After Newsweek, Is Writing on Wall for Newsweeklies?

Category seen as first to die out

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Newsweek, now facing a digital-only future, isn’t the only newsweekly that’s struggling in print. Fellow mass-audience title Time is down 19 percent in ad pages in the first half of the year, per Publishers Information Bureau. The Week, which carved out a niche with a tightly edited package of the week’s news, is down by 28 percent. And The Economist, another niche title that has thrived by charging a premium for subscriptions and focusing on an elite global audience, is also down, if only by 4 percent.

At this week's American Magazine Conference in San Francisco, Jeffrey Cole, director of the Center for the Digital Future at USC, predicted that newsweeklies would be the first magazine category to die out in the print-to-digital shift. A recent Pew Research Center report backs this up. In the past decade, the percentage of Americans who had read a print magazine in the past 24 hours dropped from 23 percent to 17 percent, per the report. Meanwhile, online and digital consumption of news is increasing, as is the consumption of news through social networks. Since 2010, the percentage of Americans saying they saw news or news headlines on a social networking site in the previous 24 hours more than doubled, from 9 to 19 percent.

No surprise then, that ad pages for the overall news magazine category (including Newsweek, Time, The Economist, The Atlantic, The New Yorker, Fortune, Forbes, Businessweek and The Week) dropped from 18,000 pages in 2006 to a projected 10,000 pages in 2012, per PIB.

Niche titles have been able to buttress their print ad revenue with other income. Steven Kotok, president of The Week, said the business is 60 percent subscription revenue by design. "We don’t rely on ad revenue to make or break the business,” Kotok said, adding, “I personally would not want to be a mass publication in this age.”

Paul Rossi, managing director and evp of The Economist Group, Americas, also stressed the importance of lessening reliance on print advertising. “All magazines are facing the same issue—readers are migrating to digital and the ad dollars are following,” he emailed. “If you are dependent on print advertising, this migration is doubly difficult.”

@adweekemma Emma Bazilian is Adweek's features editor.