Sometimes the importance of digital reading shows up in unexpected places.
Business Insider reports on Wednesday night’s episode of Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show, which featured an interview with Newsweek editor in chief Jon Meacham.
It came out yesterday that, after nearly 50 years of ownership, the Washington Post company has put Newsweek up for sale. The magazine has been declining in readership and advertising considerably over the last few years.
Meacham echoed Marc Andreesen’s advice to print publishers to “burn your boats”. In the era of the Internet, he admitted, most people probably do not have the patience to wait a week for in-depth analysis of the news when there are websites where they can get it right now.
Rather than continuing to put emphasis on print,
"It’s probably time to flip that," Meacham continued, "in which you are solely focused on the digital, and by the end of the week, you take the best stuff" and compile it for the people who "want to hold the magazine in their hands. And there are people that still do that."
Meacham feels that Newsweek still serves an important purpose, as one of relatively few “catcher[s] in the rye between democracy and ignorance,” and it is important to continue to have it available.
The audience applauded as he continued: "We have to decide, are we ready to get what we’re willing to pay for? And if you’re not gonna pay for news, then you’re going to get a different kind of news."
We pay a lot of attention to what the Internet is doing to newspapers, but it is less common to hear about what it is doing to news magazines. It does stand to reason that if a daily news source can become uncomfortably “stale” in the Internet era, a weekly one would be even harder hit.
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c|
|Exclusive – Jon Meacham Extended Interview Pt. 1|
Interesting. It does seem logical that if once-a-day newspapers are being challenged by the web, once-a-week magazines would be, too. But I’d say the biggest problem Time and Newsweek have stems from the decisions they made decades ago, when they determined that their readers had no patience for long articles that went in-depth, and would rather have bite-sized nugget stories. Especially stories about celebrities!
These stories are exactly the thing that trend on twitter and will be all over the internet.
The old-style, long pieces with in-depth analysis, on the other hand, offer up a choice, and one that we can’t find on the web. They appeal to a smaller audience, but I’d guess that audience is well-heeled and would be willing to pay, whether it’s for a print edition or for some subscription-based website or iPhone, Kindle, or Android app.
Also, I thought that Andreeson’s ‘burn your bridges’ comments advised newspapers to DROP the print editions, and go all-digital, rather than just ‘flip the priorities around.’ That’s what PC Magazine did (along with a few newspapers) but only after losing too much money on the print edition to make it viable. Going out that way made them look like losers rather than visionaries.