch (Financial Times, 16 April 2009)
For more than a year, Thomas Ascheim, the former Nickelodeon cable executive who is Newsweek’s chief executive; Jon Meacham, editor; and Fareed Zakaria, international editor, have plotted the radical remaking of a product that had lost its relevance as a news source years ago as readers turned to the internet and cable news.
In November, the team submitted a plan to return to profit within five years. “You can keep doing what you have been doing all the time and march nobly off a cliff or you can adapt and change,” Mr Meacham told the Financial Times.
A prototype of the redesign that will be launched in early May is a cleaner take on the old, with more white space and bolder photographs. The launch will coincide with a relaunch of Newsweek.com that will replace wire copy with links to the best sources of online news, even if published by rivals.
Newsweek intends to court a high-end audience seeking in-depth commentary and reporting. It plans to leave the mass market behind by cutting the circulation it guarantees to advertisers, from 2.6m to 1.5m by January. Subscription prices are expected to double, executives said, and $25m could be saved annually from printing and distribution costs. Newsweek has cut 160 staff through voluntary redundancies and a handful of layoffs, but protected a stable of star columnists, correspondents and contributors.
Focusing on a smaller but devoted readership earning an average $100,000 a year will allow the magazine to raise advertising rates, although lower circulation will reduce page rates, making attracting smaller, luxury advertisers easier.
The idea is to capture territory dominated by The Economist and the New Yorker. The incumbents respectively distribute about 711,000 and 1m copies in the US and both have weathered the downturn better.
This is smart. The era of profitable print newsweeklies is long since over, but there are still profitable niche markets for print publications to exploit.