Newsweek Unveils Its First Animated Cover

After shutting down print, newsweekly embraces GIF and animated Internet culture

Freed from the chains of print, Newsweek is continuing its streak of digital firsts to raise eyebrows for its tablet edition, whose Jan. 11 edition will feature an animated cover image for the first time in the magazine's 80-year history.

When tablet subscribers download the coming week's issue, they'll first notice a blank, light-blue screen, which gives way to a four-second animation of the descent of the deep-diving submarine Pisces IV. Carrying the cover title, "Have We Hit Bottom?" (a headline sure to invite a few snide comments after Newsweek's recent print struggles) the story chronicles the last manned deep sea diving expedition. The piece is written by senior writer Tony Dokoupil and teases an exclusive interview with director and known deep sea diver James Cameron.

To get the sequence, Hawaii photographer Hugh Gentry shot high-resolution video 120 feet below the sea, five miles off the coast of Oahu. The video was then processed in-house, combing still images to create the animation.

The cover is just the latest in a string of Newsweek's efforts to embrace its new digital-only publication. The magazine's final print issue predominantly featured a Twitter hashtag as a hat tip of sorts to its online future, and parent The Newsweek Daily Beast Co. has been active in pursuing a digital newsroom strategy with focuses on data visualization and social media to supplement its traditional reporting.

While it's unclear if an animated cover will sell more tablet subscriptions, Newsweek's latest effort demonstrates a willingness to get creative with its new format and embrace Internet culture, which over the past years has witnessed a renaissance of sorts of the animated GIF image. If nothing else, the ambitious photography and design are an indication that, despite being stripped of its print circulation, the old newsweekly isn't going away without a fight.