Newsweek and the Future of Print (Including Us)
Word that Newsweek is going out of print doesn’t surprise me: the idea of a daily newspaper is difficult enough to justify in an age of minute-by-minute Internet news. A weekly paper summary of events makes no sense at all, as Newsweek‘s curious cover-story strategy in the Tina Brown era has demonstrated. A half-baked Niall Ferguson essay or a reverie about what Princess Di would be up to if she weren’t dead is something more appropriate — in genre terms, leave aside quality — to a monthly, on the one hand, or the Internet on the other. Newsweek was already moving toward long-form opinion and analysis, the sort of thing more characteristic of, say, The Atlantic than the Newsweek of old. (That The Atlantic itself resembles Cosmopolitan these days is a story for another time.)
Print will change a lot more before it dies: it’s becoming a premium good rather than a mass-market one. For a small magazine like The American Conservative, the change isn’t daunting: we’ve always aimed at people who like ideas and take time to think, and a great many of those people prefer the printed page to the glowing screen. (Though the Kindle does split the difference, and our speedily growing readership on Amazon’s e-reader has surprised even me.) Where writing is concerned, print is now a specialized medium, not a mass-market one. The departure of a magazine like Newsweek from the racks will further encourage print outlets, and those places that still sell periodicals, to concentrate on the strengths of the medium. The old days of million-selling general-interest periodicals are not coming back.
For us, there’s never been much conflict between print and web — one reason we make so much of our print material available online is that the two media tend to serve different audiences, and different needs even among the same readers. Take TAC in whatever form you prefer: we’re making our print edition available at a record-low price of $10, a painless way to try the magazine, and if you prefer to read online, you can support us by making a donation. (Even $5 or $10 from a large number of readers is a great help — so please do drop something in the jar.)
The newsweekly is dead. The literate and worldly long-form periodical, on the other hand, is going to be around for a while yet.