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January 10, 2013

Predicting Changes at Newsweek After Its First Week as a Digital-Only Magazine

Newsweek Digital Magazine Featuring Tom WolfeThe more print magazines change—as in go digital—the more they stay the same. Or at least that’s the way it seems in the early stages of Newsweek’s major transition.

Newsweek is just a little more than a week into its digital-only afterlife, the last print issue being dated Dec. 31, 2012. And while it might be too soon to tell just what all will and won’t be different, here’s an early look at the possibilities.

Controversial Covers

Even though Newsweek’s farewell cover was more nostalgic than controversial, we should still look forward to that what-had-become-customary buzz surrounding its cover from time to time. Yes, digital issues have digital covers and there are even magazine awards that hail digital-only accomplishments.

Plus, you’d think a publication that has earned a reputation for pushing the envelope to say the very least, like for exhuming Princess Diana at 50 or “gaylo-ing” President Obama, wouldn’t quietly slip away.

But rather than go out with a bang, Newsweek instead let go with a look at its past—its old offices towering over the New York skyline—with #LastPrintIssue emblazoned across it, an acknowledgement of the digital-only realm where it will seek to survive.

Attention-Getting Headlines

Most of these—at least the ones so easily and quickly recalled—are memorable because of said controversial covers. (Could they even be less so?)

To stay relevant and in the online conversation, Newsweek is going to have to do more than release a buzzworthy cover from time to time; it’s also going to have to offer something of substance that its now digital-only subscribers will think is worth paying for (more on that in a few paragraphs).

On the date its first all-digital issue was released, Newsweek’s first cover story started making its social rounds, and it could be classified as one of those attention-getting headlines, or rather bylines.

Tom Wolfe, who 25 years after his The Bonfire of the Vanities was published, revisits Wall Street and in his unique literary style explores what’s changed, what hasn’t and who the new power players are. (Think Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook fame.)

You’d think scoring Wolfe to write the new-look Newsweek’s first digital cover story a quarter-century of his first take on Wall Street is quite the coup. But, as Adweek points out, its novelty is a bit tarnished, as Wolfe wrote about the same subject in 2007 for Conde Nast’s short-lived Portfolio magazine.

Digital-Only Presence

So, obviously, this is the biggest change, but it’s too soon to tell how Newsweek will manage its magazine presence online while still being able to charge for digital subscriptions.

For example, Wolfe’s cover piece is freely available on The Daily Beast—the magazine’s partner news website—along with several other features tagged “In Newsweek Magazine.”

You’d think the site couldn’t be completely devoid of magazine content, or else what would reel in potential subscribers? But put too much out there, and you’ll have readers wondering why they should pay.

Just how to address those questions is still being determined by Newsweek, and that should be expected given its major print-to-digital-only transition.

 



About the Author

Michelle Ryan
Michelle Ryan
Michelle Ryan is obsessed with good food, great shoes and Alabama football way down South in Savannah, Georgia. She hasn’t met a kitchen gadget she hasn’t at least thought about buying (trying them is another story) and devotes her time to Bikram Yoga, baking and trying to overcome long-held finicky eating habits.