Monday, May 18, 2009

Newsweek: 'Counterintuitive'
Is the New Stupid

The Washington Post's Howard Kurtz reports on the new "strategery" at sister publication Newsweek:
Jon Meacham admits it is hard to explain, even to his own people, why chopping Newsweek's circulation in half is a good thing.
"It's hugely counterintuitive," the magazine's editor says. "The staff doesn't understand it." . . .
Newsweek, owned by The Washington Post Co. . . . is bleeding red ink, losing nearly $20 million in the first quarter. Newsweek, whose circulation was as high as 3.1 million in recent years, plans to cut that to 1.5 million by the beginning of 2010, in part by discouraging renewals. The magazine will begin charging the average subscriber about 90 cents an issue, nearly double the current rate.
"If we can't convince a million and a half people we're worth less than a dollar a week, the market will have spoken," Meacham says. The newsstand price will also jump from $4.95 to $5.95, a buck more than Time.
(Hat-tip: Hot Air Headlines.) Raise the price and discourage subscriptions? Brilliant! And check out their "innovative" idea for revamping content:

Meacham, an admirer of the Economist, is fashioning a serious magazine for what he calls his base, with a heavy emphasis on politics and public policy.
Right. You're going to turn a mass-circulation news magazine into some sort of highbrow policy journal . . . weekly! And then watch the money roll in! If this isn't the stupidest business strategy in the history of journalism -- that's a pretty tough competition -- it's certainly in the Top Five.

Notice that Meacham's idea is to publish a magazine resembling a magazine that he likes to read. Call it the Narcissus Reflecting Pool Theory of journalism: If the top editor admires a certain publication, then trying to imitate that publication must be a good business strategy. What you are doing, therefore, is producing a publication for your own editors, rather than for the readers.

This is all very good if the editor is a visionary with a sense of what the reading public wants. But if your editor is a clueless dingbat like Jon Meacham, you're screwed.

My advice to Newsweek staffers: Update your resumes.

UPDATE: Welcome, fellow AOSHQ Morons! You might also enjoy my take on MoDoGate, and my most recent American Spectator column, "The Republicans Who Really Matter."

UPDATE II: Allahpundit loves me again!
It smells like they're trying to remake themselves into a lefty rag like the American Prospect albeit with a bit more populist appeal and investigative journalism. Not quite as highbrow as TNR, not quite as lowbrow as MSNBC, but extra "serious" and willing to charge a bit more for their new supposed prestige.
Now if I can just get him to front-page my Green Room post about the cowardice of the elite . . .

UPDATE III: Welcome NRO readers! Perhaps you'd like to sample some delicious lesbian cookies?


  1. I could understand if you wanted to make the magazine more wonkish - and you were willing to accept a decline in readership - because you thought that the wonkish magazine had a niche and something important to add to the political landscape. (although I'm not a shareholder) I also understand calling a Toyota a Lexus and charging double.

    What I can't understand is why you would discourage subscription renewals. Why not let people "accidentally" subscribe to the new Newsweek magazine? Its almost like Meechum takes pride in the fact that less people find the magazine worthwhile or something - like that's a virtue.

  2. Hush! Get more of these msm magazines and "newspapers" to do the same, I say. They already have the narcissistic editorialship, all they need is the discouragement of subscriptions and increase in price. No, I am not being cynical, directly anyway. We need more burger flippers! That is what most journalists deserve to be doing. Oddly, burger flippers are some of the few people with the same political views, they just don't have degrees (so much for degrees).

    At least I have this place to read. I think I even like the editor in chief here.

  3. As Pee Wee Herman said, "I meant to do that!" I think they know Newsweek is going down the tubes rapidly and they want to make it look like it was all part of their grand strategy.

  4. Upon reflection, isn't that what the RNC is doing?

    In another comment somewhere I reported a revelation I recently acknowledged.

    I voted for, and argued that others should vote for McCain as likely to do less harm.

    I've argued that supporting third parties is the same as supporting the Democrats.

    The revelation: If theRNC does not put up conservative candidates (note the absence of a qualifier in front of "conservative") I will be sitting out elections from here on in.

    If "we" are going top be electing socialists-marxists-leninists-fascists I want them to be labeled "democrats" not "republicans.

  5. I am have never been a subscriber to Newsweek, nor will I become one. However, I am not fully understanding the ridicule for a premuim pricing strategy.

    I'm NOT saying that Newsweek is worthy of a premium pricing strategy the way BMW and Heineken had been in the past. I'm just saying that it is a valid strategy.

  6. My wife subscribes and I think I read in a recent edition that the magazine "plans to offer a more well balanced" editorial position. That admission of past and on-going bias that they plan to change really surprised me.

  7. Perhaps their strategy is to collapse the magazine so abruptly that they'll be first in line for the Obama administration's bailout for magazines ...

  8. We are not becoming less popular. Our appeal is becoming more selective.

  9. Reporters are expensive because you have to get them khaki outfits, and send them to faraway places, and hire sherpas for them, and bribe the local insurgency/mafia not to kill them, and all of that stuff.

    Opinion writers are dirt cheap. There are people who will do that for free if you let them take on some snob airs while they do it. Just go to wonkette, and Huffington Post, and the Daily Beast and Kos and you can get all of the cheap opinion and policy writers you want to fill the spaces in the magazine. You might even have enough to hire some editors to clean all of the profanity out of their prose before you go to print.

    Mikey NTH