Newsweek lied to us.
Less than a year ago, the magazine said:
It turns out the magazine’s new owners—after the death of NewsBeast, which we still can’t believe once seemed like a good idea—have different ideas. In the new year, they’re going to bring the 80-year-old magazine out for another shot at print. Editor Jim Impoco has promised “a premium product” that is “deeply reported and global, which is what it was when it first came out 80-odd years ago and is what it should be now.”
This theme of revival may sound familiar: in 2010, editor Tina Brown said the Newsweek-Daily Beast wedding would “quicken the pace of a great magazine’s revival.” (If you would like to know how that revival panned out, please see the image above.)
The decision to bring Newsweek back to the newsstand has drawn considerable snark. Vanity Fair wrote, “In the great tradition of cats interacting with laser pointers, Newsweek…is so confused by the digital revolution—its movements, its patterns, its nature—that it has now chosen, perhaps out of spite, to ignore it entirely.” Jim Roberts (formerly @nytjim, now at Mashable) tweeted:
With @newsweek returning to print, Frigidaire plans to sell blocks of ice from horse-drawn wagons.
— Jim Roberts (@nycjim) December 4, 2013
Maybe we shouldn’t prejudge the quality or success of the new Newsweek, but we note that its almost-death was recently cited as the cause of another big publishing move. New York Magazine announced this week that it will move from a weekly to a biweekly publishing schedule.
This might seem a silly thing to fuss over in 2013—are we still slaves to publishing schedules of things printed on paper?—but, as The New York Times’sDavid Carr wrote, “something palpable and intrinsically thrilling will be lost with the change in rhythm to a magazine that has been hitting the streets on a weekly basis for more than four decades.”
It almost seems contradictory for people to simultaneously laugh at Newsweek for printing and weep over New York printing less, but it has more to do with content than with medium: Newsweek, even before Tina Brown tried to revive it with headline-grabbing but misguided covers, was struggling to stay relevant. Since 2000, it has won four National Magazine Awards; New York won more than that last year.
So while we look forward to seeing a revived Newsweek on the stands in 2014, we’ve seen this movie before, and it doesn’t end well.
Don’t miss Harriet Luke’s story on the implications of the death of the Local Programming Improvement Fund, here.