Newsweek shuts print edition, goes gently into digital night

Another icon of 20th century news reporting is about to go through a dramatic change. Newsweek editor Tina Brown announced this morning that the magazine will publish its final print copy on December 31 but live on in a new tablet edition known as Newsweek Global.

The move appeared to be inevitable after recent sensationalist covers failed to stave off a collapse in Newsweek’s business. As David Carr reports, the magazine is slated to lose $40 million this year and has seen its subscribers fall from 3 million to 1.5 million in the last decade. More broadly, the company faced a more existential problem in that a “weekly news” magazine has become an anachronism in the digital world.

In this morning’s announcement, Brown wrote that the tablet edition will target a “new highly mobile, opinion-leading audience who want to learn about world events in a sophisticated context.” The product will be subscription based and supplemented with content from The Daily Beast, which took over Newsweek’s online brand in 2010. The relationship between the publications has been complicated since they were first mashed together in an odd 50-50 partnership.  As we reported in 2010, Brown appeared to face an insurmountable task of combining a tired magazine brand with The Daily Beast which itself was losing $10 million a year.

It’s early days, of course, but Newsweek Global appears to face an uphill battle for that coveted “mobile, opinion-leading audience.” These readers are already receiving intense attention from the likes of the Economist and The Atlantic, two publications whose brands, unlike Newsweek, have retained their sheen in the digital era. Meanwhile, other tablet-only plays like The Daily have floundered. Is it realistic for a reborn digital Newsweek to muscle into this space?

Finally, here are some reactions from around the media sphere: