For a minute, we were all paying attention to Newsweek again. But just as quickly as our heads whipped around when we heard that the title had been sold to IBT Media, the company that owns International Business Times, our heads whipped back the other way because Jeff Bezos bought The Washington Post.
Newsweek, which was meant to be revived by its association with Tina Brown’s site The Daily Beast, instead seems to be even more of a shell of the notable newsweekly it once was. For one, it stopped printing seven months ago and went all digital. Then, a number of notable staff left, including CEO Baba Shetty and editor Tunku Varadarajan. Finally, you had Newsweek owner Barry Diller saying publicly, “I wish I hadn’t bought Newsweek, it was a mistake.” Diller’s point was that a newsweekly’s time had passed at the rise of Twitter and other instant news. Sales pitching at its finest!
But the companies involved here would have us believe that this is a great sale and a great brand.
“It’s known by more than a billion people. Having a brand with that kind of global recognition will open doors for IBT, which is growing but still a young company,” co-founder and owner Etienne Uzac said in a story on the International Business Times site. The same article says frankly that the title “declined” in the 2000s and became more known for controversy like the crazy-eyed Michele Bachmann cover than for great journalism.
“Three years later, Newsweek is a much different publication—and business,” writes Daniel Gross on The Daily Beast. “In January, the domestic and global print issues were combined into a single digital product, produced by a small staff to high editorial standards and an increased social media presence. The magazine has a growing base of digital subscribers, and foreign licensees continue to publish print Newsweek editions around the world in languages such as Korean, Japanese, and Spanish. Moreover, the digital Newsweek had reduced its losses significantly.”
It’s so very meh. So it’s a title that is online like many others, publishes in a few languages, and loses less money than it did before.
In the case of The Washington Post, even if circulation numbers declined, the brand hasn’t been significantly diminished. Jeff Bezos is a big name, and tying it to WaPo gives people reason to believe that a revival is possible, even probable.
Who knows — IBT does seem to be a brand on the rise. It’s a company with digital know-how, and it may have plans already with what to do with Newsweek. But it became hard to differentiate Newsweek from The Daily Beast, in terms of content, which diminished its brand. And it was never able to fully shake the thing that is alluded to in its name — its weekly nature. When your owner calls you a bad idea, it’s damaging.