I feel like I can’t really call myself a “journalist” if I don’t at least mention the whole crazy news about Newsweek on here. Well, really, some would say that the fact that I write about candy means I can’t really call myself a “journalist” but to those people I have just one thing to say: You’re just jealous.
Anyway, so ya, Newsweek announced that they are going all digital. Part of me is really excited about this, because in theory, it should mean they will no longer be creating ridiculous covers like this:
Really Newsweek? You had to sell your list of places to eat with a phallic image? Of asparagus? That you got on a stock image website? And you wonder why people aren’t buying your magazine?
** Sigh **
As a very loyal Time reader, I have to say, I’m not too upset about this on a personal level. But as a writer for a magazine (even if it is just a “candy magazine”), I’m not ignoring it either.
Because I know you’re all worried that this is just one more nail in the coffin of my chosen profession, I will tell you that my professional opinion is that there will always be a need to pay people to write good content. I really do believe this. And I’m cool with someone paying me to write for a website instead of a printed page, or for that matter, to write for the magical yet-to-be mass marketed machine that will allow us to read via contact lenses instead of a printed page.
If that prediction proves wrong though, don’t worry, I have a back-up plan. I’m going to marry rich. Either that, or I’ll just sleep in the church, where I currently work part-time as a youth leader. Mice, schmice. If a barn is good enough for Jesus, it’s good enough for me. (Note: For those who don’t know, my church is really young. And we’re working on getting a building, but in the meantime, we have a creative collection of facilities. Among them is the barn, which the youth group meets in. Don’t worry, it’s heated).
My other thought is that Newsweek drove itself into the ground trying to be sensational. And in the process turned off the very people who would pick up a news magazine printed on old-fashioned paper by choice and then take it home and read it.
I also will point out that as far as I can tell, Time seems to be all right. No, they aren’t hiring in droves or giving away issues for free or anything, but they still print a paper edition every single week, while also updating their website with extremely good hourly content.
If they found a way, why couldn’t Newsweek? I’m guessing it’s the same reason Newsweek felt that the only way to sell magazines was to put Barack Obama on the cover and call him gay. And the same reason the Newsweek website doesn’t even try to offer breaking headlines at the top, or easy-to-find daily commentary, or constantly updated stories. They didn’t want to do the work that needs to happen to get readers long-term.
It’s like Newsweek thought the goal was a string of one-night stands. They worked so hard to get people to grab just one issue off the shelf by the register. But the problem is, that’s not the goal. The goal is the wedding. The subscribers. And while it is entirely possible to get married to the guy who grabs you at the register, that only happens if you’re able to offer something more than a phallic stock image of asparagus. And Newsweek wasn’t. At least not to me.
I wish I could say for certain that I believe paper magazines will exist in 40 years, but I can’t even honestly say for certain if they will exist in 10 years. What I can say though, is that they haven’t quite died yet. And I think the fate of Newsweek is a more a result of the magazine producing horrible content than it is a reflection on an entire industry.