The end of ink at Newsweek Inc.

Friday, 19 October, 2012

The end of Newsweek “One day, we’ll see movies with people reading magazines and newspapers on paper and chuckle. Part of me has come to see physical magazines and newspapers as, at this point, absurd. They are like Wile E Coyote suspended three feet over a cliff for a few seconds. They’re still there; but there’s nothing underneath; and the plunge is vast and steep.” So writes Andrew Sullivan in a Daily Beast post titled “Out Of The Ashes Of Dead Trees“.

The backstory here is yesterday’s historic decision to close Newsweek magazine, ending an 80-year print run. As of 31 December, Newsweek will be rebranded Newsweek Global, available exclusively online and on tablet devices and charging for its content. The print magazine will reportedly lose $22 million this year; running an online version promises savings and, one day, maybe, profits. The upside is that the brand is well known and with tablet computers so popular now, publishers believe/hope readers will be willing to pay for portable news. Back to Andrew Sullivan:

“Maybe a couple of magazines will survive in print as status symbols at the high end, or as supermarket check-out tabloids at the lower stratosphere. But I doubt even that. Tablet subscriptions seem to me the only viable way forward. The good news is that the savings from this can be plowed back into journalism if revenues from subs and ads revive. In the end, the individual who will decide if magazines survive at all, even on tablets, will be readers, and their willingness to pay for writing in that form, when they go online and get it for free.”

Next up? The Guardian. It’s denying the rumours, of course, but the dogs in Fleet Street know that the British newspaper won’t be buying ink for much longer. However, with the Guardian, the Huffington Post and, soon, Newsweek Global, serving up the same kind of lefty porridge daily, cyberspace will prove to be just as beastly to magical thinking as the “real” world has been.

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