Newsweek Ends Printing. And What Was A Battle of Resources Is Now A Battle of Pure Imagination.

“We are announcing this morning an important development at Newsweek and The Daily Beast. Newsweek will transition to an all-digital format in early 2013. As part of this transition, the last print edition in the United States will be our Dec. 31 issue.”  

Tina Brown, Editor-In-Chief, The Daily Beast & Newsweek

Dennis Ryan, Advertising, OlsonI like Newsweek. But the last time I read it was the last time I was at my dentist’s office. And that pretty much sums up their problems right there.

My changing media habits–my daily use of cnn.com and Yahoo! and The Daily Beast, along with more embarrassing habits like The Superficial and Agency Spy–mirror the media disruption that spelled the end for newsweeklies in general. Newsweek’s circulation dropped fifty one percent in five years. U.S. News and World Report has already gone under. In 2013, only Time will remain in print (note: all titles have digital versions).

The problem is, paper and journalists are expensive. Magazine economics are nigh impossible to manage. Tina Brown says it costs $42 million to print and distribute Newsweek, which aligns dangerously with their $40 million in annual losses. Worse, the magazine’s circulation peaked in 1991 at 3.3 million but fell to 1.5 million by June of 2012.

The explosive tablet adoption has hastened print’s demise. Tablets provide a superb platform for fast, award-winning journalism and by year’s end, they will exceed 70 million users in the US alone, up from 13 million just two years ago.

All of which spells the end of the era. Appearing in print once afforded people a shot at immortality, a chance to live on as a fading but tangible byline clipped to a wall. But today, that feels rather quaint. Google’s total index of web pages equals 23,633,010,000.  Who will notice you there? Unless of course you are porn, memes or cat videos. People who surf rarely choose what they should see; instead, they choose what would be fun to see.

Which puts a lot of pressure on anyone who needs to drive traffic. You have to earn it each and every moment as the notion of a retained subscription audience grows increasingly quaint. Today, the playing field between professional and amateur has been levelled. All that matters is providing popular content and driving traffic–how do you do that in this lolscat era?

That is the battle of the new year. Sad as that may be.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson