How not to run a magazine.

(My apologies but I might be a tad upset.)

Newsweek. That’s right, Newsweek. News. Every week. Since 1933.

A venerable weekly news publication covering national and international events of note.

A damn fine periodical. Been a subscriber forever.

Then, two years ago, they decided to “improve” it. I knew what that meant.

Last month they announced the death of the print version. Big surprise.

So I called and asked how they intended to honor their obligation to their print subscribers to deliver a news magazine in their mail box. Every week.

In a chipper voice they told me, “We’ll convert you to our digital format, Newsweek Global.” They clearly mistook me for a Borg.

I told them to end my subscription with the end of the print version in January. They said fine – but wouldn’t send me my refund until six to eight weeks after that.

“What?” I asked. “I’m telling you now. You know the end date so you can send me the refund now.”

No we can’t. “Well,” I said, “if that’s a problem then the option is to cancel my subscription immediately and send me my check now.”

That we can do.

Are these people out of their minds?

Of course they are. And their decision to cancel me sooner rather then later, losing them more money is logically consistent with everything else they’ve done the past few years.

Step one: decide that cutting circulation in half is a good thing. “It’s hugely counterintuitive,” the then editor said, “the staff doesn’t understand it.”

When step one doesn’t work, make Tina Brown the editor-in-chief.

This makes perfect sense because she had been a long term editor of that well known news magazine Vanity Fair.

You know, “the cultural catalyst that drives the popular dialogue” – THAT well known news magazine. The one with the breaking news of the day like Unseen Photos of Lana Del Rey in the Early Years of Her Career and Roger Moore on Skyfall: “Daniel Craig Is, Without a Doubt, the Bond” – you know, those important news stories. Because everyone needs to stay up to the minute on a career like Lana Del Rey’s – you know – the “early years” that happened a really long time ago – like in 2010 and 2011.

So Ms. Brown changed the focus from all that boring politics, business, and world affairs blah-blah-blah to more important stuff like fashion and pop culture.

And then redesigned the magazine, moving or eliminating all familiar features so the loyal reader would be completely lost in unfamiliar territory.

(Instead of an analysis of the impact of austerity programs on European Union economies with interviews with the head of the World Bank, readers could find intellectual satisfaction in new features like the “My Favorite Mistake” column written by celebrity guest columnists.)

And then chose relevant, news-related cover photos like phallic asparagus. And a computer-generated, computer-aged picture of Princess Diana.

And switched to a pay-to-view, all digital format.

Because people will rush to their computer to pay to read in-depth stories with names like “Obama ‘the first gay president‘.”

As if we couldn’t already read in-depth stories with names like “Obama hid ‘gay life’ to become president” for free.

And no longer being able to tell the difference.


Posted on November 15, 2012, in Commentary. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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