Outgoing Newsweek columnist Howard Fineman, who recently announced he would exit the sinking ship for the Huffington Post, gave the magazine's print edition five years. "My guess is that there will be several years of a fond embrace of the traditional magazine," he said. "But that stuff is going because the economics are too difficult." Pressed for a specific time frame, Fineman gave his five-year prediction.
Since it was sold for a dollar to media mogul Sidney Harman, Newsweek has shed some of its most prominent names. The Business Insider reported that "of the roughly two dozen Newsweek journalists who have run for the door in recent months, some of the most high-profile names have joined news outlets without dead-tree versions."
Fineman is perhaps the most prominent, but other reporters and commentators have departed as well:
Economics editor Dan Gross is headed to Yahoo Finance. Longtime investigative reporter Mark Hosenball is joining former Newsweek worldwide special editions editor Arlese Getz at Reuters. Michael Isikoff, the magazine's other longtime investigative ace, took a job at NBC News. Marc Coatney (granted, he was a digital staffer in the first place) is now working for Tumblr.
The Business Insider posits that Newsweek's troubles are a commentary on the state of print media generally. Though the magazine's unique troubles are of course a factor, posited BI reporter Joe Pompeo,
the departures also hint at an ever-growing anxiety about what the future holds for print media in general.
More and more old media journalists are starting to map out digital futures, and the publications where they are plotting their courses are embracing the credibility, gravitas and, above all, readers, that their bylines can bring.
The BI misses one key point: whereas most print media outlets are profitable - and simply owned by companies that are not - Newsweek was anything but, and was draining WaPo's coffers when it was sold.
So why was Newsweek sold for a dollar and debts while competitor Time magazine posted healthy gains in revenue from both ads and subscriptions? Well, according to World Editors Forum, Time decided to go with the conventional "liberal-but-not-too-liberal" approach, maintaining a semblance of news value.
Newsweek, on the other hand, turned hard left, according to Stefanie Chernow, who wrote for WEF's Editors Weblog.
Time differed from Newsweek on the direction of its content, writing straightforward analysis of stories that took a left of center spin. Newsweek took a dramatically left approach to its content and produced more opinionated essays and columns. A year later, Time's strategy seems to be proving much more successful than that of Newsweek.
Perhaps Newsweek should opt for an approach that doesn't alienate anyone less than five notches left of center, regardless of the medium it chooses to emphasize.