Barry Diller on Newsweek's print edition: 'It was a mistake to take this one on'

AdAge | The New York Times | AP

People involved in the decision to shutter Newsweek's print edition explain their motivations.

"It's an enormously expensive undertaking that this decision gets us out from under," Newsweek/Daily Beast CEO Baba Shetty told Ad Age's Michael Learmonth. Producing the print edition of Newsweek costs about $40 million per year, Shetty said. A digital-only Newsweek will be "about perspective and framing around the themes that matter in the world today. It's about longer form, sitting back, taking it in and gaining perspective." The publications "have a claim to hugely influential audience that is incredibly engaged. We've seen a 40% increase in advertising on the Daily Beast in the past year and we are just scratching the surface of what we can do."

“You cannot actually change an era of enormous disruptive innovation,” Newsweek/Daily Beast Editor-in-Chief Tina Brown told The New York Times' Christine Haughney and David Carr. Explaining Newsweek's string of provocative covers, Brown said, “The magazine was incredibly moribund when we came in.... It had taken so many knocks. We have been able to bring Newsweek back to relevance."

A staffer "who declined to speak on the record because of the impending layoffs" told Haughney and Carr that Newsweek's art department would often find itself "scrambling to come up with something to illustrate [Brown's] next big idea."

“That’s how we ended up with that asparagus cover from stock photos,” the employee said, referring to a cover showing a piece of asparagus dangling above a woman’s lips, which was widely derided by media commentators. “Though I have to say on her behalf, that cover did very well.”

"Reached on a plane about to depart Mexico City," IAC/InterActiveCorp chief Barry Diller told Haughney and Carr that the Harman family's decision to stop investing in Newsweek doomed the print magazine.

“It was a mistake to take this one on,” Mr. Diller said. Newsweek will have about 500 pages in advertising this year, he said, “which was not sustainable. It became completely self-evident that we couldn’t print the magazine anymore.”

While Newsweek's fortunes declined, "Magazine ad revenue in the U.S. is seen rising 2.6 percent this year to $18.3 billion, according to research firm eMarketer," the Associated Press reports. "That would be the third increase in three years, driven mainly by gains in digital ad sales, though print ads are expected to be flat. Paid subscriptions were up 1.1 percent in the first half of the year, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations. And while single-copy sales at newsstands are down 9.6 percent, overall circulation - the bulk of which is in print - is steady compared to a year ago."

  • Andrew Beaujon

    Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at and managing editor of Washington City Paper. He's the author of the 2006 book "Body Piercing Saved My Life," about Christian rock and evangelical Christian culture.


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