‘Newsweek’: Slim Pickings

What's there for rivals to fight over?

Renewed questions about Newsweek’s future in the printed form could spell opportunity for other weekly magazines. Then again, what would they be fighting over?

Newsweek had 344 ad pages in the first six months of 2012, up 7.6 percent over the year-ago period. A look at how those pages break down shows a large number of them come from non-lucrative categories, though.

“There’s not much to feast off,” one competitor sniped. “The bones have toothmarks on them already.”

When Tina Brown relaunched the magazine in March 2011, with boldfaced authors and liberal use of photos on thicker, glossier paper, she trumpeted it as 'Vanity Fair meets The New Yorker.' One of the goals was to draw in more fashion and luxury ads, an uphill battle, considering newsweeklies are traditionally weak in those categories.

A breakdown from Kantar obtained by Adweek shows just how much of a battle. In the first half of this year, the majority of the ads came from typically low-rate categories.

The biggest single category was media and advertising, with 80 ad pages out of the total 344. More than half the 80 came from outside sales firms that bring in less-productive ads.

Other big contributors from traditionally low-paying categories were government, politics and organizations (49 pages); direct response (32); drugs and remedies (25). An exception was automotive, which supplied 29 pages.

As for luxury, fewer than 10 ads came from liquor, jewelry and watch, and cosmetics, categories that often lean high-end. 

One exception was a cover-to-cover, Mad Men-themed issue that Newsweek produced in March and which drew advertisers like Lincoln, Mercedes-Benz and Benetton. Rob Gregory, president of the Newsweek Daily Beast Co., said that the magazine planned to do more such themed issues in the months ahead, including an "Explorers Issue" and others focused on New York City; women and girls; and military vets.

"Our experience with the Mad Men issue told us, when we do these zeitgeisty cultural issues, we can broaden the base of ad categories and brands very successfully," he said. "Having learned from this, we're planning more thematic issues and cultural events and major tentpoles, many of which are helping us connect with advertisers and brands that are out of the traditional mix."

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