Newsweek, the weekly magazine that for decades summarized the news for households across the United States but struggled to maintain relevance in the Internet era, announced Thursday that it would cease print publication at the end of the year.
Tina Brown, founder of the Daily Beast website and the driving force behind its merger with Newsweek, announced the move in a message on the Daily Beast co-written with Baba Shetty, the recently hired chief executive.
"We are announcing this morning an important development at Newsweek and the Daily Beast. Newsweek will transition to an all-digital format in early 2013. As part of this transition, the last print edition in the United States will be our Dec. 31 issue," Brown said.
The all-digital version of the magazine will be called Newsweek Global and operate on a paid subscription model. The name Newsweek, in spite of its trouble in print, still has value in terms of international licensing, as well as several conferences that Brown has created.
Founded in 1933, Newsweek established a venerable place in the U.S. media landscape, competing ferociously with Time magazine week in and week out to bring news to several million readers. In the pre-Internet era, before a constant stream of real-time information was available, the two magazines were viewed as among the best sources of news and analysis an attractive product on the newsstand and a highly anticipated arrival in the mailboxes of subscribers.
But as the weekly publication cycle became outdated, both magazines struggled to adapt to the Internet age and establish a digital presence, while facing a decline in advertising and circulation.
In 2001, Newsweek had a total paid circulation of 3,158,480, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulation. But as of June of this year, circulation had fallen by more than half, to 1,527,157.
Losses at the weekly continued to mount even after the sale in 2010 to Sidney Harman, a 92-year-old audio magnate. He bought the property for a dollar and eventually, with Brown, merged it with the Daily Beast, the website owned by IAC/InterActiveCorp.
The future grew grimmer still after Harman died in the spring of 2011. His heirs had said they would continue to support the ailing weekly, but last summer the family announced it would no longer invest in the magazine.
Losses at the magazine have been reported to be about $40 million a year, and Barry Diller, the chairman of IAC, which owns both the Daily Beast and Newsweek, made it clear he would not underwrite the losses forever.
"Our offices have been filled with consultants running around with lists of people, so we knew something was about to happen," said one staff member, who insisted on anonymity because the person was not authorized to speak and was worried about potential layoffs.
One of the consultants, the person said, was Jack Griffin, a former head of Time Inc.
"Regrettably we anticipate staff reductions and the streamlining of our editorial and business operations both here in the U.S. and internationally," Brown wrote.
The announcement was timed, staff members said, to get ahead of next week's earnings call for IAC, when Diller was expected to be peppered with questions about Newsweek's losses.
In an interview with public radio's Marketplace, Diller made it clear he was not a sentimentalist when it comes to business, saying if one doesn't work out, "Sell it, write it off, go on to the next thing."