Newsweek has published its last print edition with an appropriately mixed-themed cover: its distinctive masthead flying high over a long-ago NYC skyline to symbolize its past print glory, and a Twitter hashtag tagline to represent the online era that ultimately killed the magazine.
Will Newsweek survive the jump to digital-only? I’m not bullish on its chances. The brand as a go-to source of content, regardless of platform, has been losing its journalistic mojo steadily for some time – dwelling neither at the cutting edge of content nor capable of generating newsworthy (if aesthetically and journalistically questionable) controversies like its competitive twin TIME and its altered-O.J. Simpson and Mom-breastfeeding covers.
When Jon Meacham left as Newsweek editor in 2010, just after the magazine was sold to the Daily Beast, it could have been seen as getting out just as the going might be getting good. Newsweek would now be tethered not to a print-focused parent (the Washington Post) but to an online trendsetter and a source of 24/7 news. But now Meacham looks absolutely prophetic in his departure – moreseo that his Thomas Jefferson biography was #3 on the New York Times bestseller list just as Newsweek print was going under for the last time.
It seems as if more magazine operations should take their cues from the Atlantic – focusing on an entirely new personality and life online while focusing on what makes a print product good even better, all pulled together by a distinct worldview. But perhaps Newsweek’s very disposition as a weekly– not frequent enough for the online era, too frequent for the leisurely stroll of a monthly– was inescapable.
So I”m betting an ability to adapt to new frequency, not a new platform, ultimately will do in Newsweek completely. And I will mourn its passing. Newsweek’s former ubiquity – in newsstands, on coffeetables, in doctor’s offices, on buses and trains – seemed like it might last forever.