The Newsweek Lesson

Newsweek is ceasing their print edition at the end of the year.I would imagine, like LIFE, they will then occasionally publish special editions on potentates and celebrities but functionally it will soon be just another blog.

As I sit here in my pajamas, I have to wonder at the sheer bloody mindedness of management. In recent months I have to say that the magazine has been marginally more interesting with some excellent comment from authors who have largely been sidelined like Niall Ferguson and Ayaan Ali Hirsi. Surprise, it was their alternative perspectives that made those articles must reads.

But when the media establishment becomes so politicized, they will always risk losing 50% of their potential audience. Fox has found a gold mine in the 50% neglected by the mass media because their demographic spans the entire conservative spectrum. there are few alternatives.

On the other side of the dial are CNN, CBS, ABC, NBC, PBS and a plethora of their offspring and offshoots.

The same holds true in the national media. The New York Times is a shadow of its former self while the Washington Post struggles. The clear winner has been the Wall Street Journal, who have maintained both credibility and relevance while expanding its reach well beyond the financial pages.

Go to a newstand these days. Not nearly as many people do anymore. Magazines have become expensive and it seems that self-help, sports and lifestyle publishing dominates. There is less and less space given serious writing. The cost of printing and editing and perhaps even paying writers has forced much of what was the serious press deeper and deeper into the shadows. What is left is very unappealing to many. It represents one more phase in the dumbing down of America.

At a time when the internet has challenged traditional media for the volume of content, some rookie mistakes have multiplied the chances of failure. The creep of politics, and specifically liberal politics from the editorial page and into content; the constant shuffling with form and ‘packaging” and typefaces and gimmicks all have contributed to the slow death spiral of print media.

And yet I have to believe from all that I read on the internet and how badly packaged much of it is that there are still opportunities for serious content. There is a herd mentality that spreads from the editorial desks to the newsrooms to the bureaus that has lost the sense of good reporting. The media fiasco in reporting the Benghazi fiasco is one notable case; the lack of reporting outside the wire in Afghanistan and much of the Middle East is another. These days the herd is firmly inside the corral.

Lesson #1 from the Newsweek failure – Don’t piss off 50% of the audience. Provoke them; Intrigue them; Inform them. This is what has always sold newspapers and magazines

Lesson #2 – Quality Sells. Be the best at what you do.

Lesson #3 – Cost Performance. Add real value.
Lesson #4 – Always remember Lesson #1

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