Miércoles 31 de Agosto de 2005, Ip nº 124

Newsweeklies slip at the newsstand
Por Robert Bianco

For the first six months of the year, celebrity and gossip magazines such as Us Weekly posted double-digit newsstand gains while newsweeklies such as Time, Newsweek and U.S. News & World Report saw single-copy sales dip 3.4% to 16.6%.
Newsstand buys are but a fraction of the newsweeklies' overall circulations: Of Time's 4.1 million circulation, fewer than 200,000 are bought at newsstands, while subscriptions remain far more stable. And newsmags' single-copy sales are often at the mercy of big events or the lack thereof.

Nonetheless, the decreases again raise the question of how general-interest publications can hold on to their audiences in a 24-hour cable news and Internet environment while competing against increasingly popular entertainment, pop culture and specialized magazines.

"We've been dealing with new sources of information since the dawn of newsmagazines," Newsweek editor Mark Whitaker says. "And we've continued to innovate and adapt."

The editors say their future is healthy for now, thanks to moves they are making such as featuring special reports, running long-form journalism that used to be the purview of monthly magazines. (Newsweek's look at the 2004 election won a National Magazine Award.)

U.S. News is building a Web site devoted to health — one of its trademark subjects, along with education and money, says editor Brian Duffy. Whether the Web "becomes the tail that wags the dog in five years or 20 years from now, I don't think anyone has the answers."

Magazine consultant Samir Husni, who teaches journalism at the University of Mississippi, questions the long-term viability of the newsweeklies in the Internet age — especially, he says, as they drive readers of their print editions to their online sites by offering full interview transcripts of the short print versions.

"If they really believe in their Web sites, then why do I need a magazine, and isn't it just a vehicle to drive me to the Web?" Husni says. "Sooner or later I'll just get my fill from the Web."

Whitaker disagrees, saying he doesn't view "the Web and print as mutually exclusive." He says that the Web could be Newsweek's next frontier. "When cable TV came along, we were able to get our reporters on cable shows — but they were other peoples' cable shows," he says. "The Web is something that we can embrace."

Husni also questions the newsweeklies' tactic of increasingly running cover stories on specialized topics — evolution, disease, teenagers, pop culture — when specialty magazines are devoted to such subjects. "When you look at these magazines, do you think, 'Are we a country at war and facing the threat of terrorism?' or do you think, 'Gee, is this Big Mac really hurting my belt size?' " he says.

As such, Husni says newsweeklies should return to their roots and cover and analyze events in ways that other outlets have not done.

Time editor Jim Kelly says he can do both. He says Time's "mild (newsstand) dip can be explained by the fact that nothing in the first half sold quite as well as our Ronald Reagan issue sold in the first half of last year."

He says, "We need to do big cover packages on big stories like the tsunami and the death of Pope John Paul II, both of which are among this year's biggest sellers, and to break news on stories of critical national importance.

"But we also need to frame stories in ways that no one else is doing: our cover story on 'What Teachers Hate About Parents' or topics that are very much in the air but difficult for TV and the Web to do well, like the 'Evolution Wars,' " he says. "Compelling journalism is the key."

  21/08/2005. USA Today.