Newsweeklies: the product is right, the medium is wrong

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It’s not been a pretty picture for print for a while now. The latest blow came on Wednesday when Newsweek announced it was to go digital only after citing annual loses of around US$40-million. Other newsweeklies may suffer a similar fate — the latest data shows double-digit ad falls for Time and The Week. Yet only four percent for The Economist, whose digital revenues are much higher than the others.

None, it seems, are really gearing up to crack the beast that is regular subscription and week-old news. It’s just a different world I guess. Or is it?

People need good analysis and commentary — it’s an important part of making an informed decision. People also need to see things in context and the larger picture — newsweeklies, in my opinion, should be offering this to stand out from the crowd. Be the curators. The sense-givers. Those that step back and see how it all connects.

An interesting new news product launched last week (called Circa) and the unlikely founder — Ben Huh of Lolcat fame — might just be Newsweek and pals’ saviour.

Circa offers an undated and curated news offering — add this to the skills that the newsweeklies have and you could have an interesting product…albeit a digital one. If I were Newsweek I’d join forces with Circa and create something utterly unique. It could be argued that with the existing resources and set-up they have the perfect product waiting to be unleashed. I’d pay for quality editors to create a stream of information that gives me a full picture of the story at hand.

With circulations ebbing and flowing (although decidedly more ebb than most publishers want) it’s clear that there are serious issues ahead for the print industry. In a mobile-first world with algorithms at every turn, it’s a stressful time in the wonderful world of fixed publishing costs.

What’s needed is not only a new mindset but also a new willingness to try new things and not cling to an old past. When things go, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are lost. We’re also forgetting that often better things replace them.

So… what of the future? The future is what it has always been… adapt or die. Newsweek and others must make now make a real effort to change and offer a product people want to use not if they have time. Although I sense, this old dog may not learn new tricks as quickly as it needs to. It’s been said before — adapt or die.

The product is still valuable, it’s the medium that isn’t letting it shine. My advice? Run towards the light.

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