U.S. News & World Report will move closer to killing off its print product entirely next year, when it will stop mail delivery to its 1 million-plus subscribers after its December issue.
What’s left of U.S. News in print will be the relatively small number of themed issues like its college and hospital rankings that it will continue to sell on newsstands. In the first half of this year, single-copy sales averaged 39,143. U.S. News plans to publish eight of those in 2011, down from 10 this year.
The news brand announced the changes in a memo (reported here on Poynter) Nov. 5 that quickly fueled speculation that the title was shutting down. According to a memo from president Bill Holiber and editor Brian Kelly, remaining subscribers will have their subscriptions fulfilled by other publications, which weren’t identified, as the brand pushes forward with its newsstand and targeted distribution themed issues and building out companion buckets on its online site.
“We’re really focusing on digital,” Kelly said in a phone interview. “Print is a really small part of our business. We’re really stressing the rankings we do. We’ve added a bunch of new products. We see ourselves moving more and more down that road. We average at least 8 to 9 million uniques [online] a month.”
The move furthers U.S. News’ move away from print as it’s yielded the troubled newsweekly field to Time, Newsweek and others while consumer behaviors have shifted to the Web. In 2009, it switched from a weekly to a monthly frequency while moving its business model online. As U.S. News has increased its single-topic focus, some had questioned whether a subscription model made sense at all.
“It’s all about what’s the best business model,” Kelly said. “There are still people who are interested in print. You got to figure out the model that pays the light bulb.”