In an interview that could easily have passed for Fox talking to Murdoch, the Newsweek Daily Beast Company sat down with its editor-and-chief and founder Tina Brown to discuss the end of print at the venerable magazine Newsweek. Newsweek fell into the hands of Brown and Beast two years ago but have been unable to resist sliding circulation and rising costs. The last print edition will be December 31.
Brown was on “Newsbeast” this week with the company’s new CEO Baba Shetty dissecting the reasons why Newsweek was shedding staff and its print publication. Brown spoke of the need for protection, of journalists and content. Senior columnist John Avlon was all suited up as he lollypopped his bosses with the opening question phrased as a statement: “So we are taking the bull by the horns, going all digital…”
“We are,” replied Brown. “We must embrace the future.” Brown said Newsweek was 80 years old and it was time to start looking at the next 80 years.
“We decided to take away the when and…embrace it, be ready for it.”
The new CEO, a “brand guru”, said Newsweek was a great brand and a powerful media icon but was encumbered by “the form factor” and its economics. To take away issues of physical printing distribution and circulation, Shetty said, by porting the core product to digital would be “incredibly liberating”.
“That’s an enormous albatross,” Brown said.
“We thought it was more important to protect the journalists, the contents, the photographers, the ideas.”
Brown said she wanted a digital Newsweek to focus on the marketplace of ideas. But how then, would it be different to the Daily Beast, also entirely online, asked Avlon.
Shetty stepped in to say they were “incredibly complementary”.
In four years, the Beast had gone from a start-up to a site with 15 million visitors a month, up a 70 percent since 2011, a huge spike in readership and engagement.
Many were “lean forward, participatory, multiple visits a day,” Shetty said. “The Daily Beast is indispensable many people’s information diet.”
A healthy portion of this traffic was generated each week by Newsweek’s strong original journalism. Newsweek, said Shetty, “a step removed”, offering more considered, thoughtful, long-form journalism.
He said removing legacy print, meant Newsweek could re-interpret what it could be in pure digital form. Brown said the Daily Beast now appealed to a similar global reader who lived in India, London or Brazil.
“Exiting print is an extremely difficult moment for all of us who love the romance of print and the unique weekly camaraderie of those hectic hours before the close on Friday night,” the article concluded. “But as we head for the 80th anniversary of Newsweek next year we must sustain the journalism that gives the magazine its purpose—and embrace the all-digital future.”